Thursday, May 26th

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Most nursing home and hospital nurses have a little game called 'Guess Who's at the Door'. A man arrives on a ward or at the door of a Home, usually outside normal visiting times and the staff try to guess what he is by his dress. It seems that ministers almost always wear black suits, dark ties, white shirts and polished shoes! It is not unusual to get them mixed up with the undertakers!!

Have you ever asked yourself why many ministers (or correctly - 'pastors') should dress this way? One big reason is so they can fulfil the expectations of onlookers...which is a fairly weak reason, but that's how it is. Pastors are 'supposed' to look very serious, as though they are attending a funeral. Even young pastors fall into this trap of not being themselves...I remember seeing one young man sitting outside on a blazingly hot day, complete with long sleeved shirt, tie and flannel trousers.

He was obviously very hot and uncomfortable. Here was I in a tee-shirt and shorts and there was he trying his best to look solemn. He just looked uncomfortable! He was probably not aware of the rules, which state that ministers may (but only rarely) unbutton the top button on a shirt (no more than that) and may roll sleeves up twice, but below the elbow! Apparently, if a pastor dresses any other way, his spiritual state is in doubt. (This is no joke...I've heard similar charges!).

Another reason for this sombre facade is that pastors, almost without exception, see themselves as 'professionals'. Amongst independents and evangelicals, this is not spoken out loud - but one can tell by attitudes that this is so. To such folk, they are of similar 'status' to, say, solicitors, or doctors. This is a throwback to an older age, when most preachers were the product of university divinity faculties. Today, few pastors have had an higher academic education...nothing wrong with that - but their equality with a doctor can hardly be in academia.

So why the status notion? Another thing about pastors is that most of them receive a 'stipend' which is, in other words, a salary. It seems that 'stipend' sounds better than 'salary', even though that is really what it is! (Interestingly, many pastors receive more in real terms than fellow members in their local church...what with free fuel, free housing, expenses and 'stipend'. Giving cash to pastors is okay - but we must be very careful not to equate it with 'professional' status or salaries.

Now let's get to the real issues...

Firstly, a pastor is the same as an elder - he is an elder! Yet, how many churches have an hierarchy with the 'pastor' at the top, 'elders' below him and 'deacons' below them, followed by other ‘lesser mortals’, such as Sunday School teachers and finally, those "down in the pew". There are differences in this 'pecking order', depending on denomination, but the hierarchy still exists! It seems that one must work his way 'up' from being a deacon to being an elder - but unless one attends a full-time Bible college course and is 'ordained' by the college, there is no step-up from 'elder' to 'pastor'.

Many variations of these intricate 'rules' exist. For example, a large church sent off one of its members, who was to become pastor of another church. But, he had not been Bible-college 'ordained' and so he was 'not allowed' to call himself a pastor. Instead, he was called a 'teaching elder'!

ALL OF THE ABOVE IS UNBIBLICAL! A pastor is the same as an elder and, wait for it, the elder is the same as a bishop. They are interchangeable names for the same office. But, a deacon is not the same as an elder. He may become an elder if called by God to the office, but a deacon is simply one who attends to the practical and often mundane tasks in the local church, such as looking after the money, visiting the sick and so on. The idea is to leave the pastors free to attend to their spiritual roles.

There are no hierarchies in the Bible and no 'promotion' systems. Furthermore, a pastor is equal in status to the deacon and to the 'lowest' member of the congregation. The pastor is merely another member, but with a defined task to perform. He is an under-shepherd who has no authority of his is all of Christ. He is not a 'boss' and need not always lead at every service or on every 'committee'.

The pastor is chosen by the Lord, not by the people. He is not elected by the diaconate or by a show of hands. He must do his work as directed by God, not by diaconate preference or pressure. It is up to the other members to recognise his calling, but not to elect him. An elder is not 'voted in/out' of office! Once an elder, always an elder...unless he offends God's laws in such a way as to forfeit his office. Or, if he has to move away from his local church.

Pastors should not be youngsters - especially if they have gone straight to a Bible college from school or from university - but must be proven within their own local church. Thus pastors (note - more than one!) of a local church should be 'home-grown' and known well to all the people. There is no limit on the number of pastors in any one church. No Bible college can 'ordain' a pastor and no pastor has any real right to be called 'Reverend' - for this is a word used only of God Himself. Think on these things. Let us forget pride and tradition and see what the Lord says.


When the writer of this Outline first presented these notes in full article form, certain folk were outraged! One told him he was a Marxist who only wanted to undermine and destroy the pastorhood! But this writer is himself a pastor - and everything written in these notes applies to him also (doubly so!). The purpose behind this Outline and all others, is to show what the Bible says and to help Christians understand what is really at stake.

When it comes to pastors, we must all recognise that whilst all pastors, without exception, are equal to all other members of the Church of Jesus Christ, they tend to be very isolated (and often, lonely) persons. This is mainly because members do not realise the pressures on them. They usually push a huge 'work-load' onto the pastor's shoulders...some even think this is justified because they pay him and so he must have a full day! But, a true pastor is 'worthy of double honour'. Yes, he is also the 'servant of all' the members. The two go hand-in-hand. When the pastor has the humility to be the servant to the flock entrusted to him, and he discharges his duties with love and in truth, then he must not be discounted as a mere 'employee' of the local church.

The pastor is never an employee, even if he is being paid. Rather, he is God's man in that place. He takes his orders only from the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and God's word. There may be times when the pastor requires words of guidance, but that is not the same as being dictated to. The members should obey the just and Biblical injunctions of the pastor, as of Christ, Whom he represents...not because of who he is, but because of Who he acts for.

This writer knows that there are many excellent men who are pastors. They are genuine and sincere. They work tirelessly for those they shepherd and they love them all. Even so, with so many false pastors and false ideas amongst true pastors, it is necessary to speak in plain terms. Not for their downfall, but for their good and well-being. Their task is vital to every local church - hence the need to know what is legitimate and what is not.

We are told to hold to the truth. This is a strict and unwavering command. We cannot have communion with unbelievers. Neither can Christians commune with each other in any real way, if they all hold the truth as they see fit. Truth is Truth, no matter what we think! Few texts in scripture are open to personal interpretation, which is why it is vital today to speak of such truths. If God says so, but men resist, we must still say God says so, whether or not our listeners like what they hear.

We can certainly discuss these matters but, there is no room, finally, for personal views where God has made Himself crystal-clear. Those who do not understand these notes should beware not to fall on the side of negative-critics who only have self-interest at heart or a stubborn adherence to the ideas of men. Even amongst those who call themselves 'reformed' there can be errors. There are certainly things we are not told about pastorhood. But this lack does not make much difference to the issue. The main thing is to remain true to what we are told. God will supply wisdom for the rest.

© June 1992

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom