The word pastors does appear in the New Testament:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some asevangelists,
and some as pastors and teachers.
(EPHESIANS 4:11, NASB, AUTHORS' EMPHASIS)
The following observations are to be made about this text.
> This is the only verse in the entire New Testament where the word
pastor is used.(1) One solitary verse is a mighty scanty piece of evidence
on which to hang the Protestant faith! In this regard, there seems to be more biblical authority for snake handling (see Mark
16:18 and Acts 28:3-6) than there is for the present-day pastor. Roman Catholics have made the same error with the word priest. You
can find the word priest used in the New Testament three times. In every case, it refers to all believers.
> The word is used in the plural. It is pastors.
This is significant. For whoever these "pastors" are, they are plural in the assembly, not singular.
Consequently, there is no biblical support for the practice of sofa pastora (single pastor).
> The Greek word translated pastors is poimen.
It means shepherds. (Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd.) Pastor, then, is a metaphor to describe a particular
function in the church. It is not an office or a title.
A first-century shepherd had nothing to do with the specialized and professional
sense it has come to have in contemporary Christianity. Therefore, Ephesians 4:11 does not envision a pastoral office, but
merely one of many functions in the assembly. Shepherds are those who naturally provide nurture and care for YAHUAH'S sheep.
It is a profound error, therefore, to confuse shepherds with an office or title as is commonly conceived today.
> At best, Ephesians 4:11 is oblique. It offers absolutely no definition or description of who pastors are.
It simply mentions them. Regrettably, we have filled this word with our own Western concept of what a pastor is. We have read
our idea of the contemporary pastor back into the New Testament. Never would any first-century believer have conceived of
the contemporary pastoral office!
Richard Hanson observes, "For us the words bishops, presbyters, and deacons are stored with the associations of nearly
two thousand years. For the people who first used them, the titles of these offices can have meant little more
than inspectors, older men and helpers. It was when unsuitable theological significance began to be attached to them that
the distortion of the concept of Christian ministry began."'
First-century shepherds were the local elders (presbyters)' and overseers of the assembly.' Their function was at odds
with the con-temporary pastoral role.'
WHERE DID THE PASTOR COME FROM?
If contemporary pastors were absent from the early assembly, where didthey come from? And how did they rise to such a prominent
position in the Christian faith? The roots of this tale are tangled and complex, and they reach as far back as the fall of
With the Fall came an implicit desire in people to have a physical leader to bring them to YAHUAH. For this reason, human
societies throughout history have consistently created a special caste of revered religious leaders. The medicine man, the
shaman, the rhapsodist, themiracle worker, the witch doctor, the soothsayer, the wise man, and the priest have all been with
us since the Fall." And this person is always marked by special training, special garb, a special vocabulary, and a special
way of life."
We can see this instinct rear its ugly head in the history of ancient Israel. It made its first appearance during the time
of Moses. Two servants of YAHUAH, Eldad and Medad, received YAHUAH'S Spirit and began to prophesy. In hasty response, a young
zealot urged Moses to "restrain them" (Numbers 11:26-28, NASB).
Moses reproved the young suppressor saying he wished all of YAHUAH'S people could prophesy. Moses had set himself
against a clerical spirit that had tried to control YAHUAH'S people.
We see it again when Moses ascended Mount Horeb. The people wanted Moses to be a physical mediator between them and YAHUAH
because they feared a personal relationship with the Almighty (Exodus 20:19).
This fallen instinct made another appearance during the time of Samuel. YAHUAH wanted His people to live under His direct
headship. But Israel clamored for a human king instead (1 Samuel 8:19).
The seeds of the contemporary pastor can even be detected in the New Testament era. Diotrephes, who
"love[d] to have the preemi-nence" in the assembly, illegitimately took control of its affairs (3 John 9-10). In addition,
some scholars have suggested that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that YAHUSHUA condemns in Revelation 2:6 is a reference
to the rise of an early clergy.'
Alongside humanity's fallen quest for a human spiritual mediator is the obsession with the hierarchical form of leadership.
All ancient cultures were hierarchical in their social structures to one degree or another. Regrettably, the post-apostolic
Christians adopted and adapted these structures into their assembly life as we shall see.
THE BIRTH OF ONE-BISHOP RULE
Up until the second century, the assembly had no official leadership. That it had leaders is without dispute. But leadership
was unofficial in the sense that there were no religious "offices" or sociological slots to fill. New Testament scholarship
makes this abundantly clear."
In this regard, the first-century assemblies were an oddity indeed.
They were groups without priest, temple, or sacrifice. The believers themselves led the assembly under
Messaih's direct headship. Leaders were organic, untitled, and were recognized by their service and spiritual maturity rather
than by a title or an office.
Among the flock were the elders (shepherds or overseers). These men all had equal standing. There was no hierarchy among
them." Also present were extra local workers who planted assemblies. These were called "sent ones" or apostles. But they did
not take up residency in the assemblies for which they cared. Nor did they control them."
The vocabulary of New Testament leadership allows no pyramidal structures. It is rather a language of horizontal relationships
that includes exemplary action."
Church leadership began to formalize at about the time of the death of the
itinerant apostolic workers (assembly planters). In the late first and early second centuries, local presbyters began to emerge
as the resident "successors" to the unique leadership role played by the apostolic workers. This gave rise to a single leading
figure in each assembly. Without the influence of the extra-local workers who had been mentored by the New Testament
apostles, the assembly began to drift toward the organizational patterns of her surrounding culture.'
Ignatius of Antioch (35-107) was instrumental in this shift. He was the first figure in assembly history to take a step
down the slippery slope toward a single leader in the assembly. We can trace the origin of the contemporary pastor and church
hierarchy to him. Ignatius elevated one of the elders in each assembly above all the others.
The elevated elder was now called the bishop. All the responsi-bilities that belonged to the college of elders were exercised
by the bishop.'
In AD 107, Ignatius wrote a series of letters when on his way to be martyred in Rome. Six out of seven of these letters
strike the same chord. They exalt the authority and importance of the bishop'soffice!'
According to Ignatius, the bishop had ultimate power and should be obeyed absolutely. Consider the following excerpts from
his letters: "Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Master Himself. . . . All of you follow the bishop as
Jesus Christ follows the Father. . . . Wherever the bishop shall appear, there will the people be; even as where Jesus may
be. . . . It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love feast; but whatever he shall approve,
this is well-pleasing also to God. . . . It is good to recognize God and the bishop. He that honors the bishop is honored
of God.. . . Do nothing without the bishop. . . . Therefore as the Master did nothing without the Father, being united with
Him, either by Himself or by the Apostles, so neither do you anything without the bishop and the presbyters. . . . You should
look on your bishop as a type of the Father.'
For Ignatius, the bishop stood in the place of God while the presbyters, or elders, stood in the place of the twelve apostles."
It fell to the bishop alone to celebrate what was know by Christian's as the Lord's Supper, conduct baptisms, give counsel,
discipline church members, approve marriages, and preach sermons."
The elders sat with the bishop at the Lord's Supper. But it was the bishop who presided over it. He took charge of leading
public prayers and ministry." Only in the most extreme cases could a layman take the Lord's Supper without the bishop present."
For the bishop, said Ignatius, must "preside" over the elements and distribute them.
In Ignatius's mind, the bishop was the remedy for dispelling false doctrine and establishing church unity." Ignatius believed
that if the church would survive the onslaught of heresy, it had to develop a rigid power structure patterned after the centralized
political structure of Rome." Single-bishop rule would rescue the church from heresy and internal strife.'
Historically this is known in Christianity as the "monoepiscopate" or "the monarchical episcopacy." It is the type of organization
where the bishop is distinguished from the elders (the presbytery) and ranks above them.
At the time of Ignatius, the one-bishop rule had not caught on in other regions.' But by the mid-second century, this model
was firmly established in most churches.' By the end of the third century, it prevailed everywhere."
The bishop eventually became the main administrator and distributor of the church's wealth." He was the man responsible
for teaching the faith and knowing what Christianity was all about.' The congregation, once active, was now rendered passive.
YAHUAH'S people merely watched the bishop perform.
In effect, the bishop became the solo pastor of the church, the professional in common worship." He was seen as the spokesperson
and head of the congregation and the one who controlled all church activities. In short, he was the forerunner of the contemporary
FROM PRESBYTER TO PRIEST
Clement of Rome, who died in about 100, was the first Christian writer to make a distinction in status between Christian
leaders and non-leaders. He was the first to use the word laity to distinguish them
from the ministers." Clement argued that the Old Testament order of priests should find fulfillment in the Christian church."
Tertullian was the first writer to use the word clergy to refer to a separate class of
Christians." Both Tertullian and Clement popularized the word clergy in their writings.'
The New Testament, on the other hand, never uses the terms clergy and laity and
does not support the concept that there are those who do ministry (clergy) and those to whom ministry is done (laity).Thus
what we have in Tertullian and Clement is a clear break from the first-century Christian mind-set where all believers shared
the same status. By the mid-third century, the authority of the bishop had hardened into a fixed office.'
Then Cyprian of Carthage appeared, furthering the impact. Cyprian was a former pagan orator and teacher of rhetoric.' When
he became a Christian, he began to write prolifically. But Cyprian never abandoned some of his pagan ideas.
Due to Cyprian's influence, the door was open to resurrect the Old Testament economy of priests, temples, altars, and sacrifices."
Bishops began to be called priests," a custom that became common by the third century.' They were also called pastors on
occasion. "In the third century, every church had its own bishop." (At this time bishops were essentially heads over local
churches. They were not diocesan superintendents as they are today in Roman Catholicism.) And bishops and presbyters together
started to be called "the clergy.'
The origin of the unbiblical doctrine of "covering" can be laid at the feet of Cyprian also. Cyprian taught that the bishop
has no superior but God. He was accountable to God alone. Anyone who separated himself from the bishop separated himself from
God. "Cyprian also taught that a portion of the Lord's flock was assigned to each individual shepherd (bishop)."
After the Council of Nicaea (325), bishops began to delegate the responsibility of the Lord's Supper to the presbyters."
Presbyters were little more than deputies of the bishop, exercising his authority in his churches.
Because the presbyters were the ones administering the Lord's Supper, they began to be called priests." More startling,
the bishop came to be regarded as the high priest who could forgive sins!' All of these trends obscured the New Testament
reality that all believers are priests unto YAHUAH.
By the fourth century, this graded hierarchy dominated the Christian faith." The clergy caste was now cemented. At the
head of the church stood the bishop. Under him was the college of presbyters. Under them stood the deacons.' And under all
of them were the laymen. One-bishop rule became the accepted form of church government throughout the Roman Empire. (During
this time, certain churches began to exercise authority over other churches—thus broadening the hierarchical structure)"
By the end of the fourth century, the bishops walked with the great. Constantine was the first to give them tremendous
privileges. They became involved in politics, which separated them further from the presbyters." In his attempts to strengthen
the bishop's office, Cyprian argued for an unbroken succession of bishops that traced back to Peter." This idea is known as
Throughout his writings, Cyprian employed the official language of the Old Testament priesthood to justify this practice.'
Like Tertullian 160-225) and Hippolytus (170-236) before him, Cyprian used the term sacerdotes to describe the presbyters
and bishops." But he went a step further.
The non–New Testament concept of sacerdotalism—the belief that there exists a divinely appointed person to
meditate between God and the people—originated with Cyprian. He argued that because the Christian clergy were priests
who offer the holy sacrifice (the Eucharist) they were sacrosanct (holy) themselves."
We can also credit Cyprian with the notion that when the priest offered the Eucharist, he was actually offering up the
death of Christ on behalf of the congregation." To Cyprian's mind, the body and blood of Christ are once again sacrificed
through the Eucharist." Consequently, it is in Cyprian that we find the seeds of the medieval Catholic Mass." This idea widened
the wedge between clergy and laity. It also created an unhealthy dependence of the laity upon the clergy.
THE ROLE OF THE PRIEST
Until the Middle Ages, the presbyters (now commonly called "priests") played second fiddle to the bishop. But during the
Middle Ages there was a shift. The presbyters began to represent the priesthood while the bishops were occupied with political
duties." The parish (local )priests became more central to the life of the church than the bishop." The priest now stood in
God's place and controlled the sacraments.
As Latin became the common language in the mid-fourth century,the priest would invoke the words hoc est corpus meum. These Latin words mean
"This is my body."
With these words, the priest became the overseer of the mysterious happenings that were believed to have occurred during
theCatholic Mass. Ambrose of Milan can be credited for the idea that the mere utterance of hoc est corpus meum supernaturally
converted bread and wine into the Lord's physical body and blood." (Some scholars say that the stage-magic phrase hocus pocus
comes from hoc
est corpusmeum.) According to Ambrose, the priest was endowed with special powers to call God down
out of heaven into bread.
Because of this sacramental function, the word presbyteros
came tomean "sacerdos" (priest). Consequently, when the Latin word presby-ter was taken into English, it
had the meaning of "priest" rather than"elder."" Thus in the Roman Catholic church, priest was the widely used term to refer
to the local presbyter.
THE INFLUENCE OF GRECO-ROMAN CULTURE
The Greco-Roman culture that surrounded the early Christians reinforced the graded hierarchy that was slowly infiltrating
the assembly. Greco-Roman culture was hierarchical by nature. This influence seeped into the church when new converts brought
their cultural baggage into the believing community."
Human hierarchy and "official" ministry institutionalized the church of YAHUSHUA MOSHIACH. By the fourth century, these
elements hardened the arteries of the once living, breathing ekklesia of YAHUAH—within which ministry was functional,
Spirit-led, organic, and shared by all believers.
By the fifth century, the concept of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from Christian practice.
Access to God was now controlled by the clergy caste. Clerical celibacy began to be enforced. Infrequent "Communion" became
a regular habit of the so called laity. The church building was now veiled with incense and smoke. Clergy prayers were said
in secret. And the small but profoundly significant screen that separated clergy from laity had been introduced.
The role of the bishop was also changing, elevating him from serving as the head of a local church to becoming the representative
of everybody in a given area.' Bishops ruled over the churches just as Roman governors ruled over their provinces. Eventually,
the bishop of Rome was given the most authority of all, and his position finally evolved into the office of the pope."
CONSTANTINE AND ROMAN HIERARCHY
The hierarchical leadership structure first emerged in ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Persia." It was later carried over into
the Greek and Roman culture where it was perfected.
Historian D. C. Trueman writes, "The Persians made two out-standing contributions to the ancient world: The organization
of their empire and their religion. Both of these contributions have had considerable influence on our western world. The
system of imperial administration was inherited by Alexander the Great, adopted by the Roman Empire, and eventually bequeathed
to modern Europe."
The social world into which Christianity spread was governed by a single ruler—the emperor. Soon after Constantine
took the throne in the early fourth century, the church became a full-fledged, top-down, hierarchically organized society."
Edwin Hatch writes, "For the most part the Christian churches associated themselves together upon the lines of the Roman
Empire." This not only applied to the graded hierarchy it adopted into its leadership structure, but also to the way the church
divided itself up into gradations of dioceses, provinces, and municipalities all controlled by a top-down leadership system.
"The development of the organization of the Christian churches was gradual," Hatch adds, "[and] the elements of which that
organization were composed were already existing in human society.'
Will Durant makes a similar point, noting that Christianity "grew by the absorption of pagan faith and ritual; it became
a triumphant church by inheriting the organizing patterns and genius of Rome. . . . As Judea had given Christianity ethics,
and Greece had given it theology, so now Rome gave it organization; all these, with a dozen absorbed and rival faiths, entered
into the Christian synthesis.'
By the fourth century, the church followed the example of the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine organized the church into
dioceses along the pattern of the Roman regional districts. (The word diocese
was a secular term that referred to the larger administrative units of the Roman Empire.) Later, Pope Gregory
shaped the ministry of the entire church after Roman law."
Durant adds, "When Christianity conquered Rome the ecclesiastical structure of the pagan church, the title and vestments
of the pontifex maximus ... and the pageantry of immemorial ceremony, passed like maternal blood into the new religion, and
captive Rome captured her conqueror.'
All of this was at gross odds with YAHUAH'S way for His assembly. Thus when YAHUSHUA entered the drama of human history,
He obliterated both the religious professional icon as well as the hierarchical form of leadership." As an extension of Messiah's
nature and mission, the early assembly was the first "lay-led" movement in history. But with the death of the apostles and
the men they trained, things began to change.'
Since that time, the "church" of Jesus Christ has derived its pattern for church organization from the societies in which
it has been placed—despite our Master's warning that He was initiating a new society with a unique character (Matthew
23:8-11 and Mark 10:42ff.). In striking contrast to the Old Testament provisions made at Mt. Sinai,neither YAHUSHUA nor Shaul/Paul
imposed any fixed organizational patterns for the Regathered Israel.
CONSTANTINE AND THE GLORIFICATION OF THE CLERGY
From AD 313 to 325, Christianity was no longer a struggling religion
trying to survive the Roman government. It was basking in the sun of imperialism, loaded with money and status." To be a Christian
under Constantine's reign was no longer a handicap. It was an advantage. It was fashionable to become a part of the emperor's
religion. And to be among the clergy was to receive the greatest of advantages."
Clergymen received the same honors as the highest officials of the Roman Empire and even the emperor himself." In fact,
Constantine gave the bishops of Rome more power than he gave Roman governors." He also ordered that the clergy receive fixed
annual allowances (ministerial pay)!
In AD 313, he exempted the Christian clergy from paying taxes—something that pagan priests had traditionally enjoyed."
He also made them exempt from mandatory public office and other civic duties." They were freed from being tried by secular
courts and from serving in the army.' (Bishops could be tried only by a bishop's court, not by ordinary law courts.)'
In all these things the clergy was given special class status. Constantine was the first to use the words clerical and clerics to depict a higher social class.'
He also felt that the Christian clergy deserved the same privileges as governmental officials. So bishops sat in judgment
like secular judges."
The net result was alarming: The clergy had the prestige of church office bearers, the privileges of a favored class, and
the powerof a wealthy elite. They had become an isolated class with a separate civil status and way of life. (This included
They even dressed and groomed differently from the common people." Bishops and priests shaved their heads. This practice,
known as the tonsure, comes from the old Roman ceremony of adoption. All those who had shaved heads were known as clerks or
clergy." They also began wearing the clothes of Roman officials
It should come as no surprise that so many people in Constantine's day experienced a sudden "call to the ministry." To
their minds, being a church officer had become more of a career than a calling."
A FALSE DICHOTOMY
Under Constantine, Christianity was both recognized and honored by the state. This blurred the line between the church
and the world.
The Christian faith was no longer a minority religion. Instead, it was protected by emperors. As a consequence, church
membership grew rapidly—as large numbers of people with questionable conversions began to join. Such people brought
into the church a wide variety of pagan ideas. In the words of Will Durant: "While Christianity converted the world; the world
converted Christianity, and displayed the natural paganism of mankind."''
The practices of the mystery religions began to be employed in the church's worship. And the pagan notion of the dichotomy
between the sacred and profane found its way into the Christian mind-set.'" It can be rightfully said that the clergy/laity
class distinction grew out of this very dichotomy. The Christian life was now being divided into two parts: secular and spiritual—profane
By the third century, the clergy/laity gap widened to the point of no return. Clergymen were the trained leaders of the
church—the guardians of orthodoxy—the rulers and teachers of the people. They possessed gifts and graces not available
to lesser mortals.
The laity were the second-class, untrained Christians. The great theologian Karl Barth rightly said, "The term 'laity'
is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from theChristian conversation."
This false dichotomy led to the profoundly mistaken idea that there are sacred professions (a call to "the ministry") and
ordinary professions (a call to a worldly vocation).' Historian Philip Schaff rightly describes these factors as creating
"the secularization of the church" where the"pure stream of Christianity" had become polluted."' Take note that this mistaken
dichotomy still lives in the minds of many believers today.
But the concept is pagan, not Christian. It ruptures the New Testament reality that everyday life is sanctified by God.'"
Along with these mind-set changes came a new vocabulary. Christians began to adopt the vocabulary of the pagan cults. The
(pontiff, a pagan title) became a common term for Christian clergy in the fourth century. So did "Master
of Ceremonies," and "Grand Master of the Lodge."'" All of this reinforced the mystique of the clergy as the custodians of
the mysteries of God.'"
In short, by the end of the fourth century on into the fifth, the clergy had become a sacerdotal caste—a spiritually
elite group of "holy men."'" This leads us to the thorny subject of ordination.
THE FALLACY OF ORDINATION
In the fourth century, theology and ministry were the exclusive domain of the priests. Work and war were the domain of
the laity. What was the rite of passage into the sacred realm of the priest? Ordination."'
Before we examine the historical roots of ordination, let's look at how leadership was recognized in the early church.
After beginning a church, the apostolic workers (church planters) of the first century would revisit that body after a period
of time. In some of those churches, the workers would publicly acknowledge elders. In everycase, the elders were already "in
place" before they were publicly endorsed."'
Elders naturally emerged in a church through the process of time. They were not appointed to an external office.'" Instead,
they were recognized by virtue of their seniority and spiritual service to the church. According to the New Testament,
recognition of certain gifted members is something that is instinctive and organic.' Every believer has the discernment to
recognize those within his or her church who are gifted to carry out various ministries.
Strikingly, only three passages in the Messianic Writings/New Testament tell us that elders were publicly recognized. Elders
were acknowledged in the assemblies in Galatia (Acts 14:23). Shaul had Timothy acknowledge elders in Ephesus (1 Timothy 3:1ff.). He
also told Titus to recognize them in the assemblies in Crete (Titus 1:5ff.).
The word ordain
(KJV) in these passages does not mean to place into office. It rather
carries the idea of endorsing, affirming, and showing forth what has already been happening.'" It also conveys the thought
of blessing." Public recognition of elders and other ministries was typically accompanied by the laying on of hands by apostolic
workers. (In the case of workers being sent out, this was done by the assembly or the elders.)'''
In the first century, the laying on of hands merely meant the endorsement or affirmation of a function, not the installment
into an office or the giving of special status. Regrettably, it came to mean the latter in the late second and early third
During the third century, ordination
took on an entirely different meaning. It was a formalized Christian rite.' By the fourth century, the ceremony
of ordination was embellished by symbolic garments and solemn ritual.'" Ordination produced an ecclesiastical caste that usurped
the believing priesthood.
From where did Christians get their pattern of ordination? They patterned their ordination ceremony after the Roman custom
of appointing men to civil office. The entire process, down to the very words, came straight from the Roman civic world."'
By the fourth century, the terms used for appointment to Roman office and for Christian ordination became synonymous."'
When Constantine made Christianity the religion of choice, church leadership structures were buttressed by political sanction.
The forms of the Old Testament priesthood were combined with Greek hierarchy."'Sadly, the church was secure in this new form—just
as it is today.
Soon ordination was viewed as a rite that resulted in an irrevocable position.'" Augustine taught that ordination confers
a "definite irremovable imprint" on the priest that empowers him to fulfill his priestly functions."'
Christian ordination, then, came to be understood as that which constitutes the essential difference between clergy and
laity. By it, the clergy were empowered to administer the sacraments. It was believed that the priest, who performs the divine
service, should be the most perfect and holy of all Christians."'
Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) and Chrysostom had such a high view of those occupying the priesthood that danger loomed
for the clergy if they failed to live up to the holiness of their service."'"The priest, [Chrysostom] observed, is ever judged
by his parish as though he were an angel and not of the same frail stuff as the rest of men."'
How was the priest to live in such a state of pure holiness? How was he to be worthy to serve in "the choir of angels"?
The answer was ordination. By ordination, the stream of divine graces flowed into the priest, making him a fit
vessel for God's use. This idea, also known as "sacerdotal endowment," first appears in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa (330-395).
Gregory argued that ordination makes the priest "invisibly but actu-ally a different, better man," raising him high above
the laity. "The same power of the word," writes Gregory, "makes the priest venerable and honorable,
separated. . . . While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president,
a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries."
Listen to the words of one fourth-century document: "The bishop, he is the minister of the Word, the keeper of knowledge,
the mediator between God and you in several parts of your Divine worship. . . . He is your ruler and governor. . . . He is
next after God you rearthly god, who has a right to be honored by you."
Priests came to be identified as the "vicars
of God on the earth."
To further show the priests' distinction from other people, both their lifestyle and dress were different from that of
laymen. " Regrettably, this concept of ordination has never left the Christian faith. It is alive and well in contemporary
Christianity. In fact, if you are wondering why and how the present day pastor got to be so exalted as the "holy man of God,"
these are the roots.
Eduard Schweizer, in his classic work Church Order in the NewTestament, argues that
Shaul knew nothing about an ordination that confers ministerial or clerical powers to a Christian.' First-century shepherds
(elders, overseers) did not receive anything that resembles modern-day ordination. They were not set above the rest of the
flock.They were those who served among them (see Acts 20:28, NASB,
and 1 Peter 5:2-3, NASB).
First-century elders were merely endorsed publicly by traveling apostolic workers as being those who cared for the church.
Such acknowledgment was simply the recognition of a function. It did not confer special powers. Nor was it a permanent possession.
The contemporary practice of ordination creates a special caste of Christian. Whether it be the priest in Catholicism or
the pastor in Protestantism, the result is the same: The most important ministry is restricted to a few "special" believers.
Such an idea is as damaging as it is non-scriptural. The Messianic Writings/New Testament no where limits preaching, baptizing,
or distributing the "Lord's Supper ' to the "ordained." Eminent scholar James D. G. Dunn put it best when he said that
the clergy-laity tradition has done more to undermine New Testament authority than most heresies.'"
Since church office could only be held through the rite of ordination, the power to ordain became the crucial issue in
holding religious authority. The biblical context was lost. And proof-texting methods were used to justify the clergy/laity
hierarchy. Perhaps the best-known example is the early Catholics' use of Matthew 16 to justify the creation of a papal system
and the doctrine of apostolic succession. The result: Ordinary believers, generally uneducated and ignorant, were at the mercy
of a professional clergy.
The Reformers of the sixteenth century brought the Catholic priest-hood sharply into question. They attacked the idea that
the priest had special powers to convert wine into blood. They rejected apostolic succession. They encouraged the clergy to
marry. They revised the liturgy to give the congregation more participation. They also abolished the office of the bishop
and reduced the priest back to a presbyter."
Unfortunately, however, the Reformers carried the Roman Catholic clergy/laity distinction straight into the Protestant
movement.They also kept the Catholic idea of ordination.' Although they abolished the office of the bishop, they resurrected
the one-bishop rule, clothing it in new garb.
The rallying cry of the Reformation was the restoration of the priesthood of all believers. However, this restoration was
only partial. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli affirmed the believing priesthood with respect to one's individual relationship
to God. They rightly taught that every Christian has direct access to God without the need of a human mediator. This was a
wonderful restoration. But it was one-sided.
What the Reformers failed to do was to recover the corporate dimension of the believing priesthood. They restored the doctrine
of the believing priesthood soteriologically—i.e., as it related to salvation. But they failed to restore it ecclesiologically—i.e.,
as it related to the assembly."'
In other words, the Reformers only recovered the priesthood of the believer (singular). They reminded us that every believer
has individual and immediate access to God. As wonderful as that is, they did not recover the priesthood of all believers
(collective plural). This is the blessed truth that every Christian is part of a clan that shares YAHUAH'S Word one
with another. (It was the Anabaptists who recovered this practice. Regrettably, this recovery was one of the reasons why Protestant
and Catholic swords were red with Anabaptist blood.)'"
While the Reformers opposed the pope and his religious hierarchy, they still held to the narrow view of ministry that they
inherited.They believed that "ministry" was an institution that was closeted among the few who were "called" and "ordained."'
Thus the Reformers still affirmed the clergy-laity split. Only in their rhetoric did they state that all believers were priests
and ministers. In their practice they denied it. So after the smoke cleared from the Reformation, they ended up with the same
thing that the Catholics gave them—a selective priesthood!
Luther held to the idea that those who preach needed to be specially trained. Like the Catholics, the Reformers believed
that only the "ordained minister" could preach, baptize, and administer the "Lord's Supper." As a result, ordination gave
the minister a special aura of divine favor that could not be questioned.
Tragically, Luther and the other Reformers violently denounced the Anabaptists for practicing every-member functioning
in the church.' "The Anabaptists believed it was every Christian's right to stand up and speak in a meeting. It was not solely
the domain of the clergy. Luther was so opposed to this practice that he said it came from "the pit of hell" and those who
were guilty of it should be put to death.''
In short, the Reformers retained the idea that ordination was the key to having power in the church. It was the ordained
minister's duty to convey God's revelation to His people.' And he was paid for this role.
Like the Catholic priest, the Reformed minister was viewed by the church as the "man of God"—the paid mediator between
God and His people. He was not a mediator to forgive sins, but a mediator to communicate the divine will.' So in Protestantism
an old problem took on a new form. The jargon changed, but the error remained.
In the seventeenth century, Puritan writers John Owen (1616-1683) and Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680), like Luther and Calvin,
viewed the pastorate as a permanent fixture in God's house. Owen and Goodwin led the Puritans to focus all authority into
the pastoral role. To their minds, the pastor is given "the power of the keys." He alone is ordained to preach, administer
the sacraments,'' read Scripture publicly,'" and be trained in the original biblical languages, as well as logic and philosophy.
Both the Reformers and the Puritans held the idea that God's ministers must be competent professionals. Therefore, pastors
had to undergo extensive academic training to fulfill their office.''
FROM PRIEST TO PASTOR
John Calvin did not like using the word priest
to refer to ministers.' "He preferred the term pastor.'"
In Calvin's mind, pastor
was the highest word one could
use for ministry. He liked it because the Bible referred to Jesus Christ, "the great Shepherd of the sheep" (Hebrews13:20).
Ironically, Calvin believed that he was restoring the New Testament bishop (episkopos)
in the person of the pastor!'"
Luther also did not like using the word priest
to define the new Protestant ministers. He wrote, "We neither can nor ought to give the name priest to those
who are in charge of the Word and sacrament among the people. The reason they have been called priests is either because of
the custom of the heathen people or as a vestige of the Jewish nation. The result is greatly injurious to the church."'" So
he too adopted the terms preacher, minister, and pastor to refer to this office.
Zwingli and Martin Bucer also favored the word pastor.
They wrote popular treatises on it.'" As a result, the term began to permeate the churches of the Reformation.'"
However, given their obsession with preaching, the Reformers' favorite term for the minister was preacher. And this was what the common
people generally called him.'"
It was not the until the eighteenth century that the term pastor came into common use, eclipsing preacher
This influence came from the Lutheran Pietists. Since then the term has become widespread in mainstream
Even so, the Reformers considered the pastor to be the functioning head of the church. According to Calvin, "The pastoral
office is necessary to preserve the church on earth in a greater way than the sun, food, and drink are necessary to nourish
and sustain the present life."'"
The Reformers believed that the pastor possessed divine power and authority. He did not speak in his own name, but in the
name of God. Calvin further reinforced the primacy of the pastor by treating acts of contempt or ridicule toward the minister
as serious public offenses.'
This should come as no surprise when you realize what Calvin took as his model for ministry. He did not take the church
of the apostolic age. Instead, he took as his pattern the one-bishop rule of the second century.'" This was true for the other
Reformers as well.
The irony here is that John Calvin bemoaned the Roman Catholic Church because it built its practices on "human inventions"
rather than on the Bible.'" But Calvin did the same thing. In this regard, Protestants are just as guilty as are Catholics.
Both denominations base their practices on human tradition.
Calvin taught that the preaching of the Word of God and the proper administration of the sacraments are the marks of a
true church.'" To his mind, preaching, baptism, and the Eucharist were to be carried out by the pastor, not the congregation.'"
For all the Reformers, the primary function of a minister was preaching. The preeminent place of preaching is best reflected
in Luther's German Mass, which included three services on Sunday. At 5 or 6 a.m., a sermon was given on the Epistle of the
day. At the main service at 8 or 9 a.m., the minister preached on the Gospel of the day. The sermon at the Vesper service
in the afternoon was based on the Old Testament.'"
Like Calvin, Luther also made the pastor a separate and exalted office. While he argued that the keys of the Kingdom belonged
to all believers, Luther confined their use to those who held offices in the church.'" "We are all priests," said Luther,
"insofar as we are Christians, but those whom we call priests are ministers selected from our midst to act in our name, and
their priesthood is our ministry."'
This was sacerdotalism, pure and simple. Luther broke from the Catholic camp in that he rejected a sacrificing priesthood.
But in its place, he believed that the sharing of God's Word belonged to a special order.'
The following are characteristic statements made by Luther in his exaltation of the pastor: "God speaks through the preacher.
. . . A Christian preacher is a minister of God who is set apart, yea, he is an angel of God, a very bishop sent by God, a
savior of many people, a king and prince in the Kingdom of Christ. . . . There is nothing more precious or nobler in the earth
and in this life than a true, faithful parson or preacher."
Said Luther, "We should not permit our pastor to speak Christ's words by himself as though he were speaking them for his
own person; rather, he is the mouth of all of us and we all speak them with him in our hearts. . . . It is a wonderful thing
that the mouth of every pastor is the mouth of Christ, therefore you ought to listen to the pastor not as a man, but as God."'"
You can hear the echoes of Ignatius ringing through these words.
Such ideas reveal a flawed view of the church. Luther felt the church was primarily a preaching station. "The Christian
congregation," said Luther, "never should assemble unless God's Word is preached and prayer is made, no matter for how brief
a time this may be." Luther believed that the church is simply a gathering of people who listen to preaching. For this reason,
he called the church building a Mundhaus, which means a mouth-house. He also made this alarming statement: "The ears are the
only organs of a Christian."'' These are the roots of Protestantism.
THE CURE OF SOULS
Calvin, Luther, and Bucer believed that the two key functions of the
pastor were the proclamation of the Word (preaching) and the celebration of the Eucharist (Communion). But Calvin and Bucer
added a third element. They emphasized that the pastor had a duty to provide care and healing to the congregation.'" This
is known as the "cure of souls." Bucer wrote the preeminent book on this subject, entitledTrue Cure of the Souls, in
The origin of "cure of souls" goes back to the fourth and fifth cen-turies.'" We
find it in the teaching of Gregory of Nazianzus. Gregory called the bishop a "pastor"—a physician of souls who diagnoses
his patient's maladies and prescribes either medicine or the knife.'"
Luther's early followers also practiced the care of souls.'" But in Calvin's Geneva, it was raised to an art form. Each
pastor and one elder were required to visit the homes of their congregants. Regular visits to the sick and those in prison
were also observed.'" For Calvin and Bucer, the pastor was not merely a preacher and a dispenser of the sacraments. He was
the "cure of souls" or the "curate." His task was to bring healing, cure, and compassion to God's hurting people."'
This idea lives on in the Protestant world today. It is readily seen in the contemporary concepts of pastoral care, pastoral
counseling, and Christian psychology. In the present day church, the burden of such care typically falls on the shoulders
of one man—the pastor. (In the first century, it fell on the shoulders of the entire assembly and upon a group of seasoned
men called "elders.")'"
THE PASTOR-DRIVEN CHURCH
In short, the Protestant Reformation struck a blow to Roman Catholics acerdotalism. It was not a fatal blow, however, but
merely a semantic change. The Reformers retained the one-bishop rule. The pastor now played the role of the bishop. The bishop-driven
church evolved into the pastor-driven church. The pastor came to be regarded as the local head of a church—the leading
elder.As one writer put it, "In Protestantism, the preachers tend to be the spokesmen and representatives of the church and
the church is often the preacher's church. This is a great danger and threat to the Christian religion.
In their rhetoric the Reformers decried the clergy-laity split. But
in their practice they fully retained it. As Kevin Giles says, "Differences between Catholic and Protestant clergy were blurred
in practice and theology. In both kinds of churches, the clergy were a class apart; in both, their special status was based
on Divine initiatives (mediated in different ways); and in both, certain duties were reserved to them."'"
The long-standing, post-biblical tradition of the one-bishop rule (now embodied in
the pastor) prevails in the Protestant church today.Tremendous psychological factors make lay people feel that ministry is
the responsibility of the pastor. It's his job. He's the expert is often their thinking.
The Messianic Writings/New Testament word for minister is diakonos. It means
"servant." But this word has been distorted because men have professionalized the ministry. We have taken the word minister
and equated it with the pastor, with no scriptural justification whatsoever. In like manner,
they have mistakenly equated preaching and ministry with the pulpit sermon, again without biblical justification.
HOW THE PASTORAL ROLE DAMAGES BODY LIFE
Now that we have unearthed the little-known roots of the contemporary pastor, let's shift our attention to the practical
effects that a pastor has on the people of YAHUAH.
The unscriptural clergy/laity distinction has done untold harm to the body of Messiah. It has divided the believing community
into first-and second-class Christians. The clergy/laity dichotomy perpetuates an awful falsehood—namely, that some
believers are more privileged than others to serve the Master.
The one-man ministry is entirely foreign to the New Testament, yet we embrace it while it suffocates their functioning.
We are livingstones, not dead ones. However, the pastoral office has transformed us into stones that do not breathe.
Permit us to get personal. We believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Messiah's
body. It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear.'" It
has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate.
But that is not all. The modern-day pastoral office has over-thrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews—the
ending of the old priesthood. It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both the
right and the privilege to minister in an assembly meeting. It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and
sister is a functioning priest.
Being a functioning priest does not mean that you may only perform highly restrictive forms of ministry like singing songs
in your pew, raising your hands during worship, setting up the PowerPointpresentation, or teaching. That is not
the NewTestament idea of ministry! These are mere aids for the pastor's ministry. As one scholar put it, "Much Protestant
worship, up to the present day, has also been infected by an overwhelming tendency to regard worship as the work of the pastor
(and perhaps the choir) with the majority of the laity having very little to do but sing a few hymns and listen in a prayerful
and attentive way."'"
We expect doctors and lawyers to serve us, not to train us to serve others. And why? Because they are the experts. They
are trained professionals. Unfortunately, we look upon the pastor in the same way. All of this does violence to the fact that
every believer is a priest. Not only before YAHUAH, but to one another.
But there is something more. The contemporary pastorate rivals the functional headship of Messiah in His assembly. It illegitimately
holds the unique place of centrality and headship among YAHUAH'S people, a place that is reserved for only one Person--the
Master YAHUSHUA. YAHUSHUA Moshiach is the only head over an assembly and the final word to it.'" By his office, the pastor
displaces and supplants Messiah's headship by setting himself up as the assemblies human head.
For this reason, nothing so hinders the fulfillment of YAHUAH'S eter-nal purpose as does the present-day pastoral role.
Why? Because that purpose is centered on making Messiah's headship visibly manifested in the assembly through the free, open,
mutually participatory, every-member functioning of the body.'" As long as the pastoral office is present in a particular
assembly, that church will have a slim chance of witnessing such a glorious thing.
HOW THE PASTOR DAMAGES HIMSELF
The contemporary pastor not only does damage to YAHUAH'S people, he does damage to himself. The pastoral office has a way
of chewing up many who come within its parameters. Depression, burnout, stress,and emotional breakdown occur
at abnormally high rates among pastors.
Unfortunately, few pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence.'"
Simply put: YAHUSHUA Moshiach never intended any person to sport all the hats a present-day pastor is expected to wear. He
never intended anyone person to bear such a load.
The demands of the pastorate are crushing; they will drain any mortal dry. Imagine for a moment that you were working for
a company that paid you on the basis of how good you made your people feel. What if your pay depended on how entertaining
you were, how friendly you were, how popular your wife and children were, how well-dressed you were, and how perfect your
Can you imagine the unmitigated stress this would cause you? Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing
a pretentious role—all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security? (For this reason, many pastors
are resistant to receiving anykind of help.)
The pastoral profession dictates standards of conduct like any other profession, whether it be teacher, doctor, or lawyer.
The profession dictates how pastors are to dress, speak, and act. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live very
In this regard, the pastoral role fosters dishonesty. Congregants expect their pastor to always be cheerful,
completely spiritual, and available at a moment's call. They also expect that he will have a perfectly disciplined family.
Furthermore, he should never appear resentful or bitter.' Many pastors take to this role like actors in a Greekdrama."
Based on the scores of personal testimonies we have heard from erstwhile pastors, many—if not most—pastors
cannot stay in their office without being corrupted on some level. The power-politics endemic to the office is a huge problem
that isolates many of them and poisons their relationship with others.
All of these pathologies find their root in the history of the pastorate. It is "lonely at the top" because YAHUAH never
intended for anyone to be at the top—except His Son! In effect, the present-day pastor tries to shoulder the fifty-eight
New Testament "one another" exhortations all by himself."' It is no wonder that many of them get crushed under the weight."
(1). A derivative form of the word poimen is used in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2-3.