Friday, February 5, 2016



Paul left Titus on the isle of Crete “to set in order the things that are wanting (lacking), and ordain elders in every city.” (Titus 1:5)

It doesn’t require too much of a stretch to assume that there was a church already in existence in Crete when Paul penned this letter. It seemed to be Paul’s pattern that he would preach the gospel, make disciples, get them involved, and then appoint elders. (Acts 14:21-23)

Just imagine the power Paul could have exerted in today’s climate of church planting. He could go from one major metropolis to another establishing mega-churches in each place due to his popularity and influence.

Instead, he was stuck with the very primitive means of allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work among the people.

Seriously, though, is there a pattern here that we should follow?

However, is it not also possible that the way things are done today is the way they should be done, as we have been doing over the millennia?

Firstly, this was the beginning stages of the Church. The gospel was being preached in areas where there was no gospel witness, or sometimes, not even an awareness of God.

When the gospel takes hold, a church is born. When a church is born, leadership becomes necessary.

I do not think there is a rule against leadership going into an area and trying to establish a church.

The point, however, is about the selection of leadership.

The first thing to notice in this letter is that Titus was to “ordain elders in every city.”

Notice the use of the plural ‘elders’ and the singular ‘city.’

In the beginning years of the church, a church was identified by its city—the church at Ephesus, for instance; the church at Laodicea, or the church at Philadelphia. (Rev. 2:1; 3:14; 3:7)

There was only one church in each city and there was more than just a singular ‘pastor’ over the church. There were ‘elders’ (plural), or ‘overseers’ (plural). (Phil. 1:1) Paul called for the ‘elders’ of the ‘church’ in Ephesus. (Acts 20:17)

One argument against that concept is to impose what we see today on the church of that time.

We take the euphemistic approach of saying, “Well, there really is only one church in each city. We might call ourselves Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc., but the truth is there is only one church in God’s eyes. And the pastor of each one of those congregations constitutes the ‘elders’ of that church.”

This fallacy of historical interpretation is called ‘presentism.’

Looks good.
Sounds good.
Tastes bad.

Without going into a long dissertation as to the design and function of the early church, I will simply give just two passages of scripture to show how they functioned.

Acts 2:41, 46 where you will see 3,000 souls added to the church which continued with one accord in the temple. (Didn’t those simple-minded apostles understand the value of initiating a building program?)

Acts 4:32-35 shows that the growing church was still “of one heart and one soul” functioning together with love for one another.

The reality, then, is that there was only one church in one city governed by more than one pastor.

Secondly, in trying to allow for the way things are done today, how did we ever come up with the idea of having only one pastor over a congregation?

The Protestant Reformation has yet to be able to extricate itself from the abuses it so loudly leveled against the Roman Catholic Church, one of which was the papacy.

A singular pastor over a congregation is simply a pope over a group of people, and is not in accord with a biblical foundation, which most evangelical protestant churches say they desire and follow.

Paul, Peter, James, and the writer of the letter to the Hebrews each followed this idea, so we can’t say that it was simply one man’s opinion. (Tit. 1:5;1 Pet. 5:1; Jam. 5:14; Heb. 13:17)

The singular word “pastor” only occurs one time in the entire Bible in Jer. 17:16 where he rightfully refers to himself.

The word that is so translated in that passage shows up in the plural form seven other times, all in Jeremiah. (Jer. 2:8; 3:15; 10:21; 12:10; 22:22; 23:1-2)

The only place the word shows up in the NT is also in the plural in Eph. 4:11. The word translated ‘pastors’ is used 17 other times and is translated ‘shepherd(s)’.

Of course, any of these could be twisted to mean that God was speaking to all the individual pastors of the individual churches collectively.

But, the biblical record proves such is not the case, if we want to take the Bible as our standard rather than the tradition of men.

History shows that it was not long after John, the last of the apostles, died, that men began to leave off the practice of plurality in favor of the exercise of a singular leader. This practice has continued to today with few exceptions.

Why is it that with the word “pastor” showing up only once in the NT, we have elevated that position to such a place that it has now become the sine qua non of a church’s existence?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome here.
Feel free to critique, criticize, question, or otherwise make your voice heard in relation to this post.
I only ask that you keep it civil and appropriate to the post.