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The "office" of "Pastor"?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by 12strings, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. 12strings

    12strings Active Member

    Feb 10, 2004
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    Does anyone know when or why our churches started using the word "Pastor" as the primary designation for a Elder/Overseer. The later terms are by far the most used in scripure, in fact there only 2 cases in the NT where one even sees the word "pastor/shepherd" in which usage is not refering to an actual sheep-handler, refering to God/Jesus as a shepherd."

    1. NOUN: Ephesians 4:11 - And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. (not really a list of official church offices is it?)

    2. VERB: 1 Pet. 5:1 - Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, (This is addressed to elders, but more as something they DO as opposed to a title).

    Why do we now prefer the title "Pastor" to Elder/overseer? Is it because we simply don't like the idea of having a "overseer", and we think It's weird for a 70 year old to call a 30 year old "Elder."?

    Does anyone know the history of the change?
  2. Jerome

    Jerome Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Aug 21, 2006
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    Notice how those at the 1689 London Baptist Assembly signed their Confession:


  3. Herald

    Herald New Member

    Oct 29, 2011
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    In the early church the primary form of church government was the office of elder. It wasn't until around the 4th Century that the episcopacy became hierarchical in nature (as we see in Roman Catholicism) and took over as the dominant form of church government. Primur inter pares (separate among equals) was the norm among early church elders. It was this "separate among equals" that was recognized as pastor.
  4. preachinjesus

    preachinjesus Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Feb 9, 2004
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    The term pastor traces to the early church, but (especially in its English form) is primarily recovered following the Reformation. The earliest Christian communities didn't have a hierarchal structure like the Roman Catholic Church has today. In fact for the first three hundred years or so the "bishop" of a church was more like a senior pastor a moderately sized church today.

    The earliest churches, during this era, had three offices: bishop, presbyter, and deacon in the form of authority. The bishops were essentially pastors. The presbyters were like associate pastors, and deacons like, well, kinda like deacons in a ministerial and servant role.

    The list of offices in Ephesians is important to note because at this point of the development of ecclesiology in the NT this is probably what the entire ecclesiological landscape looked like for the Pauline communities. This included individuals working directly in the early churches and itinerate offices who traveled. The office of apostle was limited to a select group and did not extend beyond the original apostles (we aren't sure how many ultimately took up that title...perhaps 13 to 18 maybe.) So that office effectively ended when the final apostle died, or at least the earliest churches made this decision in almost uniform fashion.

    The other offices above have varying references in the first one hundred years following Pentecost. It seems the office of prophet (referenced in the Didache for example) transitioned from an itinerant office associated with Judaistic functions to a more confined approach which looks more like a missionary today. Ultimately the earliest churches, during this time, were attempting to wrestle with the existing leadership structures in light of the constant in-fighting and corruption from false teachers. They arrived at an increasingly autocratic form church government out of a combination of necessity for the preservation of the Gospel and influence of Roman/cultural political leadership structures.

    Anyhoo...that's a long answer and trust me, it gets longer, to say that the office of pastor re-emerged following the Reformation. The local church leadership of the NT is varied and not uniform depending on what books you consider. Peter's area of influence was different than Paul which is different from John. The entire thing was up for debate through the end of the fourth century and only began to be confined following the Edict of Milan in 313. (which btw is 1700 years old this past January.)

    See, I just can't get a concise answer here...basically pastors re-emerged out of the Reformation to lead the autonomous churches in a role described as presbyters and possible overseers (episkopas) in the NT. :)