A young man feels called to the ministry. His pastor recommends him to go to a Bible College for three years to become fully
equipped for this vocation. At college he is rigorously trained, his trial sermons are assessed and rated, and his final
examination papers are passed. At last he is ordained, and he swears to uphold the college's Confession of Faith. He is now a
qualified pastor with recognised ordination papers, and his name carries the prefix 'Reverend'.
Contact is made with a church that has a vacancy, and he is invited
along to take the Sunday services. The deacons and
elders interview him and ask all the relevant questions. A salary is negotiated. They are happy with him, so they put his name
forward for the congregation's vote. He is accepted (by a majority) and becomes the church's pastor they become what he
calls 'my people'. His name goes on the notice board and the advertising literature. and he begins his term of office, which
may be reviewed after five years or so.
Such are the workings of the one-pastor 'system' (with variations
obviously between different denominations). Now comes the
Thinking about it further, we realise that there are no Bible Colleges
in the New Testament, no trial sermons, no 'Reverend'
gentlemen, no ordination papers, no five year terms, no negotiated salaries and no one 'special' to 'administer the sacraments'.
We shall discover that these things are not only 'extra-scriptural'- they are completely unscriptural (the only case in scripture
of an 'ordained priest/father' receiving a fixed salary is in Judges chapter 17, where Micah sets up his idolatrous house of gods
- hardly a good precedent)!
"And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called for the elders
(plural) of the church (singular)" Acts 20v17, "Is any sick
among you? let him call for the elders (plural) of the church (singular)" James 5v14. This then was the scriptural pattern for
leadership and shepherding a group of elders or overseers in each church. Now in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit's use of
the words 'elder' (Greek-presbuteros) and 'bishop/overseer' (Greek~piskopos) show that they are simply different names for
the same person - the former denoting their maturity, the latter their work and function.
The following passages clearly demonstrate this:
Acts ch 20-here Paul asks the Ephesian elders (Greekpresbuteros v17)
to come and see him, and when they arrive he
addresses them using the word overseers (Greek-episkoposv28);
Titus ch 1-when outlining leadership qualifications, Paul calls an
elder (Greek-presbuteros v5) a bishop (Greek-episkopos v7); I
Peter ch5 here Peter exhorts the elders (Greek-presbuteros vl) to do the work of overseeing (Greek-episkopos v2).
So, in the Bible, an elder is the same person as a bishop/overseer.
The Bible demands on principle that there must be many
bishops in one church, whereas for example. the Church of England sets up one Bishop over many churches!
Please carefully note the following passages and the combination of
'words they contain: "Take heed therefore unto
yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church" Acts 20v28,
"The elders...I exhort..~Feed the flock of God "I Pet 5v1-2, "A bishop then must be...apt to teach" I Tim 3v2.
Now, since the word pastor means 'shepherd', and it is a shepherd's
job to look after and feed the flock, we must conclude
that in the true New Testament sense it is the elders (overseers) who are the pastors (shepherds) in each church Do you
realize what conclusion this Biblical line of reasoning leads to? Here it is - there is no place in the New Testament for an extra
office or position additional to, or above the elders, such as a main pastor, an assistant pastor, a youth pastor. a minister. a
senior minister, a vicar, a leading overseer, a leading elder, a presiding elder, a chief elder, etc. All such offices have no
foundation in scripture none of these positions exist in the New Testament! The Bible knows of elders and deacons, period: no
other resident teaching 'office' in tile local church.
So to summarise ',while others besides elders may exercise a pastoral
gift such as full time evangelists and Bible teachers
(Eph 4v1 1) there is no hint in scripture of anyone claiming to be the pastor of a particular local church and assuming a position
of oversight apart from and superior to the elders In lact presiding elder is quite a shocking title to take upon oneself since it is
Christ who is declared to be the chief Shepherd (I Peter5v4)
Clerisy is the evil doctrine of the "Nicolaitanes" (Rev 2v6). This
name comes from two Greek words - nikos (conquest) and
laos (people). The Nicolaitanes (the clergy) were already 'lording over' the laos (the laity) by the end of the 1st century; so the
Lord expressly recorded His hatred of their doctrine in the Bible (Rev 2v15). The clerical system is merely a 'Christianised'
form of Judaism, with its select priesthood and accompanying robes, altars and temples. Titles such as Pastor, Your Grace,
Canon, Holy Father etc. are condemned in scripture (Matt 23v2-12). The words 'reverend' and 'holy' apply to Jehovah's name
alone (Psa 11 1v9).
The pastor-system is the root cause of many of the problems that afflict churches today. Look at the damage it causes:
1) It attacks the truth that the church is a body (I Cor
12v12-27). All the body parts should be functioning, as God directs; but
the pastor-system encourages laziness, to the point where the congregation becomes passive not active. Their attitude is,
“Don't worry about it; the pastor will do it!"
2) It hinders the use and exercise of spiritual gifts (Rom
12v4-8). The pastor cannot possibly have all the gifts, and yet he is
the single professional into whose hand the ministry has been placed - what about the gifting of the 'non-professional'
believers? The clergy-laity gap inevitably therefore becomes the great 'demobilizer' of the saints.
3) It dampens the liberty of the Spirit (I Cor 14v29-30).
Liberty has been replaced by clerical liturgy. There is little or no room
for a 'lay' member to bring a message from the word as led by the Holy Spirit.
4) It encourages spiritual poverty. The clerical system
naturally leads to a lack of involvement by 'the laity', which fosters a
neglect of their responsibilities in witnessing and Bible study. Men who should long ago have become teachers themselves, are
sadly still at the milk stage (Heb 5v12).
5) It leads more easily to heresy. If one man monopolizes the
church, and he falls into false teaching, he can then lead the
whole church astray with relative ease - and still more frightening, if a Bible College becomes heretical, it can lead a whole
denomination astray within a generation.
We close with the challenging words of ex-pastor Mark Frees, who
resigned his pastorate in rural Mississippi. USA, in 1990,
after discovering his position was untenable. He writes, So when Evangelists and pastoral Bible teachers (Eph
4v11) who travel full-time and work in conjunction with confronted with the plain teaching of scripture, I could not escape the
conclusion that the oversight of the local church is to be exercised by mature brethren raised up by the Holy Spirit from within
the local church, and that public ministry of the Word is open to any brother who has been divinely gifted for it. In
contrast, most churches today entrust the spiritual leadership of the congregation and the vast majority of the public ministry to
a solitary Pastor, who is chosen from among the professional 'clergy', imported from outside the church, and promised a fixed
salary for his services. Can the reader - with his New Testament open before him - deny that this is a drastic
departure from the scriptural pattern?"