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He wasn’t a pastor… at least not in the sense that we traditionally think of “pastor”.

I’ll start by saying that the word “pastor” as the name of an office is only found once in the entire New Testament, and it’s in Ephesians 4:11-12:  “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”.

Many scholars teach that pastor is connected to teacher in this verse so that it is actually just one thing.

But if we can say one thing about this verse, it is that it tells us nothing about the office of pastor as we use it today – one man leading over an entire congregation who does the majority (if not all) of the teaching and manages and maintains a church building.

I can hear an argument coming up – But what about Timothy and Titus?  They were examples of pastors over a church, weren’t they?  We can gain information from them about our modern day pastors, right?

Well, not exactly.  Let’s put some definitions out here.

We've got to consider the structure of the New Testament if we want to plant #biblical #churches. Click To Tweet

Paul-like Leaders

city downtown church cross church plantingTimothy and Titus fit into the same category as Paul.  There is no name of this category listed in the New Testament, but we can look at their function and understand exactly what their job was.

Sometimes they’re called Paul-like leaders, Pauline leaders or Pauline Team, and some people call them Ministers of the Gospel, just to give them some distinction from other leader-types.

This was their function in the early church:

  • Plant churches1
  • Appoint elders in the churches2
  • Establish the churches for only a short period of time and then move on3, but to ensure that the church was stable, they would:
    • Put leaders in place4
    • Return for a brief time5
    • Send other Pauline leaders to stay for a time6
    • Write letters to give them instructions and encouragement7
  • Train up new Paul-like leaders8
  • Maintain a network between the churches9
  • Maintain a network between the leaders of the churches10

For more information about these Paul-like leaders, look at this previous article.


The main teaching that we have on elders is found in Acts 20:17-38.

In verses 28-29, we see that elders were supposed to:

  • Keep watch over everything going on with their church
  • Shepherd the flock
  • Protect them from false teachings and other dangers

In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 we see that elders were supposed to be men of high character and self-control.  They were to be managing their own homes well, since the church is supposed to be like a family.

But the main difference between elders and Pauline leaders was this:  Elders stayed in one location to manage their single church, while Pauline leaders moved in between the churches to act as a strengthening force and a connection between all the churches.

What It Means for Us Today

drivingThe Bible does not give us any teaching about having a pastor as we know it today.  It doesn’t mean that anyone is wrong or sinning if they have a pastor.  I mean, we know that most pastors do really great work for their churches.

But we’ve got to consider the structure of the New Testament if we want to plant and establish biblical churches.

And the bigger point is that we must not ignore the function that Paul had in the churches, despite whether or not we use the office of “pastor” in any single church.

So I’m calling for a redefinition of leaders who call themselves Pastors.

Pastors either need to recognize that their current role is basically summed up in what the New Testament calls “elder” and put then they must put themselves on the same level as elders –

Or else they need to embrace the transient role of a Pauline leader and focus on planting and establishing churches, then moving on to do that work elsewhere.

As we take care of our cities and plant #churches, we have got to embrace the gifts #God has… Click To Tweet

Ask yourself –

  • Are you someone who is really good at getting things started like an entrepreneur?  Or are you someone who manages well over a long period of time?
  • Are you someone who focuses on people groups?  Or are you someone who focuses on individuals?
  • Are you someone who is better at training leaders?  Or are you someone who is better at raising up infants in the faith?
  • Are you comfortable evangelizing anyone and everyone?  Or are you more comfortable evangelizing a community through long-term relationships?
  • Are you a prophet in the sense that you can evaluate our culture and society and apply biblical principles?  Or are you better at translating already established biblical principles to people not yet established in their faith?

city lights 2If you answered yes to the first questions, you might be better suited as a Pauline leader.  If you answered yes to the second questions, you might be better suited as an elder.

Obviously, there will be some overlap.  Paul had to be good at shepherding in one place for a while, and elders had to make sure their individual churches were interacting with the network of churches.

But we have to be willing to commit to understanding the different roles in the church, and then giving our lives to the role God called us to.

As we take care of our cities and plant churches, we have got to embrace the gifts God has given us.


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  1. Acts 14:21-23
  2. Titus 1:5
  3. Acts 14:24-25
  4. 1 Timothy 3:1-7
  5. Acts 14:21
  6. Titus 1:5
  7. These are the epistles of the New Testament
  8. Acts 16:1-5, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus
  9. Acts 11:27-30
  10. Acts 15:1-35