Should Pastors Rule the Church?
By Dr. Ken Matto

(Jer 3:15 KJV) And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Should the Pastor of the local church be the complete head of that local assembly? In the local churches of today, there seems to be a pecking order of authority and in every church you will find that the Pastor is the head of that local assembly. Now let us honestly search the Scriptures to see if the Pastor is called to be the ruling head of that church. I believe that once we search the Scriptures, we are going to find something that goes against all tradition.

In the late 1400’s, the local congregations, as we know them today, began to form. The first of these was the Moravian Church and the other denominations followed in subsequent years. What we saw develop with these churches is the ruling structure and within the framework of that structure we see that the Pastor of that congregation became the head. This idea that the Pastor is to be the head of each congregation was handed down from the Roman Catholic system where the Priest was the head of each parish. The Catholic Priest was to be the intercessor for the people having the ability to make someone born again through baptism, forgiving their sins through confession, and giving them extreme unction at the point of death so they can get into Heaven.

Now these functions of the Roman Catholic Priest were nullified by the Reformation and no Protestant Pastor would ever believe they have the ability to forgive sins and get someone into Heaven. The most a Pastor can do to lead someone toward salvation is to pray for them and open the Scriptures with them, beyond that salvation is all of the Lord. If that person is the Elect of God, then at some time in their life they will become born again but the Pastor has no control over when that can take place. Let us now attend to the subject at hand concerning whether the Pastor is to be the head of the church.

(Eph 4:11-12 KJV) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; {12} For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

In verse 11, we see five office gifts which God gave to the church and one of them is the gift of Pastor. In verse 12 following, we read the reason God gave these five gifts to the church. It is interesting to note that all five gifts are given on an equal basis for the task of perfecting (maturing) the body of Christ. The word “edifying” in verse 12 carries with it the meaning of “edifying for the purpose of building up.” It is also important to note that gift of Pastor is given as a spiritual gift and not a ruling gift. You will notice that within verse 11, we also see that God gave teachers to the local congregation. Now many pastors arrogate to themselves the title of Pastor/Teacher which is unscriptural. The spiritual gift of “Teacher” is a separate gift. Look at the two verses below and you will see that the spiritual gift of “Teacher” is an individual gift. For any Pastor to nullify the spiritual gift of teaching is to nullify the clear teachings of Scripture.

(1 Cor 12:28-29 KJV) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. {29} Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

The reason some Pastors believe that Pastor/Teacher is the true interpretation simply because there is a “kai” between the two offices.

ποιμένας κα
i διδασκάλους, = pastors and teachers
“Kai” in the Greek is translated “and” properly in this verse and is in no way teaching that they are one and the same gift. For example, if I owed you $25 and gave you three fives and one ten, does that make the fives and the ten one denomination? The answer is obviously no, they are two separate denominations. It is the same with Pastors and Teachers, they serve two separate functions. We will look at who the rulers are to be in the congregation later on but let us look at what the true function of the Pastor is to be.

The Function of the Pastor
The word “Pastor” in the Greek comes from the word “poimen” pronounced “poy-mane.” It means a shepherd. The Shepherd is the one who guards the flock from all dangers. Sheep are basically helpless and are prey to many wild animals and the Shepherd is the one who protects the flock from these wild animals. Let us see if we can glean some principles about wild animals from Scripture.

(Luke 10:3 KJV) Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

Let us look at this verse for a moment. Is the Lord Jesus Christ sending His children out into the desert where all the wolves live? The answer is no, He is using the wolves as a metaphor of an animal which is a predator. He is speaking of sending His children out into the world where the unbelievers are so against Christ that they are like wolves.

(Acts 20:29 KJV) For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Here is the Apostle Paul speaking to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus that after his departure, which is his physical death, that grievous wolves will enter among them. Did this mean that there will be literal wolves sitting in the congregation? Of course not, he was speaking of those who would come into the church and pervert the true teachings of the Gospel. The word “grievous” carries with it the meaning of “severe, cruel, or unsparing.” It well describes the attitude of the unbelievers who are bent on destroying the church.

(1 Pet 5:8 KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

This last verse speaks about Satan coming as a roaring lion. The lion is also one that was most feared because of its ferociousness as a predator. The lion would not hesitate to attack any of the sheep in the flock and it was a good shepherd who could defeat the lion.

Now we have read three verses which speak metaphorically about vicious animals attacking the flock. Of course, we know these verses are not literal except in a spiritual sense. We are being warned that false brethren who are headed up by Satan will attempt to derail the Christian and the local church. We then see these verses as a warning against spiritual attack. The function of the Pastor is to be the guardian of the spiritual welfare of the flock in the church. He cannot do this if he is the head of everything which removes attention from the flock. Let’s look at the shepherd again. What if the shepherd was sitting in the tent preoccupied with other things? How would he be able to watch and defend the flock? He would be unable to which would result in the relaxed vigilance which further results in the attack and killing of some of the sheep. This is why the Pastor is given as a spiritual gift to the church for the purpose of watching over the flock. Let’s us take a look at some Old Testament Passages where God decries the apathy of the Pastors. We will see one major overriding principle emerge.

(Jer 2:8 KJV) The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

(Jer 10:21 KJV) For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.

(Jer 12:10 KJV) Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

(Jer 22:22 KJV) The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.

(Jer 23:1-2 KJV) Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. {2} Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.

The overriding indictment that God had against the pastors of the Old Testament Temple service was that they had forsaken the God of Israel and all His ceremonies and were entangled in the everyday affairs which drew them away from their primary task of watching over the flock. Eventually, the leaders became so corrupt that Israel and Judah were becoming steeped in false religions and had left the God of the Bible. This eventually led to the downfall and captivity of both Judah and Israel. The pastors of the temple had allowed the grievous wolves and the lions to enter by reason of their inattention to spiritual matters which was replaced by the physical matters.

Is there a New Testament episode which parallels this situation? There sure is! In Acts 6 the number of disciples were growing and there arose a dispute in the church that the Hebrews were not taking care of the Grecian widows. Then in Acts 6:2, a major principle emerges.

(Acts 6:2 KJV) Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

The twelve disciples had gathered the other disciples together and literally told them that it is not agreeable that they leave the ministry of the word of God to “serve tables.” In other words, their calling was not in the realm of physical service to the poor rather their calling was the spiritual service to the poor. This was their primary calling and they were not to divert from that calling. If God calls you to preach, you preach! If God calls you to serve tables, you serve tables!

With these understandings, we can see that the only function of the Pastor is to have spiritual oversight over the congregation. He is not to get involved with the money aspects, committees, buildings and maintenance, and other such things which will draw him away from the ministration of the Word of God. Too many Pastors are involved with all the secular aspects of the church by means of being the big boss, and that takes much time away from the spiritual oversight of the church. This is why grievous wolves and roaring lions just march in the front door, because the Pastor doesn’t have time to prepare meaty sermons because he is too involved with peripheral activities in the church, so his people never grow and become prey to the false teachings that come in the front door. The Pastor must see his calling as the spiritual overseer of the church, if he is in the pastorate because he wants to be the big boss, then he should resign because he is then coming under the indictment of the false Pastors of Jeremiah. Now we saw before in Ephesians 4:11 that the office of Pastor was one of five in that verse. Why should the gift of Pastor be singled out as one who should head the entire church when that verse does not give the Pastor any ruling authority in the church, except spiritual oversight? Why isn’t the teacher given $50,000 a year and a home to live in? After all, it is in the same verse and with equal authority as the office of Pastor.

The Church Rulers
Now it behooves us to see the second part of this study which will teach us who is supposed to rule in the church.

(Acts 6:3 KJV) Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Do you remember that the Apostles were to be dedicated to the ministry of the word? Well the next verse in that chapter teaches that the church appointed seven men of good report to handle the physical affairs of that church and in verse 4 we read:

(Acts 6:4 KJV) But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Do you see the difference between the callings? The Disciples were called to prayer and ministry of the word instead of tying themselves down with the daily physical work of one church. This does not constitute laziness or arrogance, it constitutes working in the realm that God has empowered and called you to work in. If a church has to be painted, should the pastor tie himself up for a week to do it? Absolutely not, because that is not his calling.

The Scriptures give us only three ruling offices in the church, that is the Elders, the Deacons, and the Bishop. If you notice in the next three sections, God is very thorough in delineating the qualifications for the three ruling offices. If you have also already noticed, that there is no qualifications as stringent for the office of Pastor, although these may be used as a guideline when choosing a Pastor but they are not specifically speaking of a Pastor. Church rulers are to be above reproach, by both the unbelievers and the believers.

(1 Tim 3:8-12 KJV) Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; {9} Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. {10} And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. {11} Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. {12} Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

grave - A man who is dignified, worthy of respect, honorable.

not doubletongued - One who is insincere and deceitful

not given to much wine - Not given to excess of wine or alcoholic beverage as we know today.

not greedy of filthy lucre - A man who despises dishonest gain (lotteries?)

Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience - The deacons are to know all true tenets of the faith of Christianity within the confines of a clear and clean conscience.

let these also first be proved - Those who wish to be deacons must first be examined, tested, or scrutinized. They must be able to live exemplary lives through both the good times and the severe trials to see if they remain faithful to the Lord. Normally the best way to prove someone fit for leadership is time.

Even so must their wives be grave - A woman who is dignified, worthy of respect, honorable.

not slanderers - The word for "slanderers" is the same word used for devil. It is used in the sense of false accusations or adversary. The wife must be in full agreement and support her husband's ministry.

sober - A woman who is prudent, chaste and self-controlled in mind also.

faithful in all things - A person who is trustworthy, reliable and credible.

deacons be the husbands of one wife - He must be married to only one woman and not be divorced and remarried, since that would make him the husband of two women according to the Scriptures.

ruling their children and their own houses well - The Deacon must preside or govern over their households correctly or rightly.

As we look at the requirements for Elders, we will also see that the office of Bishop and Elder are one in the same offices. They both constitute the position of overseer. Notice in Titus 1:5 where Titus was given the responsibility of ordaining Elders in Crete and then in verse 7, he speaks of the qualifications of the office of Bishop in the context of Eldership. The difference between the Elders and the Bishop, is that the Bishop is the ruling Elder in the local church and that is why we see the same spiritual requirements applied to this particular office as we will see below.

(Titus 1:5-9 KJV) For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: {6} If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. {7} For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; {8} But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; {9} Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

ordain elders in every city - Paul gave Titus the responsibility of ordaining (appointing) Elders in the cities where there were churches. If you notice, the word "Elders" is plural which means, there must be a plurality of elders in each congregation. There is no church in the New Testament which had just one elder per congregation.

blameless - "To be of good reputation, above accusation, respectable"

the husband of one wife - He must be married to only one woman and not be divorced and remarried, since that would make him the husband of two women according to the Scriptures.

having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly - Faithful means "believing" children. "Riot" means "riotous living or riotous excess, living dissolutely." "Unruly" means "rebellious, not subject to rule, Independent."

not selfwilled - "Arrogant or Pleasure lover"

not soon angry - "Quick tempered"

not given to wine - "Drunkenness or Excess wine"

no striker - "A contentious man who loves to fight, a violent man"

not given to filthy lucre - A man who despises dishonest gain (lotteries?)

lover of hospitality - A man who likes to serve the needs of others.

lover of good men - The context of this word is a man who loves good things or goodness, The exact full translation is "lover of good."

sober - A man with a sound mind who can behave in a rational manner.

just - "Upright, righteous, principled, virtuous"

holy - "Devout, pious, one who fulfills duty and obligations"

temperate - A person who is disciplined and self-controlled

Holding fast the faithful word - One who adheres to the true Word of God with undivided or unquestioned devotion.

by sound doctrine both to exhort - A person who is an encourager in the truth

convince the gainsayers - A man with the ability to refute or contradict those who oppose the truths of the Gospel.

(1 Tim 3:1-7 KJV) This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. {2} A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; {3} Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; {4} One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; {5} (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) {6} Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. {7} Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

blameless - "To be of good reputation, above accusation, respectable"

the husband of one wife - He must be married to only one woman and not be divorced and remarried, since that would make him the husband of two women according to the Scriptures.

vigilant - A man with a sound mind who can behave in a rational manner.

sober - A man who is prudent, chaste and self-controlled in mind also.

of good behaviour - A man who is respectable, honorable and orderly

given to hospitality - A man who likes to serve the needs of others.

apt to teach - A man who is skillful and able to teach the Word of God.

Not given to wine - "Drunkenness or Excess wine"

no striker - "A contentious man who loves to fight, a violent man"

not greedy of filthy lucre - A man who despises dishonest gain (lotteries?)

patient - A man who is gentle

not a brawler - A man that is not contentious but peaceful.

not covetous - One who is not a lover of money, one who is not greedy or miserly

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity - He is to be the head of his household and his children are not to be independent spirited but are to be subject to the father whom they are to give honor to and treat with dignity.

Not a novice - We get the English word "neophyte" from the Greek Word. A man who is a neophyte is a beginner or new convert. My personal belief is that for a man to be a ruling Elder, he should be saved a minimum of 15 years and married for 10. This is sufficient time to see if he qualifies on the personal level.

he must have a good report - His testimony must also be good by those who are unsaved as well as the saved. If his testimony is suspect, he should not be considered for such a high calling until such a time the other Elders of the church should prove him.

We have plainly seen that the office of Pastor is a spiritual gift in the church and that gift is a calling for one to have spiritual oversight of the congregation. The Bible does not condone the modern method of the Pastor of a church being the big boss. He is to be under the authority of the Elders, Deacons, and Bishop of the congregation, as these are the three biblical ruling offices in the church. The Pastor’s only responsibility is the spiritual care of the people in the congregation. He is not to be involved in the physical aspects of the ministry such as buildings and maintenance and other such things which would draw him away from his primary duty as spiritual shepherd.

God’s indictment against the Pastors in the Old Testament was that they allowed spiritual degeneration to occur to the point Israel and Judah had to be taken into captivity. This occurred because greed and envy crept in and there was no one to whom they were accountable to. This is why the Bible does not make the office of Pastor a ruling office since the spiritual overseer must be accountable to the ruling Elders. The situation in today’s churches is that the Pastor handpicks Elders which are just rubber stamps for the Pastor to do what he wants without any strictures. This is total error as the Elders are not accountable to the Pastor but the Pastor must be accountable to the Elders.

This is why the offices of Elder, Bishop, and Deacon are very serious offices and why God gives certain qualifications for these offices. They must be impeccable in their Christian walk with the ability to spot any spiritual problems which the Pastor may be leading the church into. Today’s churches with the Pastor as kingpin, has been derailed. There are to be no kingpins in the church as Christ is the head of the church, not the Pastor. The ruling offices are stewardship offices in the body of Christ to protect the flock from false Gospels and teachings. If the Pastor fails to keep the flock pure, then they are to be removed. If the Pastor is the big boss and no can challenge him, then that will never happen and the church will become a spiritual graveyard, as has many. Just because someone goes to seminary and studies to be a Pastor, does not mean they have the calling of Pastor. If they do not have the calling of Pastor going in, they won’t have it coming out. If the church goes back to the biblical paradigm of spiritual rule, then we may see God’s blessing come once again upon many churches. If your Pastor is an unchallenged kingpin, then your church has become a dead church. The Pastor does not define the church, Christ does!

Years ago Pastors used to visit the people of their congregation and see where they live and how they live, to gain a better understanding of the messages they should preach. Today, the Pastor is too involved with meetings, Synods, Conferences, Seminars, and all the peripheral work which encumbers the ministry of the word. Who do you think is behind the hindering of the ministry of God’s Word in the local church? I’ll let you figure that one out. Puritan Pastors of bygone days were voluminous writers, simply because they applied themselves to the study of the word and refused to be diverted.

When was the last time your Pastor visited your home? I remember a cute story told by Dr. Donald R. Hubbard. He heard of a minister who visited the home of one of his congregants and the mother and daughter were home. As they sat for a while, the mother said to the little girl, “honey, would you go get that big book that mommy likes to read from.” The little girl leaves the room on her journey and then returns five minutes later with the Sears catalog. A non-visiting Pastor would have missed that.