By Dennis D. Tucker
On numerous occasions a person will call wanting to talk with the “pastor” of the church. They often assume that since I am an evangelist of a congregation that I am the “pastor.” The reason is that in many religious groups the terms evangelist and pastor do refer to the same man or group. However, the Bible makes a distinction between the two terms.
The Work of a Pastor
A number of terms are used in the Bible referring to the men in charge of overseeing the flock. The following terms refer to the same group of men (due to space all passages in the Bible cannot be given): elder is found in Acts 14:23; overseer in Acts 20:28; bishop in 1 Timothy 3: 1; shepherd in 1 Peter 5:2; presbytery in 1 Timothy 4:14; and pastor in Ephesians 4:11. The phrases referring to these men are descriptive in nature and not titles. Notice that the term pastor refers to the same person as elders, bishop, shepherd or overseer.
These men are to guide, guard, oversee, feed and protect the flock of God. “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers” (1 Pet. 5:2). They are to provide an example to the flock and rule.
The Work of an Evangelist
The evangelist is not given the same duties as the elders of a congregation. He is to proclaim the gospel of Christ. This includes teaching the Christian and non-Christian alike. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). He is to study and proclaim God’s word to all men so they might be saved by the gospel.
Most men being referred to as pastors are not elders but instead are evangelists. Many religious groups with a “pastor” either have an unscriptural eldership and/or an evangelist doing an unscriptural work.
The Bible does not use the terms pastor and preacher interchangeably. It makes a distinction in the work of each one and the qualifications of each position. What matters is how the Bible uses these terms and not how we want to use them. Many men today wearing the title of pastor are not qualified to fulfill that role. The same can be said for those claiming to be preachers.
The Requirements of a Pastor
A complete list of qualifications is given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These qualifications must be met before one can be an elder/pastor. They are not suggestions but demands that come from God. While they may appear to be trivial to some of us, we must abide by the doctrine of Christ, if we are to please him. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 9).
The most obvious requirements are: (1) An elder must be a man. God did not place women in the role of leadership in his church. Occasionally a woman claims to be a pastor, but she cannot be a pastor of the New Testament church. (2) He must be a husband which means he must be married. (3) He must have children. I have been introduced to men who were single, and/or childless, claiming to be pastors. God demands that elders have all of the qualities, including a wife and children. (4) His children must be Christians. If a man cannot train his own children to obey the gospel, how will he convince others? (5) He must not be a novice. This refers to age and experience. A twenty year old man cannot meet this requirement. (6) The Scriptures speak of an eldership or elders; not one man leading the flock. In other words, part of the requirement is a plurality of pastors/elders. We cannot look at all of the requirements due to space but they are all important and all essential.
Does the place that you worship have scriptural elders/pastors? Do they meet all of commands of God? Read his requirements in the above passages.
The Requirements of a Preacher
There are many requirements for the preacher but again not all can be mentioned at this time. However, some show the difference between the position of pastor and preacher. “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). (For a more detailed study read Paul’s writings to Timothy and Titus.) There is no age requirement in this passage for a preacher as there is for a pastor. This passage obviously shows that a young man can be an evangelist. A preacher must provide the proper example to all men in spite of his age. Notice what is absent in Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus. There is no mention of being married or having children. But he must be willing to study, preach, and apply the word.
If a man is trying to fulfill any office in the church without meeting the conditions of God, he is wrong. A pastor/elder without the right to serve in that capacity is an unscriptural pastor/elder. This same statement must be said for a preacher. In order to abide by God’s will we must use biblical terms and names in their correct definition.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 7, p. 204
April 6, 1989