"The Pastoral Office of the Modern Church is not Biblical"

The head pastor is a fundamental figure within the church who is met with praise, accolades, and reliance upon to dispel the Word of God to the masses. He is most often on the top of the hierarchical ladder, or status as the main focal figure to render out theological interpretations within the church institution. He is often trained and graduated as a professional from a seminary who has met the criteria, or qualifications to maintain their position.

What would happen if the office of the head pastor was removed from the church altogether?

Could the church still function, or would it completely dissolve without a prominent figure to man the helm?

What may come as a surprise is that the pastoral office in Early Church looks quite different to the the office of the head pastor in the modern churches today. The facts of history and Scriptural context will serve as evidence that this is the truth. Before you read any further, it is important to leave your personal feelings at the door because many will have friends and family who fill the head pastoral office somewhere. This is not meant as an attack on them as individuals, but a critical examination the office of the head pastor.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. – Ephesians 4:11

From the only singular verse that appears in the New Testament, there are some important things to consider:

Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd, and the Greek word for pastors is rendered as poimenas, which also means shepherds. This would mean that a pastor is not a professional title, but a metaphor for one of the many functions of the church. A shepherd is a person who cares for and nurtures the people of God, but not within the context of a professional hierarchical title. Upon closer inspection of Ephesians 4:11, it appears that man has added to and distorted the true definition, description, and function of a pastor, which has created the office of the head pastor in the institutionalized churches today.

The man-made idea of a prominent head pastor comes from a desire of people to have someone revered to bring them to God who is specially trained and is to stand out from amongst the crowd.

But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp.  So a young man ran and told Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” - Numbers 11:26-29

These verses here give an example of Moses opposing hierarchical or "special" positions that would suppress all of God’s people from using their giftings to the specially qualified.

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.  For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. – 3 John 9-10

Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. – Revelation 2:6

These are the words of Jesus Christ who was opposed to Nicolaitans, which in Greek means “conquering the people.” He was opposed to making distinct hierarchical classes of people within the church who are considered prominent by lording themselves over others.

The definition of the pastoral office in our western society is not a Biblical concept, but a man-made one that is a distortion of a gifting. The Early Church was led solely by the headship of Jesus Christ where His body was recognized by men who were of all equal standing. People were recognized by their spiritual maturity, not by their hierarchical elitism. The apostles did not reside in the church, but were temporal as “church planters” who moved where God called them to oversee for a time.

The deviation from the biblical pastoral office can be traced to Ignatius of Antioch (AD 35-107) and the role of the bishop. The bishop was given complete authority and required absolute obedience in the church. In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage made more distinct classifications of Christians with the terms clergy and laity. He was a pagan orator who became a “Christian” who did not abandon the pagan traditions, but incorporated them. The position of bishop eventually evolved to the head of the church and the delegated responsibilities went to the presbyter.The presbyter evolved into the Catholic priest as the hierarchical structure of the church broadened. By the fourth century, deacons took a role under the presbyters, and under them were the laymen. By the time of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church practices were questioned; the bishop’s office and the priesthood was reduced to the presbyter. What the Protestants did not do was question the status classifications between clergy and laity, but kept them with their own classification system. There are those who are “special”,“called”, and who must be “ordained” into a “ministry.” In fact there is really no distinction between the duties of the Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor except for slightly reformed office.

The biblical among a participatory body has changed to a ruling single pastor (sola pastora). Likewise, the bishop was raised to a status where all power and authority from him was absolute. Ignatius said, “He that honors the bishop is honored of God.”

Fallen man always has the urge for someone to mediate between them and God. We can see this in Exodus when the Israelites wanted Moses to be their mediator for everything. Today, we can see that the pastor takes on a similar role, and conducts everything from baptism, marriages, sermons, and controlling influence over other activities within the institutional church.

The hierarchical system infiltrated the church as a result of the influential Greco-Roman culture. The church had become an institution with “official” people doing ministry. The true Scriptural church, which was led by the Holy Spirit was functional and shared by all believers, but soon became a thing of the past. Pagan organizational patterns have infiltrated and became the backbone of what is the modern institutional church.

A true follower of Jesus Christ should understand that what a person does in everyday life is sanctified by God, there is no need for a higher calling into the “ministry” versus a worldly vocation. The dichotomy between what is “sacred” and what is “worldly” is a pagan conception. There are no grounds for ordained spiritual elitism because every believer has the discernment from God to recognize those who have particular giftings that God has given them. In the Early Church, the term “ordain” did not mean to be put into an official title, but rather an affirmation of the gifting and character of an individual that is recognized. It was a blessing pertaining to the function, not a rite. Ordination into office stems from pagan rites by empowering an individual through divine streams to become venerable, honorable, and separated. It is the syncretism of Old Testament priesthood with Greek hierarchy. In contrast, each person who was part of the Early Church did not set themselves higher than one another, but in humility served each another.

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; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:2-3

You will find nowhere in the New Testament where preaching, baptizing, marriage, etc... was limited to those with "special" powers and authority. We all have immediate access to God; the true church is a collective of believers that share the Word of God with one another, not via a singular paid mediator to a passive audience. According to John Calvin, “The pastoral office is necessary to preserve the church on earth in a greater way than the sun, food, and drink are necessary to nourish and sustain the present life.” It is clear today that that most church institutions have taken John Calvin’s model of church, but is in no way, shape, or form the model of the Early Church, which apostles had planted.

Both the Catholic and Protestant practices of church are built on the same human ideologies and traditions. The modern pastoral office has become an obstacle to the true functioning of the church. True functioning believers of Jesus Christ are not meant to be simply ears to hear the "very words of God" that are preached from the pulpit every Sunday morning.

The Greek word for minister is diakonos, which means servant. It has become incorrectly synonymous with a pastor who is in a professionalized salaried position.

What has the office of the head pastor of the modern church done to followers of Jesus Christ that can be seen in the modern churches today?

What really stands out is the division of Christians into separate classes where the special, or more privileged can only serve Jesus Christ in certain ways. The man-made system suffocates the rest of the church body into becoming complacent to a one-man-ministry that reaches to mute audience. In contrast, the Early Church encouraged every member of the body of Christ to function with a right and privilege in the church assembly.

Are you tired of being a spectator who feels compelled and obligated to sing, raise your hands, take notes, and put money in the offering plate? (1 Peter 2)

Unfortunately, the office of the head pastor in the modern church has circumvented the very headship of Jesus Christ because it has taken the centrality and the functional headship away from other believers. When Jesus Christ is truly the headship, it manifests as freedom and openness with everyone contributing, and all body parts functioning as they should.

The professional, modern pastor has become slave to the office, which oppressively manifest in many ways, such as emotional breakdown, marital issues, stress, burnout, and even depression just to name a few. This is not the result of the pastor, but the effect of the modern man-made office.

Scripture does not support one sole individual to wear so many hats at one time. There is a high expectation and obligation to entertain, "tickle ears," and make everyone feel good. This is artificial Christianity at its best, which to be blunt, is dishonest, deceptive and potentially dangerous. The modern head pastor can be likened to a Hollywood star who wins an Oscar for the primary role as portraying someone who is always spiritual, cheerful, perfectly dressed, and disciplined in all areas of life. This often leads to an unapproachable and unquestioning attitude which exposes the political nature and susceptibility to corruption of the modern-day office of pastor. This condition often leads to isolation from the congregation to just those who are also in a vocational position within the institutional church. Unfortunately, they often have no real substance outside of that exclusive group.

Take the time to study all the scriptures and you will see that the evidence reveals that the office of the head pastor and its specific function in the modern church is unsupported and non-existent in Scripture.

Copied by permission from:PlankandNails

Son of Man

Son of Man