Church Planting Essentials – Biblical Leadership

Church Planting Essentials – Biblical Leadership

This article is a response to a question.  The response was so long that I thought it would be better to post it as an article.

The Question:

David, What are the qualifications of a pastor? I read a lot about qualifications for elders (Titus/Timothy) but none for pastors. They seem to be giftings as the Eph 4 passage tell us. Yet you seem to make no distinction between pastors and elders? Paul called the “elders of the church” in Ephesus to meet him on the beach NOT the “pastors of the churches” ( Acts 20)

Is there anyway we will l ever see this in our lifetimes? “elders of the church”…

Blessings. Jeff

The Answer:

Church Planting Essentials – Biblical Leadership

One of the problems of using English Bibles is how each translator chooses to translate certain words, and sometimes even translate the same word differently from place to place.  The word, Pastor, is actually a Latin word that became a title.  The Greek word that is translated as Pastor actually means shepherd.  When we look at Peter’s writings, he makes no distinction between Elder, Shepherd/Pastor, or Bishop/Overseer (which word used depends on the translation and translator).  Paul, also, make little distinction between these words.  In Titus he uses Elder and Overseer together. 

1Peter 5:1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  2 Be shepherds [or pastors] of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers [or bishops]—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  (NIV – bracketed words are mine)

So, I treat all passages dealing with Elders, Pastors/Shepherds, Bishops/Overseers as the qualifications for all senior or Elder leadership in a church.  Some traditions have separated these as different roles or positions.  I don’t make this distinction in my writings.

So, along with the 1 Peter passage on leadership, check out the following.

1Timothy 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, 4 he desires a noble task.  2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.  5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.  7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (NIV)

Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.  6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (NIV)

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me:  2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.  5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.  6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. (NIV)

Ezekiel 34:7 “ ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock,  9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. (NIV)

Leadership is leadership, whatever you call it – Elder, Pastor/Shepherd, Bishop/Overseer.  In my opinion these roles all require the same qualifications, which none of us can fulfill without the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.


David Watson
From Finland

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