What is the Pastor’s Role in the Church?

The Purpose of the Pastor

The Bible teaches a plurality of elders, as seen in James 5:14; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1; and Acts 20:17. There are at least three ways to interpret the multiple elders:

  • Some Brethren churches believe there should be many elders (pastors) in a local church. They tend to share preaching, and together, administer the church. The modern Body Life view of the church holds to plurality of elders.
  • The Presbyterian or Reformed church believes in ruling elders and teaching elders. The ruling elders are plural and they take care of spiritual matters in the church. The teaching elder is the pastor, responsible for preaching.
  • Baptist or Independent churches believe in a multiple staff of pastors such as a senior pastor and his staff, youth pastor, minister of music, etc. These all function with the title of pastors in the role of elders.

The pastor has several tasks in the church. When he is described as an elder, his duties relate to his spiritual maturity. Just as the original patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, etc.) gave leadership to all. the people in his household, so the elder gives leadership to those in the spiritual household. As such, leadership is given by spiritual example and wise decisions, not by doctrinal decree (1 Pet. 5:1-4), or as Peter describes it, “not lording It over the flock.”

The second task of the elders is to rule the church.

The word exile Is a hard word for some to accept, but nevertheless, it is a biblical command. “Lot the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:17). In essence, the one who preaches is to rule. “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man known not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

This implies an elder (bishop) is to rule his family as a requirement to lead the flock. Note, “taking care” is not quite as strong as the previous passage, ruling the house of God. “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Pet. 5:1,2). This verse indicates than an elder is to feed and take oversight of the church. ”

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:7,17).

Those who preach the Word are to rule the church. “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12 states that those who are over the church are the ones who rule. They are the ones who admonish the church. “That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboreth” (I Cor. 16:15).

Because of the harshness associated with the modern definition of rule, the preferred phrase is that the elder/pastor should lead the church.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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