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Friday, December 3, 2010

Simple Church Minute 50--pastors

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            The word “pastors”, in the plural, appears only one time in our English Bibles. It stands undefined.  The word in the Koine Greek is poimen, which appears 18 times in the New Testament.  The other 17 times, it is translated shepherd, and pastor is the Latin word for shepherd.  In those 17 occurrances, it either means a sheepherder, or it is referring to Jesus, usually Jesus referring to himself.  We need to remember that the societies in the days of the Bible were agrarian, and the people experientially understood a lot about sheep and shepherds. Shepherd wasn’t a religious term, it was a farming term.   This one other time, in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 11, it cannot be either of those.  It appears in the sentence defining what some parts of Jesus’ people call the fivefold ministries—prophet, apostle, evangelist, pastor and teacher.  Australian historian Robert Banks, in his book Paul’s Idea of Community, points out that in other places in the New Testament, the other four ministries are, at some point, connected to a person, but pastor is not.  Further, Banks says that there is the possibility that pastor or shepherd may have been a modifying word for teacher, that is, teachers who guide and protect.  An elder would have been understood as an older, experienced person, and in the early church, an older, experienced believer.  In Second John 1 verse 1, the apostle refers to himself as an elder.  Even if separate, a pastor would have the character of an elder and leader.  None of these positions were formal appointments, but functions that came from experience, gifting, character, and obedience to the Holy Spirit.
            We actually do not have historical evidence of the word pastor used as the term for a single person head of a congregation until after the Reformation.  The Reformers realized that the word priest implied the exact opposite of what Jesus did on the cross.  The Bible shows us only one titular office:  head of the church, which is Jesus.
            You can email me at  For more info on organic church*, visit or (local website).
On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.”  While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better.  I comment on that in blip 94.

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