Return to Index Page



By Richard Gunther


In the New Testament (and of course in the Old Testament) there is no such thing as a Pastor with a capital ‘P’. The Early Church had no Pastors. Pastors simply did not exist – yet today in the Western world there are hundreds of Pastors. So where did Pastors come from?


   In the New Testament Greek there are three different words which are used in an interchangeable way. (In much the same way as we might use “king”, “sovereign” and “royal head” in an interchangeable way)


Poimen = pastor

Presbuteros = elder

Episkopos = overseer, or bishop.


   In other words, a pastor is also an elder and a bishop or overseer, OR an elder is a pastor and bishop or overseer, OR a bishop is the same as the other three.


   In Titus 1:5 Paul instructs Titus to “appoint elders in every city” and then tells Titus that an overseer must be above reproach. See also Titus 1:7, 1Tim.3:2 with 1Tim.5:17. Also 1Pet.5:1,2 where Peter equates “elders” with “oversight”. Also Philippians 1:1 where Paul addresses the “overseers” and “deacons” instead of “elders” and deacons. Paul is obviously referring to the elders of the church, yet he calls them “overseers”.

   Lightfoot says “in every one of the extant commentaries . . . whether Greek or Latin, this identity (of overseer as elder) is affirmed”.


   To prove “elder” is the same as “pastor” see 1Pet.5:1,2. In verse 2 “pastor is often translated “shepherd”, from the Greek word ‘poimen’, which means to shepherd, to feed, and to pastor.


   Logically, if an elder is an overseer, and an overseer is a pastor, and a pastor is a shepherd or bishop, then the office must be the same. Now notice that when Paul travelled about starting church fellowships, he made sure they had several elders to care for each small flock. Titus 1:5. So the Early Church pattern was that of small groups of Christians with several overseers whose job was to shepherd or care for the flock in many ways.


   Watchman Nee said “Nowhere in God’s Word do we find anyone referred to by the name Pastor”.

·   Not one N.T. letter is addressed to “the Pastor”.

·   Paul and Barnabas weren’t received by ‘the Pastor’ at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). They were received by “the apostles and elders”.

·   The apostles appointed “elders” (plural) Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5

·   The poor-relief fund was brought by Barnabas and Saul to “the elders” of the church in Jerusalem, not to “the Pastor”.

·   It is “the elders” who are rewarded with double honour for ruling well – 1Tim.5:17

·   In Acts 20:17 and 20:28 Paul invites the Ephesian “elders” to Miletus. In v17 he tells these same elders that they are “overseers” and that they are to “pastor” the church of God. It is all plural – not a single man at the top.


   The above is not an attack on, or a criticism of Pastors. It is simply a presentation of what the Bible says. There are many wonderful Pastors, who do an outstanding job. The question I think we ought to ask is “Is the Church following the Bible, or something less than the Bible? And if something less, perhaps the Church is missing out on the full blessings which come from obedience?”

Back to Index Page