Contend Earnestly: How Do You Define the Term Pastor? Part II

Friday, January 30, 2009

How Do You Define the Term Pastor? Part II

In the first post on this topic I tried to pack in as much as possible to show why the terms elder/shepherd/pastor/overseer/bishop are all synonymous when speaking of the New Testament church. I will also say that I believe in the plurality of elders/pastors in a church as well. I grew up in SBC churches where there was a Pastor/Elder and then the rest were deacons, which I do not believe is the biblical standard set by Paul to Titus (Titus 1:5) and also in regards to seeing the church's council led by James and the other elders (Acts 21:18).

To continue with this post I wanted to draw on the understanding of what deacons do in the church and then answer the question of whether I would attend a specific church that was brought up by Melissa here. To understand what a deacon is supposed to do, it would seem that we need to understand what the elders are to do. We find that in the descriptions that we laid out in the last post, the elders/pastors are to watch over the church, this is why they are also called overseers. They are to be the leaders of the church and Paul says that they are to be able to teach sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Explicitly, in 1 Timothy 3:2, they are said to be able to teach. So, we see that elders are to be sound teachers of doctrine and also able to contradict the crazy people who come through the doors trying to parade around like a sheep with their wolf tail sticking out the back of their suit.

So, then, what does a deacon do? The first time that we see what is probably deacons, is found in Acts 6. What was happening is that the apostles and other disciples were so busy that they weren't able to keep up with the demand of growth in the church. So, they said that they needed some people to step up and help. The apostles needed this to happen so that they could perform the duty of an elder, namely, to pray and teach. The first deacons were merely distributors of goods to the congregation. They did this so that the apostles could stay on task of teaching and praying.

The term deacon is a tricky word in the Greek. It seems the closest we can get to the term is someone who is a waiter. What we can then derive from the term is that a deacon is a servant of the church that does the things to make sure that the pastors/elders are focused on the ministry of the word and prayer. What one finds when they look to 1 Timothy is that the only differences found between elders and deacons is that a deacon doesn't have to be able to teach and the deacon can also be a woman. Whereas, elders are only men and must be able to teach. If you would like to read more on this topic from my other posts, click here.

So, deacons have the same moral qualifications that elders have and are chosen by the congregation or elders to aid the church in whatever capacity is needed.

One might now ask, "What is a director?" Some churches have the term "director" in their titles. So, you might have a Music Director, Youth Director or Children's Director. The only time we see the term used in the Bible is in the Old Testament, and most of the time we find it in the Psalms when referring to the choir director. The term is also translated as supervisor, overseer or to lead. My guess is that churches aren't using the term because of it's biblical understanding but more because of traditional usage of the term within the church.

Is the usage of the term a sin? I don't believe so, but I just don't believe it is as accurate as it should be. I believe that if the church were to stay in line with Scripture for the New Testament church, it would be better to turn all the "directors" into deacons or deaconesses. There is really no need to use the term director and when using an ambiguous term it is hard to have restrictions on conduct and moral qualifications. But, when you turn the term director into deacon, now you have qualifications listed in the Bible that pertain to all leaders in the church. Now you have Scripture to go to for qualifications for those positions that are filled with the leaders of the church. If you think about this, this is actually a very good thing. What I have seen in the past is that someone is chosen because they can breathe, to lead a ministry. That can be very dangerous. If one is held to the standard of deacon, it should actually keep the position more pure and keep from making a careless, quick decision.

Tradition is probably the only thing that holds us back from doing this. We are used to deacons being the guys that take out the garbage and clean the gutters. That's not the complexity of the way that deacons were used in the New Testament. The complexity of the deacon in the Bible, are those chosen to do whatever is needed to keep the elders praying and teaching. Think of everything that has someone as a lead in your church that isn't done by an elder. Those in leadership and ministry positions should be held to a high standard.

Now for the last question. Would I attend a church that had a woman pastor? The quick answer is no. The longer answer is that if I felt compelled to attend this church, I would gather with the leadership to ask them about their titles and have them biblically define them. If in the end they were still not convinced that women cannot be pastors or that they still defined pastors and elders differently, I would have to abstain from attending. Does this mean that I don't consider them Christian brothers and sisters? Not at all. But my conviction to Scripture would withhold me from joining them for weekly worship as a community of believers.

As far as the specific church that Melissa asked about, it would seem that I would need them to give me reason why this woman was called a pastor. Is she teaching or preaching adult males? If so, then I wouldn't attend. If not, I would simply challenge them in their definition of terms and show why they are in error with making a distinction between pastors from elders. I would tell them that to get back in line with the Scriptures, they need to simply name her as a deaconess. If this were to happen, I would have no problem attending the church based on that information.

I hope this discussion has helped. If you have any questions or need clarification, please comment or email.


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