Borrowed from Uplook Magazine 2006
"Where is your pastor?” If your church is seeking to follow the New Testament pattern for leadership, this is a question you’re likely to hear again and again. How should we answer it?
I’ll never forget my first time at the breaking of bread. I’d grown up in a church system where all eyes were fixed on the one man who was front and center, governing every aspect of the meeting. So, at about the ten-minute mark of that first Lord’s Supper, when I realized that there was no plan—no order of service, no man in control—I panicked.
Not for me, you understand. But for all those poor Christians. Surely this was going to be a disaster! Without someone in charge, the meeting would be chaos! At the time, it didn’t occur to me that if this meeting spiraled into catastrophe every week, the believers probably wouldn’t still be doing it. And so, I watched with increasing wonder as the meeting progressed— decently, and in order—without a man to plan or direct it. That was my introduction to New Testament church order.
My problem was that I had become accustomed to having one man directing the activities of the church, and I simply couldn’t conceive of a meeting that wasn’t controlled by such a person. Of course, this misunderstanding extends well beyond the way a local church’s meetings are conducted. Common practice and teaching have conditioned the modern Christian to take for granted that a church is led by one man.
When we turn to the New Testament, however, we find a different design: a plurality of leaders. The apostolic pattern was to have “elders in every church” (Acts 14:23).
In our day, the word “pastor” has taken on a formal, ecclesiastical meaning. But the Greek word for “pastor” (poimen) is simply the word for “shepherd,” which is how it is translated 17 out of the 18 times it occurs in the New Testament. While there might be shepherds in a local church who are not elders, it is the elders who are primarily charged with the task of shepherding. When Paul gave his farewell address to the elders at Ephesus, he charged them to “shepherd the church of God” (Acts 20:28). And when Peter addressed the elders among his readers, he passed on the identical command: “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Pet. 5:1). An elder without a shepherd’s heart is as out of place as an evangelist who doesn’t care for the gospel.
Therefore, saying that we don’t have a pastor is misleading. It’s true that we don’t have a pastor in the officious, religious sense that the word has acquired in the years since the New Testament was written. But, hopefully, in the biblical sense of the word, we have several pastors.
These elders serve together, with equal authority, to shepherd the church. But there is a second reason that it is wrong to say we don’t have a pastor. It’s wrong because every church has one glorious Shepherd. And what a Shepherd He is! He is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd.
It turns out that there is one Man in control of the church. There is one Man front and center to govern every aspect of the meeting. We really do have a Pastor!
addendum by wbc: It should also be noted that the pastoral ministry (shepherding) is done by those so-gifted in the assembly, and desirous of that "good work." These are under-shepherds and over-seers of the flock, do the shepherding work, of teaching, caring, and guiding the local flock. There is the chief shepherd, Christ, but locally there are the under-shepherds-elders. The biblical pattern though is not the clerical (clergy) one, ie.. a lead pastor, salaried, professional, seminary trained, etc., but those raised up from within and trained in the local fellowship.