Are You The Pastor

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I have been asked on several occasions, “Are you the pastor?” What most have in mind when asking this question is the modern-day denominational “pastoral system of government” in which the local minister presides over the local church.

When I explain to individuals that I’m not a pastor, but simply an evangelist, preacher or minister of the gospel, it seems to generate much confusion. It is not because I am unable to convey my thoughts, but rather it is a failure on their part to understand how the term pastor is used according to scriptures. It is easy to use a term or phrase and apply it to a person or thing without understanding its true meaning. The term pastor is an example of such.

My wife and I are home educators. We often emphasize to our children the need to have a clear understanding of how words are used and their significance. We caution them to be careful with their choice and use of words.

How is the term “pastor” used in Scripture? Is the church to have one man in charge as “the Pastor of the church?” Is there a distinction made between a preacher and a pastor? Let’s strive to answer these questions by searching the Scriptures.

How Is the Term Pastor Used According to Scripture?             The Holy Spirit reveals that men, called elders, are identified by three different Greek words. These words are used interchangeably and can be found in such passages as 1 Peter 5:1-2 and Acts 20:17, 28. They are translated by six English words.


presbuteros, elder or presbyter


episkopos, bishop or overseer


poimen, pastor or shepherd


The above words referred to the same individuals—individuals who had met the qualifications as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9, and based on the credentials given by the Holy Spirit, unmarried men, young men, or women would not have qualified to serve in such capacity.

The terms “elder, pastor, and bishop” refer to a man, who along with other men (Acts 14:23) in a given congregation, is responsible to pastor (feed) or shepherd, and guide that single flock (local church) among them. “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). These men did not have the right to make or change Divine Laws, but were to execute what had been legislated by the Holy Spirit.

Is the Church to Have One Man In Charge as “The Pastor?”   

No, when one earnestly studies the New Testament Scriptures, he can clearly see the makeup of the church according to God’s eternal plan (Ephesians 3:11). As churches were being established, elders (also called bishops and pastors) were appointed to oversee and tend the flock (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Deacons were selected to serve under the oversight of the elders (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Philippians 1:1). Members (saints, disciples of Christ, priests) cooperated together in the work of the Lord (Acts 11:26; 9:13; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Acts 9:26; 1Corinthians 12:12-26; Philippians 2:1-5). Evangelists (preachers, ministers) were responsible for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 4:13-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). The word “preacher” describes what one does; proclaims God’s message (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11; Romans 10:14.) The word “minister” describes his relationship to what he does; he is a servant, not a master. In the case of elders (pastors, bishops), there was always more than one man serving concurrently in a local congregation, not one man over an entire congregation as you would find among most denominations today (See Acts 14: 23, Philippians. 1: 1; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Churches built by men have a different organizational makeup than that which we read about in God’s word.

Where can we read in scripture about a headquarters of the church on earth, whether headed by a pope or a group of men? Where can we turn in God’s Divine Law and find authority for one bishop (pastor) over many churches? In what book chapter and verse can we find a “deacon board” serving as overseers of a local flock? Where can we find scriptural authority for a preacher serving as “the Pastor,” even though he does not meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7? In what book chapter and verse can we read of the authority for one eldership overseeing the work of several churches, working as a single unit through a “sister church” or “sponsoring church” arrangement? Friends, there are no approved examples of these within the pages of God’s Divine Word!

Is There a Distinction Made Between a Preacher and that of a Pastor?

A pastor and an evangelist is not necessarily the same thing. The church (body of Christ) is a spiritual organism, that receives life from its Head (Ephesians 1:22-23). In Ephesians 4:8-13 we read of Christ bestowing certain gifts (functions) to men “for the building up of the body,” and to execute the spiritual work given them. We also observe a distinction between a pastor and an evangelist in Ephesians 4:11;

American Standard Translation: “And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”

English Standard Translation: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

New American Standard Translation: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”


New King James Translation: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”

King James Translation: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”

New International Translation: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”

In this text we clearly see that a pastor and evangelists are not the same. Timothy was an evangelist who worked with the elders in the church at Ephesus (I Timothy 5: 17-22, 2 Timothy 4: 1-5) and as far as the Scriptures are concerned he was never referred to as a pastor. However, a man can serve as an elder, and evangelist. For example, Peter was an apostle and a pastor, who served alongside other pastors (I Peter 5: 1-4).

Let’s learn to be content with the organizational makeup of the church as God has designed it, being sure to apply Biblical words in the way in which they are intended.

– Fred Singleton