The Greek word for “pastor” is “poimen”, and it means a shepherd, or to tend a flock or shearing house. It is the same as the Hebrew word “ra’ah”, one who leads flocks. The pastor is responsible to care, nurture, love, protect and provide for the flock.
The plural word “pastors” appeared once in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:11). That word defines a function, not a position. The ministry of a pastor is not recorded as an order of government.
The responsibility of overseeing a church or local assembly is not the duty of just a pastor, but it is the responsibility of a presbytery “governmental order of elders” that is presided over by the “set man” (Numbers 27:15-17). In most cases, the set man is an apostle who is well recognized and respected among the presbytery. It is not a proper order to leave or place the authority of the local church in the hands of a pastor or one man. The oversight of the local church is shared among a presbytery, with a set man who operates with an apostolic grace, to provide balanced authority that function by the grace of God.
The apostolic pattern and structures in the early church was one of a collective leadership and authority, where opportunity is given for dialogue, relationship building and input, but the final decision rests in the hands of the leadership.
With the restoration in the Body of Christ and the establishment of an apostolic order and pattern, we need to embrace a transitioning from the traditional concept of pastoral functions, to an apostolic function of the plurality of elders that denotes a team ministry over a local church. The government of the church should be in the hands of a local eldership that operates as a presbytery. When there is a full restoration and establishment of an apostolic order, we will begin to see the raising up of elders who are ordained and set in by true apostles.
The establishment of a true apostolic pattern of presbytery challenges the unscriptural concepts of a pastor over a church and the terms such as “associate or assistant pastors” which is an institutional structure. These are not descriptive words over the local church leaders. The proper government of the local church is through an order and principle of eldership. Such congregations operating the apostolic pattern of the order and principle of eldership are “Antioch Churches”. These are governmental churches, and they have the ability to influence and impart cities, regions, territories and nations, because of the proper order of established authority.
Let me include here some of the thoughts gleaned from other apostolic writings by Apostle Tim Early. (Churches are often built on a pastoral foundation, when in truth there is neither evidence nor support in scripture of exclusive pastoral foundation. Rather, the churches are built through apostles and elders. Elders of course being the senior leadership or reigning eldership. Nothing is said of “The Pastor”. It does not exist. Pastor has its context and usage from plurality, a tribunal of elders, multiple elders, yet with a set man. The set man does not have to be a senior pastor in the restricted usage. And, the ministry will always grow in pastoral ministry, but apostolically, through care ministers, resident shepherds, and multiple shepherds in home care fellowship design. The restricted shepherd will no longer be pre-eminent; the term should then shift from pastor to senior minister or lead elder. The basic premise for shepherding in the New Testament is one of caring, feeding, and nurturing ministry, as derived and esteemed in the First Testament. It is best to affirm pastoral care where and when needed, but not in the position we see it advertised today. To put everyone on the pedestal as “Pastor,” is to promote Protestant Popery,” where everything has it’s beginning and ending in the pastor. In order to move from pastoral ponds to apostolic rivers, we need a leader-shift. Eldership is the healthiest form of ministry; it is theocratic, and not democratic. It is Kingdom ruled and not man-ruled).
The pastoral ministry must be re-defined in the perspective of the present apostolic reformation in the church. God’s order must be acknowledged and accredited. This does not negate against the ministry of the pastor in the local church.
It is important to note that a pastor is one who is gifted by God, working closely with the other five-fold ministry gifts for the purpose of maturing the Church. Pastors are needed today to model the life of Christ as an example of a true shepherd, to nurture and instruct.
In this last day, God will give to the Body of Christ leaders who will shepherd (pastor) the flocks. They will feed and tend the flocks and provide covering for them through the grace and word of God. They will carry the true heart of the shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the flocks. Not an irresponsible, controlling shepherd who is merchandizing the flocks for personal gain.
“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.” (Ezekiel 34:1-10).
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17).
As overseers who bear the rule, we are to watch for the souls of the saints and give account to the Lord. The restoration of apostolic ministry redefines and reinforces the function and authority of the pastor and local church leaders.
Copyright © 2017 by Israel Onoriobe
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