Satan and his cohorts in this world have greatly confused people concerning many Biblical terms. One such example concerns the Biblical distinction between preachers and pastors. This confusion is somewhat understandable because so many denominational preachers refer to themselves as “pastors.”
Let it be known to one and all, once and for all: A Preacher is, Biblically speaking, different than a Pastor.
At this point some will wonder whether we are merely quibbling over words. After all, everyone in Christ’s church is a minister (Eph. 4:11-12), so does it really matter what we call ourselves? Jesus taught that what we call ourselves is veryimportant: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). In context, the Lord’s point is that no one should adopt religious titles like “reverend” and “father” because they take glory away from God and focus it on men. So God will indeed hold us accountable for the way we present ourselves and the work we do. What we call ourselves, religiously speaking, is important.
The word “pastor” is the English translation of one of three Greek words in the New Testament that describe a particular office in the Lord’s church. The other two words referring to this office are “episkopos” meaning “bishop,” and “presbuteros” meaning “older man.” The word “pastor,” then, refers to an office held by an older man who meets certain qualifications spelled out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 among other places. Most often, the 21st century church refers to our “pastors” as “elders” or “shepherds.”
A pastor must be married, and he must have a good reputation both in and out of the church (1 Tim. 3:1-2). A pastor is also required to have children who believe, meaning that they are New Testament Christians (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). Further, a pastor is a man who has proved from long experience that he is a man of godliness, character, and self-control (Titus 1:7-8). He is not a novice, an inexperienced man in the faith (1 Tim. 3:6). A pastor is able to shepherd souls because he has already shown his ability to raise a family and train his children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). He has been God’s man in the community, the home, and the church for many years. As a result, he is eminently qualified to lead and to feed God’s people, spiritually speaking.
Looking at those qualifications, it is clear that the term “pastor” should not be used flippantly, nor should it be applied to those who are not qualified for the office. It is wrong for a preacher or minister of any sort to adopt the name “pastor” when he is not properly qualified to hold the office. Such a practice leads to confusion among God’s people and degrades the honorable work of elders.
So, finally, a personal appeal from me, a simple preacher of the Gospel, to you: please don’t call me the “pastor.” I am merely 29 years old and my only son is just beginning to cut his first teeth. Not only do those facts disqualify me, but I have a great deal to learn about being a Christian, to say nothing of being a husband and father. In short, I lack the wisdom, the experience, and the necessary qualifications to be called a “pastor.”
Let’s be careful about the way we use Biblical words. Satan is a master of confusion, and we may well be guilty of causing someone to miss heaven because of our indiscretions. — JB