(If you have been reading Trending Topics for very long, you have probably noticed references from denominational sources that use the term “pastor” to refer to the minister or preacher in the local congregation. As a discerning reader, you know that the general meaning behind such use in articles from sources outside the brotherhood are referring to the preacher and not an elder. A preacher can serve as an elder if qualified and if the congregation supports that arrangement, but in general, the preacher is not a “pastor” in the biblical sense).
It would be considered an unusual week for the church office not to receive a call from someone asking to speak to a “pastor.” The titles of “reverend” and “pastor” are liberally applied when someone speaks to a preacher. What's the problem? Most people seem to believe that they are showing respect to those who minister on a full-time basis. Is it being too critical to call attention to the fact that the terms “reverend” and “pastor” are misused and misapplied (Matthew 23:8-10)? Where is the New Testament passage authorizing use of the term “pastor” or “reverend” being applied to preachers of the gospel? We should be interested in calling Bible things by Bible names and that includes using the appropriate, Scriptural designations.
Three passages contribute to a clarification on the use of the term “pastor.” “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28, NASB). “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11, NKJV). “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:1-2, ESV).
J. W. McGarvey addressed this misunderstanding back in 1870.
1. Vine, W.E. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.
2. McGarvey, John William. A Treatise on the Eldership: A Series of Editorial Articles Originally Published in the Apostolic Times. Cincinnati: Bosworth, 1870. Repr., Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff, 1956, 14-15