Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are Pastor and Elder the same man

The word “poimen” translated as Shepherd or pastor is attributed to only one man in scripture, the Elder. It conveys the idea of tending the flock and not merely feeding them. Metaphorically feeding is done by preaching and teaching the word accurately. Supplying a steady diet of good and truthful nourishment for the strengthening of the flock. But tending implies far more than that.

In John 21:15 during Jesus’ restoring of Peter, Jesus asks three times if Peter loves Him. After each response Jesus tells Peter to do something and in verse 15 it is to ‘TEND MY LAMBS”. The word the holy Spirit used is “bosko” and means literally to feed. The word He uses for lamb is “arnion” and depicts little or young sheep.

In verse 16 Jesus repeats the question and upon Peters answer says “SHEPHERD MY SHEEP”. Curiously here different words are used. Here Jesus uses “poimaino” a verb meaning to care for, rule, shepherd or tend. The sheep also have changed. Here “probation” means a very young and defenseless animal or in this case a very young and defenseless lamb.

In verse 17 Jesus again asks the question and upon Peter’s answer says “TEND MY SHEEP”. What Jesus does here is interesting. He mixes the previous two commands. He uses “bosko” implying a feeding but this time with “probation” the very young defenseless lambs.

What we see is the fuller picture of the same man and his ministry. He is to feed the young sheep his care, he is to oversee or rule those too weak to do so for themselves and then he is to feed them as well. There is no distinction between feeding (preaching and teaching) and overseeing (ruling or leading). Rather they are to be done by the same shepherd as two different parts of the same ministry.

This same Peter many years later tells us this: 1 Peter 5:1-4 (NASB) 1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Notice Peter first exhorts them as elder (presbyters) and then exhorts them to both shepherd (poimaino) and to exercise oversight (episkopeo) over the flock. In doing so with a kind and gentile spirit they will receive the crown of Glory from the archipoimen or chief shepherd. So here we have elders, who are to shepherd and oversee. Paul said the exact same thing
Acts 20:17-18 (NASB) 17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.18 And when they had come to him, he said to them… just to be clear, Paul is returning to Jerusalem from where he has been told bonds await him. He calls the Ephesian elders for some final instructions

Acts 20:27-32 (NASB) 27 "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers , to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.32
Paul calls the elders and gives the commands to be on guard for yourselves and the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos) to shepherd (poimaino) the church of God…

Again we have all three titles for the same man. Elders, who oversee and shepherd. This is just what Jesus told Peter to do and what Peter later told other elders like himself to do. This is an awesome responsibility and only falls to one man in scripture under the leadership of the Lord and chief shepherd, and that is the Elder/Pastor


Monday, August 24, 2009


The idea of who the pastor is has been a long running discussion between brothers for some time now. I is a subject near and dear to my heart as I am sure you have become aware by now. On another blog run by a dear brother I have debated this subject any number of times some serious things were said I would like to address. You can also visit his blog, which is very good by the way, for the full discussion at

Now Tim and I will probably never agree on many of the topics we will discuss here and I attribute this to his youth (just kidding). Clearly neither of us is alone in our respective camps and I cherish the privilege to discuss and even debate since he is always civil and that is how these types of discussions are to take place.

Tim’s latest blog dated August 2 is titled "Pastorized". In it he makes a few comments I would like to address. The first is that there seems to him to be a distinction between Pastor and Elder, in which he states that an elder is a pastor but a pastor does not necessarily have to be an elder. I strongly disagree since the word pastor (poimen) in scripture is only attributed to the office of elder and no one else in a formal way. Like all Christians are commanded to share their faith, not all Christians are evangelists as to the office. So too some may care for others but this does not necessarily make them pastors in the official sense.

He also says that elder can be considered modern day apostles (not the 12). This flies in the face of what the word apostle actually means or is interpreted as. The word apostolos means one sent and would better refer to a church planter, missionary or traveling evangelist since they are in fact sent. But an elder is a located leader within a local assembly. As to the word Poimen and his view, Tim references the Latin, which we all know was not the language of the New Testament. It was the official language of Rome and the scriptures were later translated into Latin by Jerome for use in the Roman Catholic church. Poimen is the Greek word the Holy Spirit choose when he inspired Paul in Acts 20 to describe the ministry of the elders in Ephesus. Tim says this "Well, the root concept is from Greek, poimen as already stated. But the actual word we use is Latin. Both mean "to shepherd". I would imagine that this is a play on words. Christians are the sheep of His (Christ) pasture. Peter was told to feed His sheep or in other words, be a shepherd- hence pastor, a spiritual leader."

Sorry but the actual word we use is not Latin. In fact in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word Poimen is used some 27 times concerning shepherds and that was written about the 3rd century BC. The example of Peter is perfect although applied incorrectly here. Peter was in fact told to feed and acre for the sheep and this is the perfect example of Pastoring or shepherding. It also was writte in Greek and not Latin.

He also seems not to have any difficulty with the office of lead, or chief or head pastor depending on which response you happen to read. He says this "Biblically speaking there is no such thing as a head pastor. That doesn't mean you can't have one but by all means scripture does not say anything about it. However, there are specific people who stand out and lead over others, e.g., Aaron over the Levites, but that may be a different topic. The problem is churches hire people to be "senior pastor" and think that it has to be that way, when it doesn't." I think this ignores that the elders authority is not in their individuality but rather in their plurality. In others words the authority is in the office and not the individual elder or pastor.

One of the more serious statements made was this:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
Somehow the words pastor and elder became interchangeable and that would not be accurate. That is not what this passage is saying. It is saying that some pastors will come from the eldership. Not all elders preach. But one who does preaching is especially worthy of a high honor.

Notice the wording here. The Elder who is worthy of double honor is the one who directs the affairs or more literal "rules well" the church, agreeing with Paul’s words in Acts 20 that the elder is an episkopos or overseer. This title was one attributed to local officials who administered authority over a city or district. Doing this well is worthy of double honor. Paul then say "especially those who preach and teach"? But that is not what Paul says. He says those who work hard at preaching and teaching. All elders are to preach and teach. This is the feeding process we see in the shepherding office. But there are those who especially work hard or labor hard at the ministry of preaching and teaching and these should be singled out for their labors. It does not mean that there should ever be elders who either can’t or don’t or won’t preach and teach. It is my opinion that much of the nonsense that has entered the church, entered because too many elders surrendered this great privilege.

Finally we have this
"So in essence the pastor needs to be a spiritual example that leads with compassion, understanding and knowledge. He needs to be tough yet gentle in his ways. The ego needs to be checked yet the vision needs to be explored. He is not an automatic elder but can be one. He does not have to come from a Bible Seminary but has to be God-lead. He is a spiritual leader but not the spiritual leader."

The problem with this is clear. It implies another person other then the elder we do not see in Gods word. It implies a man we have no qualifications for. It implies that Paul’s habit of appointing elders in every church and city may have been inadequate. Paul’s final words in Acts 20 to the church elders he not only mentored and ordained but within a church he spent the longest time with are worthy of deeper study. He mentions no other spiritual leaders in the church. he mentions no other defenders of the word. and he mentions no other office except the one he felt so strongly about he made sure every church was equipped with qualified men called Elder/Pastors.


Monday, August 10, 2009


Sorry for the delay in recent posting. I recently had some major surgery but all is well and God be praised.

The following was written by Tom Ascol, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral Florida. What do you think?

Pastor – Theologian
Christ intends for His churches to be led by men who meet certain qualifications. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul writes very plainly about what the Elders of a church must be. The main concern is character. They must be men whose lives are exemplary in holiness.
In addition to however, men who would shepherd God’s flock must be doctrinally sound. They must believe truth sincerely and be able to teach it clearly. In the first chapter of Titus, after highlighting the moral qualifications that every elder is to possess, Paul makes this point in verse nine. An elder he writes, "must hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict".

Churches are to be served by pastors who are sound theologians. That idea strikes many as strange today because the last hundred years have witnessed a separation of those two roles. Pastors belong in the churches while theologians, we have been led to believe, belong in the Universities and Seminaries.

Paul’s instruction to Titus, however, forces us to admit that every pastor is called to be a theologian. The truth that God has revealed in His word is to be explored, understood, believed, taught and defended. That describes the work of a theologian, and pastoral ministry cannot be effectively carried out by a man who does not engage in this kind of effort. Churches are to be governed by the word of God. Those men who bear the responsibility to lead a church have no alternative but to be well grounded in scripture.

A pastor must be firm in his grasp of the word "as taught" or more accurately "according to the teaching" as the NASB renders it. Paul is referring to what by that time had become a recognized body of doctrinal teaching. Before a man can be qualified to serve in the role of Pastor in a church, he must "hold firm" to the doctrines revealed in God’s word. That is, he must understand these doctrines and believe in them. neither superficial thinking about nor half hearted commitment to the teachings of scripture will suffice for the man who would be a pastor in the church of Jesus Christ. This means the pastors are to be men who give themselves to diligent study and who constantly cultivate humble faith.

Paul mentions two reasons why a pastor must be a careful theologian. The first has to do with his responsibility to nurture and care for the flock he serves. Shepherds must feed their sheep and the only diet that God has prescribed for His people is His word (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Pet. 2:2). An overseer in the church must be "able to teach" (1 Tim 3:2) because it is through the ministry of the word that believers are nourished. As David Wells rightly suggests, a pastor is a truth broker whose primary responsibility is to study, proclaim, and apply God’s word so that "moral character is formed and Christian wisdom results" in the people of God. This is the first reason a pastor must be a theologian – so that "he can give instructions in sound doctrine".

But a pastor must not only teach God’s people, he must also defend them. he must affirm truth and refute error, both of which require discernment born of careful study. The church of Jesus Christ has always been plagued with people who "contradict" sound doctrine. It is the job of pastors to rebuke such persons so that their error does not spread like gangrene through the body (2 Tim. 2:15-18). The Pastor must be "well instructed" Calvin wrote, "in the knowledge of sound doctrine; the second is that, with unwavering firmness of courage…and the third is that he make his manner of teaching tend to edification".

The greatest theologians in the history of the church have been faithful pastors. And the greatest pastors in the history of the church have been careful theologians. Obviously the names appearing on both lists (with rare exceptions) are the same. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Gill, Edwards, Fuller, Spurgeon and so many others, were pastor theologians. They were men who took the apostolic qualifications for elder seriously and in fulfillment of their calling to shepherd God’s people, faithfully gave themselves to the work of theology.

J. I. Packer has wisely noted, "To be a good expositor…one must first be a good theologian. Theology…is what God has put into the texts of scripture, and theology is what preachers must draw out of them". if we hope to see renewed spiritual vitality come to our churches, then we must insist that those who serve as pastors recognize that inherent in their calling is the responsibility to be sound theologians. Only then will God’s people be properly instructed in the way of Christ and effectively protected against the errors and heresies that corrode spiritual health.