Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“Plural Pastors”

I belong to a local, independent Baptist congregation, and we go by the Bible in all matters of faith and practice.  My pastor of twenty years is going to retire next month (God bless him), and our church is bringing prospective replacement pastors to preach on Sunday.  At some point, we will be asked to vote on a new pastor after careful prayer and consideration.  My question is: is this a biblical method of church structure?  I can't seem to find anything in the New Testament that resembles what we are doing.  Please help.

Baptist Believer

Dear Baptist Believer,

We applaud your desire to follow the Bible pattern in all things – this is exactly what God expects us to do (2 Tim 1:13).  The way a congregation organizes itself should always be based upon the standard and pattern found in the Bible… after all, the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth on this planet (1 Tim 3:15).  So, let’s look at the Bible pattern for church leadership.

The Bible makes a distinction between preachers and pastors.  In Eph 4:11, notice that evangelists are listed separately from pastors.  An evangelist, also known as a preacher, is any man that is preaching God’s Word.  Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8), and so was Timothy (2 Tim 4:5).  Preachers are given the task of preaching and teaching God’s Word.  They have no authority beyond the ability to appeal to the hearts and minds of those in the congregation by explaining the Scriptures to them (2 Tim 4:1-5).  A congregation can support and hire a preacher as long as he is a faithful man that preaches the truth (1 Cor 9:14, Lk 10:7).

The job of a pastor is entirely different from that of a preacher.  ‘Pastor’ is a term only used once in the New Testament (Eph 4:11).  ‘Pastor’ is another name for ‘elder’ because elders shepherd the flock (1 Pet 5:1-2).  Elders/pastors are in charge of guiding and leading the church.  They have authority to make decisions for the congregation, and they have the responsibility of watching over the souls of those in the local congregation (Heb 13:17).  The Bible never gives us an example of a pastor leading a congregation on his own.  Every faithful congregation functioned with multiple elders (Tit 1:5), and those elders had to meet strict requirements and standards because of the authority they wielded.  The qualifications for pastors can be found in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7.  Pastors should be picked out from amongst the congregation (Acts 14:23) – they don’t need to be shipped in.

It seems like your congregation has the common misconception of using a single pastor to run and lead the church.  The Bible shows many examples of a congregation bringing in preachers to teach and share the good news, but pastors should always come from within a congregation; they must meet the Bible’s qualifications, and there should always be more than one of them.