Is it wrong to refer to someone as “pastor”?

My post Leading or Lording has attracted quite a lot of comment. The most prolific commenter has been a certain A. Amos Love, who I know nothing else about except that he links to a website called God’s Words of Comfort and Healing (this is not an endorsement). Indeed I infer from the idiosyncratic writing style that this Amos is the author of the articles on the site as well as of the comments.

In his often long comments Amos takes a strong position that there should be no leaders in the church, for example:

If Jesus told His disciples
not to be called master/leader
and someone calls them self a leader
or thinks they are a leader;

are they a disciple of Christ?

Titles become idols and
pastors become masters.

I don’t accept Amos’ complete rejection of the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:11. But I do accept a need to look carefully at how these five ministries, or at least some of them, have becomes offices and positions of honour in the church, and whether this is biblical.

I wasn’t sure how to answer Amos on some of his points. I am not entirely opposed to his position, but I feel that he is unnecessarily negative about many humble pastors and others who serve the church faithfully without thought for their own positions and titles. So I thought what Amos writes would make a good discussion starter for a wider audience. So here, with Amos’ permission, is one of his lengthy comments in full, slightly reformatted. This is a response to my question which he quotes at the beginning. How would any of you my readers respond to this?


“But is it wrong to refer to someone e.g. as “pastor” if he or she is truly gifted by God for that ministry?”

The fast answer now is; Yes, it is wrong. Very wrong. If someone wants to call you “pastor” run as fast as you can… They tried making Jesus king, he said no, and he was qualified to be king, Yes? Just because you have gifts and are qualified should you accept the title? Do “Titles become Idols” of the heart? Do “Pastors become Masters/leaders?”  Trust and obey – Not think and decide.

I’ve come to understand the danger to both those who think they are a “shepherd.” And those taught, they are “only” “sheep” and need a human “shepherd” to lead and guide them.

In the Bible, How many people… have the title pastor?
In the Bible, How many people are… referred to as pastor?
In the Bible, How many people are… ordained as a pastor?
In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

Every titled “pastor” I’ve met also had the “title” reverend. Can’t find that one in the KJV either; Can you?

Now the Anglicans really have a slew of titles; Don’t they? Father, priest, pastor, rector, vicar, reverend, most right reverend. Had a friend. Teased him all the time. Who are you today? { ; o ) And he wore a dress and got paid for giving 15 minute sermonetts. Ah! Religion, It’s a beautiful thing…

If no one in the Bible is “called or has the title” “pastor” don’t I help “perpetrate a myth” that is not in the Bible and help “the traditions of men” make the Word of non effect when I call or refer to someone as pastor?

I believe you already know the word “pastor” is Greek for “shepherd.” “Shepherd” was a low place then, but… “Pastor” is now a high place, a title, a profession, a salaried position and accepted by the world system. Where is that in the Bible? Tradition of men? Nullify the Word of God?

Along with the “title pastor” comes, (a few things we didn’t ask for?) power, profit, prestige, prominence, position, recognition, reputation, honor, self importance, self worth, etc. (and leaness to the soul?) Yes, God, gives you what you ask for – and something extra. Hmmm?

Could these be, “those things that are highly esteemed among men
but is an abomination in the sight of God?” Luke 16:15

Could these be, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, not of the Father, but is of the world?” 1John 2:16

Most, that I’ve met, started out wanting to serve Christ. They didn’t want to steal the glory that belonged only to Jesus. They just didn’t refuse it when the glory came. The tests had begun.

A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. Pr 29:5

Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel. Pr 20:17

Yes, I’ve failed a lot of tests and eaten a lot of gravel myself. Ouch! { : o (….

“The Lord is “my” shepherd.” Psalm 23. I’m happy being a sheep now. And the servants get to see the miracles. John2:9 Ahhh! Peace, Joy, Love!!!

You’ll have to admit there is a tremendous amount of “shepherd” burn out, for him and his family, in the religious system. The shepherd and his family live in this glass bubble and have to watch everything they do. They have to “act” in a way that either pleases the people (fear of man) or keeps the people in line.(Lord it over)

Either way it is different from who they really are. (Hypocrites?) It’s almost impossible to heard a hundred people sheep. They don’t seem to respond like sheep sheep.

Alan Knox – “it is not easy to lead without “lording it over” other people” It’s impoosible. (Just my very humble opinion.) Leaders=Lord it over=always. But, if you see yourself as a servant you let Jesus do His thing, Let Him be Lord.

I’ve had friends of mine who just couldn’t do it anymore. They had to leave for their own well being. An Episcople priest, an Assemblies of God pastor,
a Baptist pastor and evangelists who traveled the country.

Lot’s of ugly stuff going on behind the scenes. You know what I mean. Oh, not on sunday morning of course. That’s the entertainment. The show. Sunday we “act” like we’re really christians. It’s the law. Look over there…Is that Jesus crying over what people are calling, His Church? Is this what he had in mind for His bride to look like? His temple? My,My…

They were in an “office” and “position” that’s not in the scriptures. Pastors in pulpits, preaching, to people in pews. And it better be good…. Every week… My, my… stress, stress… CEO… Councelor… Team captain… Smiley face… etc.,etc…

They had to try and serve three masters. Oy vey! Jesus, the denomination, and the congregation. No wonder there is so much burnout.

Jesus already knows how to shepherd His sheep. He does a much better job then we ever could.

I’m getting long winded and I’m just getting started. Still have to cover the dangers for “the sheep” led by a man. Hmmm? Those who are led by the Spirit? Are they the sons of God?

Well done thou good and faithful; leader? pastor?

Love and peace.

37 thoughts on “Is it wrong to refer to someone as “pastor”?

  1. Rachel, don’t feel guilty. Remember 1 Timothy 3:1. Your calling is a noble one. You just need to make sure you exercise it in the right way. That may not be Amos’ take on the matter, but it is mine – tempered with some serious reservations about the C of E system, but its shortcomings are not your fault.

  2. I have always felt very uncomfortable about the title ‘Reverend’ and resist its use. I am more at ease with ‘Pastor’ – which I will tend to use when referring initially to ‘what I do’ – and also with the greeting-epithet ‘Father’, as I regard this calling as akin to being a parent in a household of faith, rather than a job, or even an office.

    However, your interlocutor touches on many important – and discomfiting – areas, and his voice in an important one. I sometimes read Soren Kierkegaard who – whilst his own context of a very Erastian Swedish church of his own day is not wholly like the C of E of today – speaks prophetically about the venality of paid clergy.

    I shall watch for other comments, here, with interest, and some trepidation!…

  3. Okay, if not Reverend, and not pastor, then what?

    How about director or executive of the congregation? All titles are created by human beings to fill a designated role. For me, the title is arbitrary, but the function is what really counts.

  4. Peter,

    I’ve also engaged in this conversation with Amos, about two weeks ago on my post on complementarianism. I tried to answer him there. He seems to suggest that believers should not work in groups, and that hence they need not have co-ordinators. I disagree with the first proposition, because I believe that Christianity is about unity and working in groups. I disagree with the second because I deny God would turn his nose down at good works that can only be done with the combination of many peoples works under coordination; large-scale soup kitchens, orphanages, etc. It’s like saying that a building site should have no foreman, essentially.

  5. I think an important point in this discussion is the distinction between leadership as a function and leadership titles. What Jesus spoke against was the use of honorary titles. The early church seems to have followed this teaching as we never see the use of any titles used by the New Testament writers towards their leaders. Someone my think it is insignificant, but I see an important difference between saying Paul, an apostle and the Apostle Paul. There is always an increasing tendency for religious leaders, as other leaders such as political leaders, to increase their status. So the word presbyteros evolved to become the English word priest, which in the NT is used interchangeably with episkopos which becomes the word bishop, paimen goes through Latin to be adopted as the English title Pastor. And what about reverend? It comes from the Latin word reverendus meaning to be honored. Not a big difference from the word Rabbi which comes from the Hebrew word רב Rab meaning great. There was definitely an effort in the earliest church to avoid the use of titles that can be seen from the New Testament text. However, at the same time, there was leadership in practice. Paul, as humble as he was, still argued for his apostolic authority. Peter and James were leaders in the Jerusalem church that Paul also recognized, even if he was willing to challenge their theology. Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers to respect those who are the leading ones προισταμενους of them Thess. 5:12 The writer of Hebrews encourages the readers to be persuaded by the leading ones of you. πειθεσθε τοις ηγουμενοις υμων Heb 13:17. It is interesting that both the Thessalonian and Hebrews passages use a participle not a noun to express this leading or ruling capacity. The emphasis here again is on the function of the leadership and not on the title or position. The emphasis in the New Testament church leadership is the function of those who are gifted within the framework of a good example. This is what Paul argues as he claims apostolic authority, that he is called and gifted to be an apostle not by man, but by God, and that his example of service and life, evidences that he is one to be imitated as he follows Christ.

  6. This is a searching topic; starting from your original post “Leading or lording?” This had reminded me of a tendency attributed to the emerging House church movement in the 70s/80s to heavy shepherding and excessive control over a congregation. I hear less of it these days. And in any case I have no doubt that similar effects also found (find?) expression in “control freakery” among some leaders in the more historic denominations. Planks and logs a apposite warning.

    So here are some first thoughts. The ministries you set out from Ephesians are clear. As also the ideas of Overseer and Deacon in Timothy. And Paul met the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. When we are urged to pray for our teachers and leaders and we see Scripture setting out qualifications for them, I am inclined to conclude that the idea of a leader (call him/her what you will) is intended. All this points not just to recognising ministries but not having hang ups about using titles relating to those ministries, and recognising that they have some measure of authority over and responsibility for others.

    however it is also apparent that this is not to be done in a heavy and overbearing manner. Amos is right to sound a warning about that. Rather with humility, seeking to equip the saints for their own acts of service and potential. As Jay says “The emphasis here again is on the function of the leadership and not on the title or position. “

  7. It seems to me that some of the force of Amos’ argument is taken away if you see the Ephesians 4 ministries being gifts of Christ to His Bride. The different gifts are all different aspects of Christ’s ministry. Apostles plant and build churches with a father’s heart, prophets hear and deliver the word of the Lord, evangelists train us up on how to share the gospel, pastors do care for and shepherd the sheep, and teachers feed the flock with truth about Christ. These are all facets of Jesus’ ministry, and I see these ministries in the church as His method of ensuring His church is cared for. His life flows through these people who are gifts to the church, and this nourishment is passed throughout the body as these ministries equip the whole body to extend the ministry of Christ throughout the earth.

    Now, there is certainly a danger that these descriptive titles and roles could become badges of honour that people wield to earn the respect and allegiance of men. It is all too easy for a clergy/laity divide to come up, even amongst those churches that decry these sort of systems. This is a problem that can occur on both sides – leaders can start to see themselves as all-important and promote themselves, and the “laity” (for want of a better term) can allow the leaders to do what they should really be equipped and envisioned to do.

    But the answer isn’t to abolish leaders and ministries, because Jesus has given these to the church and who are we to think we know better than Him? The answer is for leaders to ensure that they see their role as equippers for the rest of the body, and that the body learn and live in the good of the truth that we are all royal priests – together a holy nation set apart for God and all of equal value and necessity.

  8. Thanks for all the comments. I’m happy to see a measure of agreement even from some who themselves carry titles like “Reverend” and “Pastor”.

    Paul, I suspect that Amos would be even more opposed to the title “Father” as that is explicitly forbidden by Jesus, Matthew 23:9.

    Kevin, I think there are two things that count: one is the function which indeed must be correct, and the other is the attitude of giving and accepting special reverence or honour for a title, which is surely the point of Matthew 23:1-12. It is of course less important exactly what the title is: even “minister”, which originally meant “servant”, has become a title of honour because it has been used as such.

    Damian, I agree with you against Amos that Christians should work together in groups, even if these groups are not necessarily traditionally organised churches. But groups need leaders of some kind. However, it is possible for groups, as often happens with groups of friends, to have no formal leadership structure and no titles, and that is a potential model for groups of Christians. Such groups tend not to be very stable, but does that matter?

    Jay, I think you’ve nailed this issue down well.

    Colin, thank you for the reminder that over-controlling leadership is a problem in some new churches as well as in historic denominations. Indeed I think this is why Amos is so negative about the fivefold ministry, a concept often taught in new churches – I suspect he has been hurt in a church with this structure, and that explains some of his excessive hangups.

    Jon, your final sentence is a good summary.

  9. Very interesting post.

    I don’t call a priest Father and I’m also reserved in calling a reverend a reverend, especially a Very Reverend!
    The leader of my church I don’t call pastor because I don’t think he pastors me.

    I find titles a little bit weird, especially when one puts them on themselves. On the flipside it’s good to know who is the actual leader of a church and a title can help with this.

    For me it’s one of personal preference and I personally find it uncomfortable to address people as Pastor, Reverend, Father, Your Holiness etc, so I either call them Sir or Mr. (insert surname here).

  10. Ferg, I agree.

    By the way, although my Anglican vicar has the title Reverend, he uses it only for official business where it is expected. All of us church members call him by his first name, and he has no problem with that.

  11. Peter

    Thanks for the link to the website. Much appreciated.
    I have observed that sickness and dis…ase often
    starts with a broken heart.

    When a heart is not at ease it’s at dis…ease.
    If that heart remains a dis…ease long enough
    it often results in disease.

    Nothing against doctors, doctors have helped me.
    But only the blood of Jesus can cleanse my sin,
    and God doesn’t remember my sin anymore.
    That means I don’t have to remember it either.

    There is multitudes of healing when we really believe
    that God has forgiven us and we can forgive others freely.

    And only Jesus can heal a broken heart.

    People hurt us and harm us in many different ways and
    I’ve never met anyone who’s heart has not been broken.
    When someone is in need of healing; Start with the heart.

    I’ve been enjoying the comments.
    People have been respectful to the topic
    and have not reverted to “name calling”
    as we see so often with challenging topics.

    It seems “Gentle Wisdom” (Word of knowledge for you?)
    can be real in your life and is also affecting your guests here.

    L.O.V.E. – Language Of Victorious Eternity is LOVE

    If this conversation (conflict?) has any benefit at all, I pray, that
    folks would challenge “the traditions of men”that “nullify” God’s word
    and learn to hear “His Voice” and be “led by the Spirit.”

    KJV – Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…
    ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    I’ll leave off for now with the first question asked.

    “I do have some questions about;
    “Five fold ministry?” Can’t find that in the KJV.
    And “biblical leadership”

    How do you reconcile “leadership”
    with Jesus teaching “His disciples”in Mat 23:10
    not to be called master/leader for
    you have one master/leader the Christ?”

    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee.
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    May we all be blessed in our search for truth… Jesus

  12. Amos, I agree with you about disease. Thank you for these insights.

    Let me remind you that the fivefold ministry is in Ephesians 4:11. If you prefer only the KJV wording, here it is: “some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”. Yes, I know that some people think this is better understood as a fourfold divisions with the same people as both pastors and teachers. But you can’t deny that these five kinds of service to the body of Christ are described in this Bible passage. As I wrote in the post above, to the extent that these five have become “offices and positions of honour in the church”, even perhaps to the extent that they have become positions of leadership, they have probably been misused. But that does not mean that what is written in the Bible about these ministries is to be set aside.

  13. Like your own Vicar, Peter, I encourage everyone simply to call me ‘Paul’. And most are content to do so…

    Meanwhile, I am discomfited by those – not just in Christian ministry, but in a variety of settings – who seem overfond of their titles. Especially, it is strange when people seek to refer to themselves in the third person – a phenomemon I have observed with surprising frequency!

    When I was working in a university – my work prior to ever being offered a clerical title – I think it was often quite a mark of difference between those of my teaching colleagues who insisted upon the use of their academic titles amongst students and others, and those who were quite content with first name terms….

  14. Peter

    You wrote;
    “I don’t accept Amos’ complete rejection
    of the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:11.”

    I agree Peter that the Bible speaks about
    apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.
    For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,
    for the edifying of the body of Christ. Eph 4:12

    What I am rejecting is the “title” “Five Fold Ministry.”
    That “title” is not in the scriptures. It was added by man, Yes?
    I believe now, to have power over and control people, Yes?

    That’s what “Titles” do. They separate, they say, I am, you’re not.
    In christiandumb “titles” mean; power, profit, prestige,
    prominence, recognition, reputation, self importance, etc.etc.

    Just the opposite of Jesus teaching His disciples
    to always take the lower place, humble yourself,
    and make yourself of no reputation.
    Not to be called rabbi, father, or master.
    For you have “one” master, leader, teacher, “The Christ.”

    Why do we not believe Jesus when he says he wants to lead and guide?
    When did pastor become a title? A profession? A paid position? An idol?

    Man now says the “five” named are “leadership” positions.
    Once again, Where is that in the Bible?
    Didn’t they all call themselves servants?

    Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus,
    the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you,
    a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    His disciples, apostles, etc. all called themselves servants,
    none called themselves leaders. None? None.
    None called themselves servant-leader. None.

    Do men “want them” to be “leadersip positions”
    to validate their tradition, to validate their life style? Hmmm?

    The only people Jesus gave a hard time to
    were the ones with “titles,” the “religious leaders” of the day.
    Called them, vipers, white walled sepulchers, of your father the devil.
    You lay “heavy weights” on men shoulders and do nothing to remove them.
    He hung out with the sinners and the tax collectors.

    Those who “the religious system” has designated as “shepherds” and “leaders”
    now have “heavy weights” not meant for any man or women to carry
    and the system does nothing to remove them.
    After burnout the seminaries just turn out more “shepherds” and “leaders.”
    Just like the religious system that Jesus established.
    He left “the system” but it still goes on, and on, and on…
    “Taking the name of the LORD thy God in vain?” (emptiness, falsehood)

    I not only spend time with believers who have been damaged by “the leaders,”
    I also pray with those who “were told” they were “shepherds” and “leaders.”
    Yes, there is no shortage of broken hearts that “the system” has trampled on.

    A constant question has become; Where is that in the Bible?
    When folks speak words that are not in the Bible don’t you
    wonder why we use them and where they come from?
    It’s difficult at best understanding the truth of the words that are written.
    How much harder word’s that we make up.

    “Five Fold Ministry” is not in the Bible. Why use it like it was scripture?

    Leaders = lord it over = always. Titles become idols = always.

    A good rule of thumb is;

    We are to speak where and how the Bible speaks
    and where the Bible is silent, we are to remain silent.

    I followed man and his traditions thinking I was serving God.
    It was a rude awakening when I realized
    I was serving the idols of my own heart.

    Be blessed.

  15. Amos, I never intended the words “fivefold ministry” as a “title”, but as a common noun phrase to describe more briefly the biblical set of five ministries. Who is the “Man” who “now says the “five” named are “leadership” positions”? Not me! I’m not sure who you think you are preaching to, as the only people who have commented here more or less agree with you.

  16. Damian

    You wrote;
    “He seems to suggest that believers should not work in groups,
    and that hence they need not have co-ordinators.”

    Damian and Peter, I agree with you both. I’m against Amos too if this is true.
    “I agree with you against Amos that Christians should work together in groups.”
    Communication skills need to be updated. Let me try again.

    What I believe is; Believers need to hear His voice and obey Jesus. Always.
    Trust and obey, Not think and decide.

    If He says stay in the IC, then stay. If he says leave, then leave.
    If He says work with a group, then work with a group.
    If he says consult not with flesh and blood, and follow only me.
    Then leave everything behind, friends, family, career, and follow Jesus.
    Abraham went out not knowing where he was going.

    For years I have volunteered with groups who feed the hungry
    and work with the homeless. I’m counting now. The love of my life.

    1- Winter Homeless Outreach, Manhattan NY. Five winters. Volunteer.
    Dec to March – Fri nite and Sat nite on the streets from 10pm till 2am
    giving out blankets, toiletries, sandwiches and lots of Jesus.
    Training others who came from, up and down, the eastern seaboard.
    Sitting on sidewalks spending time with folks sleeping in boxes
    as limo’s and broadway goer’s in fancy tux’s and dresses passed by.
    Yes, we had leaders, and co-ordinators. But this was not “the Church of God.”
    This was a 501 (c) (3) non profit, tax deductible, religious corporation.
    By law they need a board, a president, and other rules and reg by the gov.

    2- Hot Food Outreach, Manhattan NY. Three months full time. Volunteer.
    Collect food from various sources. Cook food 90 minute from Manhattan.
    Go to city 3 times a week. Mon nite 9pm. Wed 12 noon. Sat 12 noon.
    Feed on the streets, rain or shine even snow storms. Wash up in street hydrant.
    Yes, we had leaders, and co-ordinators. But this was not “the Church of God.”
    This was a 501 (c) (3) non profit, tax deductible, religious corporation.
    By law they need a board, a president, and other rules and reg by the gov.

    3- Another street mission was for 3 1/2 years, five, six days a week. Volunteer.

    4 – Food pantry another 3 1/2 years full time six days a week. Volunteer.

    5- Foster care agency working with abused teenagers.
    Full time one year. Volunteer.

    I loved working with these groups. Blessing after blessing. Miracle after miracle.
    And Yes, there were leaders, but these were corporations and ministries.
    These were not “the Church of God.” The body of Christ.
    In “the Church of God” which he purchased with His own blood
    There is only “One Leader” His name is Jesus.

    I’m not against having a shepherd or leader in the Church of God.
    I already have a shepherd and leader, His name is Jesus.
    1 Samuel 8 is about God’s people who wanted a man as leader.
    They wanted a king to be like the other people.
    How’d that work out for them.

    Look what “so called religious leaders” have accomplished.
    The Episcople Church in America. My, my… Cry, cry…
    The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. My, my. Cry, cry…
    Was part of both of them at one time. Sure know how to pick em.
    The Church of Scotland. My, my… Cry, cry…
    Church of England had a few problems over the years from what I hear.

    But they did give me the KJV. Thanks King Jimmy.

    And they didn’t like one group (became known as the pilgrims)
    Who disagreed with the C of E and persecuted them out of England
    and came to America and established religious freedom. Good for the USA.
    Then the C of E persecuted the Puritans, They tried to purify the Cof E
    from the inside, and were getting a free ride as long as the pilgrims
    were getting all the heat.
    Once the pilgrims left the Cof E persecuted the Puritans right out of England.
    Thanks again, They at least established the Congregational Church
    because of the the corruption of the “Titled leadership” in the C of E.
    These puritans came up with a noble idea.
    Down with the power of “the religious leaders.”
    The Congregation would now choose who would teach them spiritual things.
    And if the congregation noticed something they didn’t like they were gone.
    Funny, they believed the governed have the right to choose “the servants”
    who were doing the governing. Constitution anyone? Good for the USA.

    So thanks to the corruption in the Church of England headed and led by royalty;
    The USA has religious freedom without government intervention.
    The USA gets to choose who will be “the servants” of the people as they govern.
    And I get the King Jimmy Version of the Scriptures.

    Damian I believe Jesus is the only leader in the body of Christ.
    And I believe you need to hear His voice and obey Him.
    Power corrupts = always. Leader = lord it over = always.


  17. Amos, I’m sorry if I misrepresented you, taking Damian’s word rather than checking what you had said yourself. May God bless you for your sacrificial work in New York.

    I appreciate your defence of the congregational system of church government. Like all other systems it has its deficiencies in practice. It certainly stops leaders getting too dictatorial, but among its dangers is that the deacons or whoever then become the dictators, a self-perpetuating clique whom no one dares to challenge. What Winston Churchill said may be true of the church as well as in politics:

    democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

  18. I’m curious what the overseers and elders are supposed to do if they aren’t supposed to lead. Sure, they’re supposed to teach, but isn’t that leading? If some have gifts of administration, how is that never going to count as leading? I just don’t get the opposition to leading. It’s as if there’s no way people can have different roles while still being equal. Oh, wait. Most people around here actually agree with that.

  19. Kevin

    “Okay, if not Reverend, and not pastor, then what?”

    How about; “Servant of Jesus Christ?

    That seemed to work for those who walked with Jesus; Yes?
    Lot’s of stress and anxiety relief when Jesus is the only Lord
    and we’re just servants obeying His orders. Come as a little child?

    “For me, the title is arbitrary, but the function is what really counts.”

    “Arbitrary” is a funny word. Two, seemingly polar, definitions.

    1 – based on random choice or personal whim, not on any reason or system.
    “his mealtimes were entirely arbitrary.”

    2 – unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.
    “arbitrary rule by King and bishops has been made impossible.”

    My experience has been that “Titles” (whimsical or autocratic)
    are likely to cause harm and injury to many folks who love Jesus.

    1 – The one who carries the “heavy weights” that go along with the “title.”
    Power, profit, prestige, recognition, self worth, self importance,
    having to live up to expectations that go along with the “Title,”
    having to please the people, having to please the denomination,
    receiving honor from man, thinking more highly of themselves.

    I have, and continue to, work with folks whose “Titles” have
    taken them away from their first love and caused them to compromise
    with “the system” or turn away from what they knew to be truth.
    Pleasing man is a no-win hobby. Not much benefit.
    Now, pleasing Jesus, and giving Him all the glory. Love, Joy, Peace,…

    Jesus, King of King’s and Lord of Lord’s, received “Not” honor from man.
    Jesus, God in the flesh, Creator of all, Savior of all, humbled Himself,
    made Himself of no reputation, and took on the form of a servant; Yes?
    Is Jesus to be our example? Low place anyone?

    When you receive a “Title” from “the religious system,”
    aren’t you also receiving an “honor” from man? (Danger…Danger…)
    aren’t you also receiving a “reputation,” whether you want it or not???
    How does a “servant” carry a ”Title and power” and remain humble?

    Doesn’t Jesus want to shepherd “His flock?”
    No pastor ever says,”My Flock;” Do they?

    Doesn’t Jesus want His disciples to learn from Him?
    No pastor ever thinks it’s “my job” to teach ”My Flock;” Do they?

    Doesn’t Jesus want to lead the sons of God? And on…and on… and on…

    Don’t “Titles” become idols?
    and pastor’s become masters? Danger… Danger…

    Kevin – If it is only function that counts then you can recommend
    that “Titles” are not necessary and those with “Titles” can
    lay them down and become “servants of Christ.”


  20. Peter

    “It certainly stops leaders getting too dictatorial,
    but among its dangers is that the deacons or whoever
    then become the dictators,
    a self-perpetuating clique whom no one dares to challenge.”

    Yes, that is what I’ve seen also.

    A hard question to ask is;

    What if “the whole religious system,” for 1700 years,
    has been totally corrupt? Hmmm?

    Jesus didn’t try to reform “the religious sytem” he established;

    He left it.

    And called others out of “the religious system” of the day
    into a relationship with Him.

    Ekklesia = church — Ek – out of / kaleo – to call.

    A calling out? Called out one’s?

    Called out of one thing into another?

    Jesus is the head of the body (the ekklesia, the called out one’s) the church?

    Religion is the system – Not the relationship.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed and be a blessing.

  21. Jon – I have heard this before. It resulted in much spiritual abuse.

    “It seems to me that some of the force of Amos’ argument
    is taken away if you see the Ephesians 4 ministries
    being gifts of Christ to His Bride.”

    Men, wanting to be in control, said to me,
    when Jesus ascended on high He gave gifts to men
    and “these elders” were “God’s gift’ to me.
    They would call themselves “asention gifts.” Ouch!

    No kidding, “my elders” they really said this.
    How very very funny. How very arrogant. How very deceived.

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
    Rom 1:22

    If it’s okay? I’ll receive Jesus as “God’s gift” to me. Jn 4:10

    And the gifts of the Spirit given to “all” believers, men, not a special few.
    1 Cor 12:8 – 12
    the word of wisdom; the word of knowledge; faith;
    gifts of healing; working of miracles; prophecy;
    discerning of spirits; divers kinds of tongues;
    the interpretation of tongues;
    For as the body is “one,” and hath many members,
    and all the members of that “one body,”
    being many, are “one body:” so also is Christ.

    Jon – When will we see ourselves as “one?”

    Maybe you Jon, or anyone, can answer these questions
    about Eph 4:11.

    And he gave some,
    apostles; and some,
    prophets; and some,
    evangelists; and some,
    pastors and teachers;
    Eph 4:11

    Have you ever looked at the “some?”

    Who does the “some” refer to?
    No really, do you know who “some” refers to?

    Does the “some” refer to the saints?
    Does the “some’ refer to apostles?

    Did he give “some” saints, apostles?
    And “some” saints, prophets?
    And “some” saints, evangelists?
    And “some” saints, pastor – teachers?

    Or did He give “some”
    pastors – teachers
    to “all” the saints?
    to “some” saints?

    Does every congregation
    get all five, or is it four in Greek?
    an apostle,
    a prophet,
    an evangelist,
    and a pastor – teacher?

    Do all the saints get to learn
    from “some” apostles?
    Or, only “some” saints?

    If I don’t get to learn from an apostle; Am I deprived? Not complete?

    When you’re in a room
    or better yet a congregation,
    with an apostle,
    and a prophet,
    and a evangelist,
    and a pastor – teacher,
    Who is the leader?
    Who submits to who?
    Who submits to God?
    Is the pastor – teacher in last place?

    If they are “titles” and not functions of the body
    does the pastor submit to the evangelist?
    the evange….

    My brain hurts….

    If there are over 500,000 pastors in the USA.
    Where are all the apostles and prophets?

    If there are no apostles and prophets;
    why are there still pastors?

    In the Bible, How many people are… called pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… ordained a pastor?
    In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

    If the “Title” pastor is not in the Bible; Why do so many have that “Title?”

    When did pastor become a title? A profession? A paid position? An idol?

    Just wondering and wandering.

  22. When Jesus inveighed against the use of titles such as father and teacher, he was not merely criticising the use of titles but the role being claimed. Hitherto the community had been led by authority figures; it was to do so no longer. Belleville has pointed out that authority (exousia) is nowhere linked to church leadership, only to the church as a whole. My own feeling is that leadership needs to depend upon mature advising and preparedness to carry the can rather than exercising authority.

  23. But what about this – not my work, part of a post on edification which I came across here:

    The Importance of the Pastor’s Teaching in Edification.

    The responsibility of the pastor in edification is found in a number of passages.

    2 Cor. 10:8, For even if I should boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I shall not be put to shame,

    * The Corinthians wavered so much that Paul really had to get tough with them and throw his rank around.

    * The Corinthians were reacting to Paul’s authority and so were doing many things detrimental to their spiritual life.

    * “Our authority” refers to those with the communication gifts of pastor-teacher as well as apostleship, e.g., Apollos and Timothy. The pastor establishes his authority through the communication of doctrine.

    * Paul makes it clear that edification depends upon accepting the authority of a pastor-teacher who communicates doctrinal information.

    2 Cor 13:10, “For this reason, I am writing these things while absent, in order that when I am present, I may not use severity in compatibility with the authority which God has given to me for the purpose of your edification, and not for the purpose of destroying you.”

    * No one can learn any subject without accepting the authority of the one who teaches.

    * Therefore, the importance of understanding that edification comes through the teaching of a pastor in communicating the mystery doctrine of the Church Age.

    1 Thess. 5:12, “But we request of you, brethren, that you respect those pastor-teachers who work hard among you [studying and teaching], who have command over you in the Lord and give you instruction.”

    * The road to edification is paved with hundreds and thousands of lessons regarding the plan of God.

    Heb 13:17, “Keep obeying those who themselves are ruling over you, and submit to their authority [by learning Bible doctrine], for these same keep watching for the benefit of your souls as those who have to render an account. Keep obeying them, in order that they may do this accounting with joy, and not with groaning, for this is unprofitable for you.”

    * The threefold purpose of the pastor is found in Eph 4:12, “for the purpose of equipping the saints, for the production of Christian service, for the edification of the body of Christ.”

    * The “saints” refer to the family of God with emphasis on the baptism of the Spirit.

    * “Equipping the saints” refers to God’s grace policy and provision for the execution of the His plan.

    * “Equipping” is the function of the pastor who, through teaching doctrine, is able to see people grow and become mature, productive Christians.

  24. Amos, don’t forget that one of the pope’s titles is “servant of the servants of God”. That sounds very humble. But having a humble title like this didn’t stop some mediaeval popes being the very worst of autocratic leaders. So this is my real point and probably Kevin’s: it doesn’t matter what title someone carries – ANY title, even “servant”, can be abused.

    By the way, there may not be 500,000 apostles and prophets in the USA, but in some denominations there are people who carry these titles.

    Amos, I fear you are alienating those who largely agree with you by trying to browbeat us with long comments into agreeing with you in every last detail. Please can you try to make your comments here shorter and less repetitive.

  25. Rachel, I think what you have quoted misrepresents Ephesians 4:11-12. For one thing, verse 12 is not the task just of pastors or pastor/teachers but of all five groups of people in verse 11. Secondly, as modern scholars have recognised (against some older translations) verse 12 is not a list of three separate functions but a cumulative list. That is, the pastors and the others are to equip the saints so that all the saints, not just the pastors, do the works of service; and it is not just the pastors who build up the body of Christ but all the people serving together who do this. Read verse 12 in TNIV to get the right idea:

    to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …

  26. My, my, my… what wonderful, challenging things to be struggling with. Kudos to all in the conversation. Thanks to Peter for setting it up. And Amos, I deeply admire your passion… even though I’m a little concerned about your possible levels of sugar intake. 😉

    To the noble hearts that desire to shepherd the flock, I ask only one (two part) question. Parents are generally displeased if their children still depend on them after age 20. So completely apart from the issue of scriptural models, how long have you been preaching, and how close are your people to caring for themselves without you?

    Peter, you recently said the “until” in Eph 4 is only in Eternity. I still disagree, but in your view, does that also mean we grow no closer on Earth?

    I’ve seen a lot of “Pastors” whose every breath encourages depenency, whether they mean to or not.

  27. Hi Bill,
    I am only one month passed my Bap. I was recommended for Stipendiary ministry. I will complete two years full time training. I am an ex secondary school teacher. I spoke at Bap, and you might think me idealistic, but I spoke at conference about how my aim is to empower the laity and I realise that even in that sentence there is an unhelpful emphasis on ‘I’. I hope to encourage and affirm – I think I have been given gifts of teaching and encouraging, which God has already had me use as a school teacher. I have learnt about what leadership can look like from a ‘pastor’, who took a risk on me, giving me responsibilities which I grew into. She equipped me by making me independent. She deliberately stepped back once she had delegated to me a role. I really learned to develop the role and trust God to equip me.

    We are servants, Bill. I think it’s going to be a tough job because we’re there to ‘carry the can’ when things go wrong because we are associated with that particular church, but when things go well, it will be because we have delegated, are working as a body and working alongside a group of people who are able to exercise their God-given gifts for the benefit of all.

    Thanks Bill for your encouragement of all of us in this thread.

  28. Bill, thanks for your comment. I still take the “until” of Ephesians 4:13, the end point of the church being built up and “attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ”, as being at the end of time, when it is presented as a spotless bride to its Bridegroom. But of course this implies that there should be continuing progress towards this goal as we grow closer to that perfection. That certainly does require that pastors etc allow their congregation members to grow up.

  29. Rachel

    Checked out your site a little and can understand your excitement
    for the journey you have begun. “Anglican Ordained.”
    God bless you in your desire to serve God and His people.
    I pray that you hear His voice, follow Jesus, and obey Him.

    I also checked out the site where you found this info. about “edification.”
    Lot’s of “Titles,” “Doctors” and “Pastors” doing the writing.
    Not that I’m suspicious of people trying to protect their life’s work
    or the power, profit, and prestige, that come with such “Titles”
    But, have you checked out what they say about this topic and others?
    Very little of what they say about “pastor-teachers” has any Bible merit.

    There is a valuable lesson here. You need to get it from God yourself.
    You should check out those who give you information.
    We are warned continuously in the Bible about;
    False apostles; many false prophets; false teachers;
    false Christ’s; (false anointed ones), wolves in sheep clothing; etc.

    Paul, when God revealed himself, said,
    “immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:”
    Gal 1:16

    Jesus told Peter he was blessed because he got it from God and not man.
    “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood
    hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
    Mat 16:17

    Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, taught it wasn’t Him;
    “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me,
    I speak these things.”
    John 8:28

    Here is something they included in this site under “pastor-teacher.”
    I doubt very much if you would approve of their stand on women pastors.

    I Timothy 2:11,12 is one of the most controversial passages in Scripture.
    The question revolves around this: Does God the Holy Spirit
    give the gift of pastor/teacher to females?
    Opinions abound, the discussion is endless,
    and connections too tenuous to be defined are cited.
    Based on a grammatical, syntactical and etymological analysis the passage,
    the author asserts that the answer to the question is ‘no,
    God the Holy Spirit does not bestow the gift of pastor/teacher on women.’

    You included this in your comments on edification. The very end.

    ““Equipping” is the function of the pastor who, through teaching doctrine,
    is able to see people grow and become mature, productive Christians.”

    This is the danger of “Titles” and “traditions of men.”
    The believers become spectators and not participator’s.

    Isn’t “edification” the responsibility of the entire body?

    Ro 15:2* Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.

    1Co 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification,

    1Co 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts,
    seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

    1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another,

    1Co 14:26* How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue,
    hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

    Jesus, when He taught, took His disciples to the streets.
    They saw the sick healed, demons cast out,
    and the kingdom of God preached in the market place.
    Then the disciples went out and did the same.

    Has anyone taught you the way Jesus taught His disciples?
    To heal the sick, cast out demons, and to hear His voice
    so Jesus might instruct you?

    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.
    John 6:45

    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus

  30. Amos, I don’t really want to sidetrack this thread into a discussion of gender issues. But in 1 Timothy 2:12 what is forbidden to, literally, “a woman” is authentein, a word which clearly implies exercising the kind of authority which, as you have been arguing so well, no Christian should exercise over any other. Paul surely didn’t allow men to do this either. Presumably he explicitly forbids it here to “a woman” because Timothy had a particular problem with women, or a specific woman, trying to exercise a wrong kind of authority.

  31. Peter

    Sorry for the long windedness.
    Believe it or not I am keeping them short.
    Lots more stuff going on inside.

    As you can imagine, very few permit this much
    dialogue in person unless they have been burnt
    by “the religious system.”

    Thanks for the info on the title servant.
    Didn’t know that about the pope.

    How about, instead of reverend or pastor,
    I’ll call you Peter and you can call me Amos.

    “By the way, there may not be 500,000 apostles and prophets
    in the USA, but in some denominations
    there are people who carry these titles.”

    Do you know of any apostles in the USA.
    I’ve never met one. Not a real one.
    I can name six or seven I’ve met and spoke with
    who said they were apostles.
    But alas, after a short time, they were after
    tithes and offerings and submission to authority.
    You know, the power – profit thing.

    One even has the “title”
    Chief Executive Apostle. Really???

    Women issues, no Peter, not to pick on women,
    learned a lot from women who love Jesus.
    It was for Rachel to check things out.
    The people she quoted from twist the scriptures real well.

    Total agreement with you.
    “no Christian should exercise over any other.”

    Thanks again.

  32. Peter, I do apologize for not reading in detail every post. I am a Pastor (assistant, associate, executive i.e. not the Sr. or Lead Pastor), and I don’t care if the people that attend our congregation call me Pastor or not. It really makes little difference to me personally. Many still call me by my first name, and I never tell them to call me Pastor. I let the call me what ever they feel most comfortable with, so long as it is not insulting 😉

    I think that if a Pastor or leader of a church feels the need to be called one by his congregation, then I think he needs to rethink that very seriously.

    The problem as I see it is that everything we learn about how the church functions, its titles and offices, are by way of implication from the scriptures, and that is why we have some many different understandings of how the gathered people of God should operate when meeting together.

    I like Gordon Fee’s perspective on the gathering of the People of God.

  33. Wow – I keep reading just the very thing that keeps coming up in debate – I am being taught! Thanks Amos.

    Robert and ‘I like Gordon Fee’s perspective on the gathering of the People of God.’

    I’ve just read this, pm on the way back from Devon, in the car, or at least his thoughts on this very topic in his book ‘Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics’ and I agree it is excellent.

    We are in a relationship with God through the power of his Spirit and serve and come under the authority of one Lord Jesus Christ and must avoid at all times ‘lording it’ over one another. Perhaps Amos, you would be more suited to a fellowship less governed by the rules of men/women in terms of its structures. Although, I suspect our falleness will always lead us to err. We must persevere in prayer and from my experience, churches which are more welcoming of the Holy Spirit seem to be less hierarchical because they are seeing the Spirit at work, gifting the body in all sorts of ways for the edification of the whole.

    God bless you Amos, your motives are honourable. I hope that you find a fellowship in which you feel you can really meet in freedom with the Lord Jesus through the power of his Holy Spirit.

  34. Jeremy

    “I’m curious what the overseers and elders
    are supposed to do if they aren’t supposed to lead?”

    From a “tradition of men” standpoint that’s a reasonable question,
    and “the tradition of men” declares we “must” have “overseers/elders/leaders.”

    For most this is a given. “If we don’t have leaders we’ll have chaos.”
    Well, it’s 2000 years since Christ and we have plenty of
    “so called leaders/elders,”
    and we also have lot’s of chaos, confusion, and division among God’s people.

    Wikipedia says there are 38,000 Christian denominations. Wow!!! 38,000.
    Weren’t these 38,000 denominations started by men, “leaders/elders,”
    who thought they were “leading” the body and had a better idea?

    Isn’t it time for Jesus to do the leading?

    The scriptures record a few things that “blind” believers
    to the truth of God’s Word.

    1- Idols of the heart. Ezk 14.
    “Titles become idols,” and God speaks to us thru our idols. (leader/pastor/elder)

    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
    For I know not to give flattering titles;
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
    Job 32:21

    2- The traditions of men “nullifies,” “makes void,” the word of God. Mark 7:14

    3- Receiving a “gift” blinds the wise.
    Strongs 7810 shachad – KJV – gift 10, reward 7, bribes 3, present 2, bribery 1
    “Titles” become “gifts”and “bribes,” given by “the Religious System” and
    puts you in bondage to “The System” so you support it and it’s traditions.
    It’s hard to speak against or reject “The system” that see’s your greatness.

    And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise,
    and perverteth the words of the righteous.
    Ex 23:8, De 10:17, De 16:19, 2Ch 19:7, Ps 26:10, Pr 15:27, Pr 17:23, Ec 7:7.

    4- God confuses language for those making a name for themselves.
    Tower of Babel anyone. Oh no! What’s on top of our building; a steeple?
    In the Bible; How many buildings called church? How many steeple’s?

    “…let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven;
    and let us make us a name…” Gen 11:9

    “The kingdom of God” comes not with observation, it is “within” hidden.
    It is the rule, the “reign,” the dominion,
    the government of God in one’s heart.
    This government shall be upon Jesus’ shoulders.

    “The kingdom of The Denomination” is “without,” names on church buildings,
    seminaries, credentials, diploma’s, business cards, websites, etc.,
    where it can be “seen.”

    It is the rule, the “reign,” the dominion,
    the government of “The Denomination.”
    This government shall be upon hierarchy of “The Denominations” shoulders.

    So, now I see being a “disciple of Christ” as a personal choice.

    So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all
    that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Lu 14:33
    Forsaking – Power, profit, prestige, recognition, reputation, “Titles?” All?

    Jesus told his disciples “not” to be called “leader” and none did.
    If that is your choice, “leader/elder” or “disciple of Christ?”
    Which one will you choose?

    Jeremy – Will you accept the “Title” “leader/elder/pastor?”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

    If Not Now, When?

    In His Service. By His Grace.

    Thank you Jesus.

  35. Peter

    Just came across an intresting website about hurting pastors.
    And found a lot more sites as well. Seems to be a huge problem.

    This is info from a website helping “burned out Pastors.”

    PastorCare offers support and encouragement for pastors and their families.
    At PastorCare we care about YOU and we want to help.

    According to the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

    According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation…
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.
    • Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.
    •Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.

    If “pastors” and “leaders” (as we see them today) are of God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His “shepherd – leaders;” Is He? 😉
    Hmmm? Wonder why?

    Think we might have a problem?
    70% of pastors-leaders are depressed or burnt out. Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?
    That’s who is running the show. “Leadership?”
    That’s who is abused and abusing God’s sheep.
    I have been both abused and the abuser. It’s not pretty.

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year, leave or are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.

    Hmmm? “Pastor – Leader,” is this a “Title” or “position” in the scriptures?
    In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

    Are we causing folks to be a abused by saying we need “Pastor-Leaders?”

    Jesus = The Good Shepherd.

  36. Amos, thanks for this. There is clearly a serious problem here with the contemporary church’s expectations of pastors. I agree with you in being very critical of the pastoral system in its current western incarnation. But I would look for reform of the system, not for its complete abolition. That is because Jesus did expect the church to have leaders.

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