01 August 2008

Things a pastor isn't: The Minister

by Dan Phillips

It's common to refer to a pastor as "a minister," or "the minister." I'm sure many use it out of common usage or force of habit.

However... is that an accurate distinctive title of a Biblically-faithful pastor? Is it a Biblical title?

The words minister (noun and verb) and ministry in the New Testament commonly translates the Greek words diakonos , diakoneō, or diakonia, (διάκονος, διακονέω, διακονία), respectively. The words don't have any great and specific holy or religious significance per se. They just denote servant, serve, and service. They are used to describe the civil authority (Romans 13:4), angels (Matthew 4:11), women who helped out with the Lord's daily necessities (Mark 15:41), a Gospel worker (Ephesians 6:21), a king's attendants (Matthew 22:13), waiters at a marriage feast (John 2:5), and deacons (Philippians 1:1), among others.

Wide variety of referents, and none of them distinctively confined to the pastor of a congregation.

What is the relationship between the pastor and ministry? The most telling and instructive passage in this connection is Ephesians 4:10-16 —
10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The four categories of gifted men include the foundational fits of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), evangelists, and pastor-teachers. The Greek syntax suggests (but doesn't demand) that "shepherds [pastors] and teachers" indicates one category of gifted man: the pastor-and-teacher.

And what is he said to be? "The Minister"? Hardly. In fact, Paul expressly says that the purpose of the office is to equip the saints for the work of service — of ministry (diakonia)!

So the pastor is not the vicarious representative of the congregation, doing the work of ministry in their stead. He does not serve God, as they gaze on idly, perhaps holding up score-numbers, like judges at the Olympics. No, the pastor equips the saints, and they minister, they serve. The saints are the ministers.

I loved the way a pastor friend has represented it at the church he serves. I had the pleasure of preaching at Sun Oak Baptist Church two Sundays ago, and appreciated the way the bulletin was done. The "staff" was listed on the cover in this way:

I loved that, and it's exactly right. The pastor is the pastor, the members are the ministers. Of course, the pastor ministers too, he serves; he's sort of a player-manager.

The pastor is a minister, a servant — as is every believing member of the church he serves.

But if a pastor is in fact the minister of some particular church (let alone The minister), it is a real indictment. Perhaps of him, for being autocratic or tight-fisted; perhaps of the flock, for being lazy and unresponsive.

Either way, it's not good.

Dan Phillips's signature


Al said...

Wouldn’t it be right to say that the Pastor is the minister in the worship service? Is he not leading the congregation in service to the king? I have been in services where the pastor was quite absent in ministry during the hour of worship, showing up to deliver his 15 mins of sharing.

I get your point Dan, but I don’t know anyone personally whom takes the title “minister” in the way you are using it.

al sends

DJP said...

...I don’t know anyone personally whom takes the title “minister” in the way you are using it.

Then you don't know anyone who takes or accepts the title "minister," to mean that he is a pastor.

It is no more appropriate to call a pastor "the minister" than it is to call him "the saint" or "the believer" or "the son of God" or "the justified one."

You're a smart guy, so maybe I didn't make that point sharply enough.

Hopes this helps.

Al said...

I guess I don't know anyone who uses minister as a synonym for pastor, but I have a small circle of pastor friends.

What about saying that the pastor is a minister during the worship service in a particular way? One that is so particular that in that role he might be said to be "the minister."

I do understand what you mean though. One of the things I like about the CRE is that the pastors are all members of their respective congregations and not members of their presbyteries. I think that goes a long way to proclaim the co-laborer aspect of ministry within the local body of Christ

al sends

Chris Roberts said...

Whatever one makes of the title, it seems to be the de facto expectation in many churches that the pastor is in fact the minister.

This is one of my great concerns as a fresh seminary grad looking for a full time church. I do not feel that my calling is to spend the bulk of my time doing things the whole body should be doing. Too many people view the pastor as one who is called to always be there when members of the church face any sort of hardship. He makes all the hospital visits, he does all the house calls, he visits all the visitors, he goes to the needy, etc etc. That is part of the work of the pastor, yes, but I do not believe these should be the things that fill the bulk of his time. And yet I know of very few churches that do not have this expectation of the pastor. As one who feels quite strongly that these things are neither my calling nor my gifting, that makes me more than a little nervous as I look for a church.

Pray for me, and pray for whatever church is put to the trial of having to put up with me. :)

DJP said...

Responding chiastically:

Chris, it's a valid concern, as you will find. Here's something I started learning (or needing to learn, but NOT learning) early on, and have had re-impressed lately: MAKE THEM.

That's overstated for effect. Of course you can't "make" them. But that's part of leading, and of equipping. Don't sit around telling yourself (as I did) that it has to come from them or it doesn't matter. That's a nice dodge. You ask Bro ___ or Sis ___, "I'm going to visit this couple that came Sunday. Come with, okay?" And so on, in accord with your best read of their gifts.

Al — so saints don't have a ministry-obligation to the Lord in singing and thanking and praying and hearing and learning and growing and memorizing and accepting and believing and vowing and responding? They aren't equally assembled before God, and being watched by Him as they respond to the Word?

Again: IT IS NOT A DISTINCTIVE TITLE. Is he a minister? Yes. Are they? Yes. Is he a saint? Yes. Are they? Yes.

Is he a pastor? Yes.

Are they? No.

G Johnson said...

It is no more appropriate to call a pastor "the minister" than it is to call him "the saint" or "the believer" or "the son of God" or "the justified one."

If "the minister" etc. is misleading, is not also "the pastor"?

Sure, we'd like a simple distinctive title, but as I understand the NT usage, that doesn't exist. Ordinarily, I'd say go with today's usage. As your presentation observes, today's usage tends to relieve Christians of important responsibilities. I suggest the same is true of all terms, including "pastor". "Elder" involves a smaller group, but a group nonetheless.

If your card reads "chief pastor" or "lead elder" or "worship minister" or "second alternate chief children's minister" or "the guy that gets paid but not very much to do what everyone else does for free but he went to seminary so there", those distinctions preserve the calling of all believers.

For brevity and accuracy I like the sound of "archbishop Dan"!

DJP said...

< forehead slap >

Again, what is he that they aren't?


It works.

...but you could say Brother And Teacher Dan.

Or, for short...



JackW said...

How about Pope Dan?

"But surely, if a pope over the whole church is bad, a pope in every church is no better!"
Ray Stedman


Anonymous said...

I just registered my first forehead slap of the day.

Great post.

It's not a full moon is it?

Al said...

Sorry to be so obtuse...

When Paul calls himself a minister of the gospel is he saying - "Hey I'm just like you!" (not that he does not say that elsewhere, chief of sinners as he is)

al sends

DJP said...

Yes, he's a minister. So are you. So is the Christian lady in the front row, and the one in the back.

It is not a DISTINCTIVE title. It doesn't get a "the."

But "pastor" can.

{ Looks in mirror, asks self when he lost control of this meta }

Anonymous said...

It's the eclipse in China.

Tom Chantry said...

Certainly you are aware that the grammar of Ephesians 4:12 has been disputed for years, the focus of the dispute being the relationship of the prepositional phrases. Hodge lists five potential solutions to the problem alone!

Suffice it to say that in a very clerical age, it was presumed that the phrases are coordinate, all three relating to the purpose for which God gave pastors et. al. He gave them to equip/perfect the saints, to do the work of ministry, and to edify the church. But in our very anti-clerical age, it is presumed that the phrases are subordinate: that God gave pastors to equip/perfect the saints, that they might do the work of ministry, through which the church will be edified.

Presuming either is not exegesis, and the question is a thorny one. Regardless of how one resolves the question, Ephesians 4 clearly upholds the responsibility of every believer for the building of the body of Christ, and also upholds the unique position of the pastor/teacher.

Regarding the title "minister," Reformed denominations have long identified their pastors in this manner. The understanding is that "minister of the gospel" is a development of the statement of the apostles in Acts 6: We must not abandon the "ministry of the word" for the "ministry at tables."

There are, in fact, various ministries in the New Testament. All Christians are to minister to one another. Deacons are to coordinate the ministry at tables, and of course, their title is merely a transliteration of the Greek term for which "minister" is one translation and "servant" is another. But there is another ministry which the apostles considered their unique task within the Jerusalem church: that of the word, in which they were to serve the word to the church just as the deacons served physical food to those in need.

This ministry of the word is uniquely the task of pastors - it is their essential calling. To call them "ministers" is not a reference to their lone position as the only servants in the church, but rather a reference to their unique task to serve the word to their congregations in public worship.

As for whether Ephesians 4:12 was speaking of "ministry" in this sense or in the more general sense, I cannot say. I certainly don't trust anyone who would use the verse to say that only the ministry of pastors builds the church. Neither would I trust anyone who used the verse to say that there is no unique ministry function for elders. Both positions ignore the balance of the chapter.

DJP said...

I am getting the increasing sense that I've jostled a calcified tradition. My clue is that the actual evidence I've presented, and the case I've made, is more being talked around than dealt with.

Tom Chantry said...

I don't think that's an accurate portrayal, but let me try again.

Al said he isn't aware of anyone who uses the word "minister" in the sense you use it in your post, to which you responded that anyone who accepts the title "minister" as a pastor has done so.

That is, frankly, not so. You said in the post that diakonos and its derivatives refer to various types of servants and services, none of which are unique to the pastorate. But in Acts 6:4 diakonia logou is used by the Apostles for the unique work to which they will dedicate themselves. They were playing of the use of diakonia in reference to the serving at tables which was necessary in the church and which was not their unique task. Furthermore, they referred to what they had just called "the preaching of the word of God."

Those Reformed churches which use the term "minister" to refer to their pastors are not saying that their pastors are the only workers or servants in the church. They are using the term in reference to the "ministry of the word" which is the basic task of pastors. They understand "minister of the gospel" in this sense - not one who is a servant to the gospel, but one who serves the gospel through preaching it to a congregation just as a waiter serves food by bringing it to the diners.

Chris Anderson said...


I appreciate your instruction here regarding the nature of the pastor's responsibility. Whatever you call pastors and their work (and you're right that one's title is probably a good indicator of what he's expected to do), what you've said here is crucial, especially regarding the pastor's role from Eph. 4:11-12. Shout it from the housetops!

By the way, the ESV's rendering of the propositions in v. 12 as "to (pros)...for (eis)...for (eis)..." is extremely helpful, IMO. Too many translations (e.g. the KJV) show no distinction whatsoever (for...for...for...) or an inaccurate distinction (e.g. the NASB). Failure to see the distinction in the propositions can lead to the conclusion that the P/T is to do all 3 activities himself. My favorite rendering is probably the 1901 ASV's: "for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ."


Whether or not you find a church that wants this focus (and church planting may be the best option!), the theme of "every member ministry" is a drum you'll want to beat early and often. It's been a central focus of the church I planted since it began 10 years ago, but in many ways, it's just starting to really "take." Getting people to transition from expecting "a pastor who ministers to our needs" to "a pastor who equips us to minister to each other's needs" is no small task. We've lost families over it. So be it.

A very readable book that emphasizes this important point is Bill Hull's The Disciple Making Pastor.

Good stuff.

DJP said...

In response to my esteemed friend Tom Chantry:

Would somebody please count how many times and in how many ways, in the article and in the meta, I have expressed the point that I am talking about using "minister" as a distinctive and/or distinguishing title for the office of pastor?

Tom Chantry said...

I hear you Dan.

I am with Al on this, though. I know of no one who who uses the word "minister" as a distinctive and distinguishing title for the pastor of the church who means by this that he alone ministers in every sense in which "diakoneo" is used in Scripture. Those whom I know who use the word as a distinctive and distinguishing title mean it so solely with reference to the formal ministry of the word.

I don't believe that pastors are the only servants in churches, but I do believe that the ministry of the word is their distinct and distinguishing function, and within that context they may be called "ministers."

Incidentally, I don't believe that deacons are the only servants in churches either, but I do believe that the ministry of mercy is their distinct and distinguishing function, and within that context they may be called "deacons."

Daniel said...

DJP - amen, and amen.

Matt said...

{Finding the derailment in the meta both funny and unfortunate}

For everybody nit-picking about semantics here: You're missing the point. Or, perhaps you're demonstrating it.

DJP: Great post. Too often, I have had "great ideas" for my pastor and others to do. I'm (hopefully) learning that while I need to submit to my pastor and seek his counsel before starting things up, it's okay for my wife, myself, our friends, relatives, etc. to take the initiative ourselves and minister to the needs of others.

Anonymous said...

Dan - I hear what you are saying loud and clear. In many African-American churches, the term "pastor" and "minister" is used interchangeably. Many are called "Minister So-and-so" to denote that they are something other than a congregant. This is confusing, and places too much responsibility (and sometimes too much power) in the hands of one person. It also eclipses the role of all believers to be ministers, as you have so eloquently stated in this post.

Great post, Bro. Dan. Amen, amen, and amen.

Chris Anderson said...

Tom's point about the ministry of the Word in Acts 6 is germane, I think. However, I still think the term "minister" is less than ideal for the reasons Dan listed. It's meaning is unclear, and it can be as reductionistic as the (often southern) designation "Preacher." The term "Pastor" includes the ministry of the word, but also includes leading the flock, protecting the flock, etc. as well, and therefore seems to be the most ideal.

Again, though, we're probably getting too wrapped up in titles rather than focusing on the actual function described in Eph. 4:11-12.

Uncle Buck said...

This is mildly off-topic, but my thoughts are prompted by the post (really).

I have seen a common thread in the thinking of the Pyro team over the past few years. I'd like to describe this in better terms but am not sure how to do so. The thread seems to me to be best described as pastoral elitism.

Don't get angry ... yet.

I watched with interest during the discussion of "why you should never leave a church no matter what is happening from the pulpit." I saw a strong tenacity to hold to that position defended in the ensuing comment threads on those posts.

Since then I have seen a variety of posts that seem to circumlocute the topic (I know that's not a word, but again - not sure how else to say it). These posts have consistently put forward the idea that the pastor is doing the best he can and you should all just give him a break.

Given that context (which I realize is not the context intended by any of those posts, but rather the context based on my reading of those posts), what I am hearing from this current post is: "The pastor can't do it all and you lazy bums in the pews need to make sure you're carrying your share of the load, although you will not be given the clout, the respect, the opportunity, or the pay of the guy who is complaining that you unpaid volunteers are not doing enough."

While I agree with everything you have presented in this post. Given the current state of ecclesiastical leadership in American Evangelicalism, I think the more important topic to address would be "What should pastors actually be doing?"

The past 25 years (covering eight different Evangelical churches) I have seen very little studying, praying, counseling, evangelizing, visiting the sick, providing for the needy, or mentoring the brethren coming from those who stand behind the pulpit. These things are happening, but they are being done by the lazy pew sitters, not by the paid church leadership.

I know this is painting with a broad brush. But I think good pastors who do their job are the exception - not the rule. So I would agree that in most cases, the pastor should not be called the minister. Perhaps that title would be better suited to those few in the congregation that actually do the work of the ministry (with or without the article, I'm not particularly concerned that aspect of it).

Maybe when the pastors begin to study the Word, pray, evangelize, etc., those in the pew will see their hard work and be inspired to pick of the remaining slack.

Al said...

Bishop Dan, I get that... I really do. We are all ministers. If we had a big purple ministry dinosaur right here, he would be giving out hugs like there was no tomorrow.

I like what Tom wrote here. Even as calcified as he is I think he makes a good point.

Can I back up a bit in the Ephesians letter and ask you what Paul meant when he said,

“3:6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.
It seems to me that Paul is claiming a particular ministry and making the distinction that he is a minister of the gospel in particular way.
Would it not then be appropriate to call him “the minister of the gospel” as he exercises the gift he was given in the context given? I really don’t see this as the bugga-boo that you do.

al sends

Tom Chantry said...

Well, see, I must be calcified, because here we are giving out hugs again, and all I can say is "Ughh!"

Chris Anderson said...

Uncle Buck,

"Pastoral elitism?" You've got to be kidding. The whole point of this thread is that the pastor should get the entire body moving---no easy task!---rather than being looked to as the pseudo-messiah around whom all ministry revolves. Dan has made it clear that the pastor ministers, but that he does so as part of the body, just like everybody else. This is the opposite of elitism.

Check out this good post, along with a response I posted about it at my place here.

(The second major heading is what you're looking for. And I apologize: linking to one's own blog is so uncouth, I know. O well.)

Al said...

(...And I apologize: linking to one's own blog is so uncouth, I know. O well.)

Chris... many have done as you have done here. I, a minister of the gospel, have done so. Not on this respectable bastion orthodoxy and good taste mind you (I would never do that), but on other, lesser, blogs.

al sends

Patrick Durkee said...

It seems common (at least in my experience) that the idea of the laity being ministers can and is often taken too far in modern evangelicalism. I have run into several people in my experience who contend that since everyone in the laity is a minister, then everyone's opinion carries the same weight in regard to theological teaching. They therefore refuse to believe that the pastor has anything of worth to teach them because they are already "ministers" themselves, and what could they possibly have to learn from someone else?


tcrob said...

Good stuff! I've been making that point at my church for sometime now.

threegirldad said...

In the denomination I grew up in, you didn't have to look very hard to find the idea of "minister" and "pastor" as synonymous terms. But it wasn't ubiquitous, either, and you could just as easily find people who said what Dan is trying to say here.

"But if a pastor is in fact the minister of some particular church (let alone The minister), it is a real indictment. Perhaps of him, for being autocratic or tight-fisted; perhaps of the flock, for being lazy and unresponsive."

Long before I reached adulthood, I had lost track of the number of times I heard someone say (in response to a request to perform some ministerial duty), "But...that's the pastor's|minister's job!!!"

Uncle Buck said...

Chris - thanks for the links. I have read them both and left a more thorough comment on your site.

But to address your previous comment alone, I think you misunderstood what I said and my reason for saying it. I am in full agreement with what Dan has presented here. I just think that it is not the moret important issue afflicting conservative evangelicalism today where this topic is concerned. Because of the incredibly widespread negligence of the pastorate in our churches, I would love to see respected pastors and other church leaders (such as TeamPyro) calling pastors to fulfill their duties before (not instead of) turning their attention to those in the pews.

My experience has been that those in the pews have a higher consistency of being involved in the work of the ministry of the local church than those in the pulpit.

CR said...

I did a search for fun on Charles Spurgeon, and he is described in many places as an English Baptist minister.

While technically you are probably correct, if we started calling ourselves ministers when we talk to people at the water cooler at work, then people would interpret that as us being preachers or pastors. I think culturally, the word minister has come to mean (long before we came on the scene as you can see with Spurgeon) as being a preacher and/or pastor.

Mike Westfall said...

Are we having a semantics argument here?

Hear the words of the wise master Humpty:

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

DJP said...

Yes, I suppose if culture were dictating our thoughts or terms, or usage in Spurgeon's church, it might be that, or reverend, or preacherboy, or something.

Of course, I wasn't making a case for letting the culture, or usage in Spurgeon's church, dictate our thinking or terminology. Nor would I.

Tom Chantry said...

I don't know that we're arguing (except about the legitimacy of hugging), but we are discussing semantics - the proper referent of a particular word. That's not always a bad thing to do. Dan objects to the use of the word "minister" with an exclusive reference to the pastor of a church.

The words minister (noun and verb) and ministry in the New Testament commonly translates the Greek words diakonos , diakoneō, or diakonia, respectively...Wide variety of referents, and none of them distinctively confined to the pastor of a congregation.

My question, Dan, is whether that statement can be made in the absolute sense in light of Acts 6:4, in which the apostles extracted themselves from the diakonia trapezeis by devoting themselves to the diakonia logou?

I ask because I honestly believe that the use of the word "minister" in Reformed circles for years, including Spurgeon and many others, references this "ministry of the word." I do not believe that every pastor who accepts the title "minister" has fallen into or even flirted with the clericalist error of imagining that the church is built solely by the labors of the pastor/minister.

DJP said...

Yep, that's one of his ministries. Arguably his chief distinctive ministry: he serves the Word. In his preaching and teaching office, he is distinct.

But not in that he's a minister, used absolutely.

Tom Chantry said...

But his preaching and teaching ministry is distinctive? Would this not be a use of "ministry" that is "distinctive and distinguishing" There are many "ministers" in the church, but often only one "minister of the word"?

Stefan Ewing said...

There's got to be a way to work a "Yes, Minister" joke in here somewhere....

Never mind. Carry about y'all's discussion. But this thread is making my head spin.

sevenmeditations.com said...


I get your concern, but to most the term minister is synonmous with pastor. Now that said, irregardless of the title, too many pastors do think of themselves as "the minister" as do too many of the congregants. A pandemic pedestal complex is alive and well in an ever apathetic American Church. We indeed each must minister according to the faith we profess, otherwise we risk all the terrible warnings of the Gospel.

HerChildrenCallHerBlessed said...

Hi Dan-
Your point in this post just reminded me of Exodus 18:13-27. Where Jethro helped Moses to differentiate between ministering and pastoring in these amazing passages. The people were blessed because they were called to step up and to utilize the skills given to them by God to care for the needs of the congregation. And Moses was advised by Jethro to [vs.20] "teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do...moreover...select from all the people able men, such as fear God...and place them over them..."
Obviously it's slightly different in this instance because they are also talking about governorship, lawkeepers, etc... but, it is a brilliant illustration for the church body even today. Pastors have so much responsibility before God for He has placed them over the entire congregation to teach them, lead them, discipline them...and it is our responsibility as a congregation to minister by meeting the day to day needs of the body.
Hope that I'm somewhere in the vicinity of the point that you are making. :-)
In His Love.

David said...

"I know of no one who who uses the word 'minister' as a distinctive and distinguishing title for the pastor of the church who means by this that he alone ministers in every sense in which 'diakoneo' is used in Scripture."

Maybe I live on a different planet, or you just haven't been in the churches I've been in, but this is a real problem in many places. I've been guilty myself. There are a lot of churches where the congregation shows op on Sunday morning, and goes about its business the rest of the week, serving no one. Worse, there are many churches in which THE minister expects no more.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh, I have no doubt there are many such churches. Most of them probably call their pastor "pastor." I'm not at all sure that calling him "the minister" has anything to do with this problem, nor that the title "minister" was ever intended to convey that idea.

LeeC said...

Ok, guys.

If I can try to put this into a brief synopsis.

"Don't use calling your pastor a 'minister' as an excuse for you to NOT minister."

Close Dan?

T.A. Ragsdale said...

I agree with the post. I believe Greg Johnsong brought up the issue of the use of "the" with "pastor."

Yes we all know what people mean when they say "the minister" but I contend both words are in error. ("Pastor" also confuses office with function, but we all know what we mean there too).

The biblical model is a plurality of elders, is it not?

Jonathan Hunt said...

From a practical perspective, I have agreed with another local pastor that we prefer to use the term 'minister' because nobody on the street knows what a 'pastor' is. That's England for you.

That said, our churches are taught to understand that every member has a ministry.

Jonathan Hunt said...

Oh, and Spurgeon hated the title 'Reverend'. See his article 'fragments of popery amongst nonconformists' on that well-known site, spurgeon.org!

JackW said...

Tim ... Bingo!

Kevin Davis said...

This is the stupidest post/discussion I can remember in a long time. May God forgive our semantic diversions!

Gilbert said...


If that is true, then why? This discussion may be far more revealing and enlightening than you think.

Dan, you touched a wonderful nerve. I get what you are saying (which is rare, but then again, I don't get what I am saying a lot. ;-) ). Amen...

Zoarean said...

Let me be one to say I agree with this post. Ephesians 4 speaks of one body & many churches today are in effect two; when the lay are not following Christ's dictums to bring the unsaved to Him, & the saved closer to Him (for this is ministry), they have created a distinct division in the church.

Being united in ministry is a derivative of the goal laid out by verse 13: attain(ing) to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Solameanie said...

I seem to remember when growing up in the church of Christ that they had a real bugaboo about using the term "pastor." They preferred "minister." I can't quite remember why. Perhaps they thought "pastor" a popish-sounding term.

Personally, I think this discussion has been fascinating. If you really want to get a kerfuffle started, let's talk about modern-day apostles, which seems to be a growing movement among some churches.

Kevin Davis said...

re: gilbert. I'm all for a discussion on the role of the laity vis-a-vis the congregant-who-is-a-minister-just-like-us-but-more-often-especially-on-Sundays (formerly known as "the minister" or "the pastor"). But, as you can see, I have little patience for semantic diversions. Thankfully, the rest of the Christian world is too busy engaging secular society and feeding the poor to bother with rethinking their minister/pastor's title.

Phil Johnson said...

Here's an article by John MacArthur that makes the point pretty well.

For the record, since the semantic question seems to trip a lot of people up, I don't have a problem with pastors calling themselves "ministers"--or even "the senior minister." It's not my favorite term for a pastor for the very reasons Dan gives above, but it's not something I'd pick a fight about.

What does disturb me is the notion that "ministry" is the exclusive domain of professional clerics, and if lay-people want to be "witnesses," OK. But don't you dare call what they do "ministry." I grew up in a Methodist church where precisely that distinction was made, and it was severely detrimental to the church's "ministry" and "witness" alike.

And may I say: Dan, congratulations on inciting another rant from Kevin D. Johnson. For a few weeks there, I had thought he was seriously trying to behave, but we mustn't expect too much of him. A particularly delicious irony in his rant was all the energy he poured into fulminating about how we "pretend" to be Reformed. For the record (and not for the first time): We do not in fact call ourselves capital-R Reformed--ever. I have insisted for years (in some of my dealings with a well-known stable of clowns) that I don't think "TR" (truly Reformed) is the orthodox gold-standard standard people should try to try to attain. I believe all the contributors to this blog are on the same page with regard to that issue.

Yet Kevin, who proudly labels himself a "Reformed catholic," is neither (capital-R) Reformed nor (small-c) catholic.

Go figure.

But he's had these meltdowns many times before. He generally deletes the evidence of his misbehavior within a few weeks. So savor this one whilst it lasts.

~Mark said...

Good post djp. Now if we could just deal with that whole "Good Reverend Doctor" thing!

DJP said...

Oh man, don't even get me started on "Reverend." At least, not yet.

Thanks, Phil; I'll read that.

To the rest, in sum:

Is the pastor a minister? Sure; a minister.

Is that title distinctive? That is, is it a title he alone bears? Of course not; see the third paragraph of the article.

Is it then a good descriptive distinctive title? No. In fact, a Greek reader will tell you that the office that has a better claim to that title as a distinctive title is the office we call "deacon." After all, "deacon" simply transliterates diakonos, a title given absolutely to that office (1 Timothy 3:8-13)).

Is there a distinctive title for that office, shared by no other? Yes.

Why... what is that? I'm so glad you asked. "Pastor."

Are you saying a pastor isn't a minister? Not me. But I am saying all Christians are equally ministers -- or something is very, very wrong.

Can I call a pastor a "minister of the Word"? If you want, I guess. But you should also be willing and ready to refer to others as minister of the bulletin, minister of the bus, minister of the mp3, minister of the front lawn, minister of the bank account, minister of the cheese danishes, etc.

CR said...

PJ: And may I say: Dan, congratulations on inciting another rant from Kevin D. Johnson.

I read the link. "Grand Poobah Doodah?" Isn't that from the Flinstones or something?

Phil Johnson said...

Yeah, don't ask me to explain him. But that "poobah doodah" riff is about the most intelligent comment he has ever aimed this way.

Despite his bluster, I don't think we're really supposed to take him seriously. I strongly suspect he's a sock puppet invented by Dave Armstrong. That's about the only scenario I can think of in which Kevin actually makes any sense.

Unknown said...

wow :)