|Vol. 13 No. 8 August 2011
Calling a Preacher “Pastor”
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Is it okay to call preachers “pastors” if they are not elders since poimaino in 1 Corinthians 9:7 is used in connection to Gospel preaching, and so, can refer to pastoring in that way. Poimaino is also used in Acts 20:28 in speaking of the work of elders, and poime in Ephesians 4:11 is translated as “pastors.”
First Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?” This verse appears in a context of the apostle Paul discussing why he and others as Gospel preachers could receive financial support from the church (1 Corinthians 9:1-14). The word “feedeth” is the English translation of the Greek verb poimaino, which also appears in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2 where the contexts pertain to elders. The English word “pastors” appears in Ephesians 4:11 from the Greek noun poime.
Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2 describe the function of elders with this single Greek verb poimaino. No other references in those two contexts define the function of elders. That verb poimaino, however, appears also where it has reference neither to elders nor preachers, that is in its ordinary sense of being a literal shepherd for literal sheep or other animals (Luke 17:17). The context of 1 Corinthians 9:7 uses several illustrations in the process of noting the relationship between serving and receiving a livelihood in return for the service: a soldier and his wages, a farmer and his crop, and a shepherd and milk from the sheep. For one to deduce from 1 Corinthians 9:7 that preachers may be called pastors would to conclude also that they should be as readily referred to as soldiers or warriors and farmers, which though the illustrations are valid, one would not refer to preachers ordinarily by the designations of soldiers or warriors and farmers in the same vein as elders, presbyters, bishops or pastors might be used to designate those brethren. Whereas one might put after his name to designate his function the words “evangelist,” “preacher” or “minister,” he would not do the same with the words “warrior,” “soldier” or “farmer.” That would just cause confusion, and likewise, referring to preachers as “pastors” would result in unnecessary confusion and based on insubstantial biblical evidence for such.
Secondly, the way in which the word “pastor” is used in the denominational world in relationship to preachers is as a title rather than a description of what he does. Christians are not supposed to use religious titles (Matthew 23:7-10). Consequently, I can neither find a good reason nor biblical authority for using the term “pastor” for a Gospel preacher.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Can an eldership refuse certain people (preachers) from entering their meeting house until those people repent?
Legally, elders could prevent a person or persons from entering a church building or coming on to church owned property; contrary to popular opinion, a church building and the real estate on which it sits is private property rather than public property. Generally, the public is invited on to this private property for such things as Bible class and worship. Church property belongs to the congregation, and elders (or trustees) biblically and legally represent the congregation.
Scripturally, elders have the responsibility to watch out for the spiritual welfare of each member of the church over which they have been appointed, and they must account for the souls in their charge to God (Hebrews 13:17). Part of that responsibility includes protecting the flock of God from false teachers (Romans 16:17-18).
In addition, the business world often escorts employees from the premises and forbids their reentry to company property upon employees resigning or being let go. Sometimes elderships have done likewise with preachers that have resigned or that they have let go. The reasoning is to prevent potential problems respecting property or influence on remaining personnel. Still other elderships have the exterior doors to their church building locked after Bible class, worship, etc. begins and to have admission monitored by responsible adult Christians. This is to discourage robbers from entering or having unattended children wander out the doors and away.
Autonomous congregations may legally and for biblical purposes control access to the assemblies of the local church. Certainly, even appropriate procedures can be abused. Frankly, especially a preacher who is unwelcome at a congregation would probably find himself more comfortable assembling with brethren who readily fellowship him. Of course, where sin is involved on anyone’s part, repentance is in order. Ideally, though, if each Christian were everything that God desires him to be, there would be no issue here at all.