by John Greene
In our article “What Do You Know About Valentine’s Day”, Bible Vision made the following observation about the role that is called pastor. We know, love and respect a number of brothers and sisters that use the title pastor, but closer research indicates that the use of the title ‘pastor’ isn’t rooted in truth.
As an aside, we have an important matter to bring up about the word ‘pastor’ and its origins. In researching these pastoral deities like Pan (or cultural equals), the god of shepherds and flocks, these ‘pastoral gods’ are easily linked through paganism into Catholicism, along with adaptation of the word ‘pastor’ as a shepherd. Through the use of semantics or word study, links exist that attach the origins of this word directly through Catholicism and paganism. While most of ‘Protestant Christianity’ is firmly rooted in this title and role as a ‘shepherd of the flock,’ this is clearly a tradition of man rooted through paganism, which should be a troubling matter to all disciples of the Messiah, which by their very nature seek only the truth of YHWH! The role of a pastor is in truth, not a shepherd, but a role that has been copied directly from Rome. How much better to address one another as brothers in Messiah, as first century disciples did, in line with our equality in the Messiah. Any hierarchy of man, beyond spiritual elders as ‘overseers,’ seeking to protect the purity of the sanctified gathering or congregation of YHWH should be avoided.
The painful truth is that most Christians are thoroughly deceived by a pagan model of worship. The current societal status of a ‘pastor’ isn’t scriptural. The traditional role of pastor and other related titles of religious elevation are modern assumptions through the traditions of man. The role of pastor is often justified through the use of Ephesians 4:11 using the Greek word poimen. Curiously, this Greek word in each case is translated as shepherd in 17 other occurrences of the same word. (Matthew 9:36, 25:32, 26:31; Mark 6:34, 14:27; Luke 2:8, 15, 18, 20; John 10:2, 11-12, 14, 16, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25) We can clearly see that the word ‘pastor’ was not used or the modern role considered in the first century gathering. Evidence shows that the word ‘pastor’ is not of ‘Christian origin,’ nor is the role or hierarchy that is played out daily in most of professed Christianity. (Jeremiah 10:21, 23:1; “What is God’s Church?“) Today, a pastor is routinely defined as a shepherd, a corruption of a Christianity run amok. Let’s do a little more exploring.
“Therefore, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Messiah, and also a sharer of the esteem that is to be revealed, I appeal to the elders among you: Shepherd the flock of Elohim which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but voluntarily, not out of greed for filthy gain, but eagerly, neither as being masters over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you shall receive the never-fading crown of esteem.” – 1 Peter 5:1-4, ISR98
Simply by reading these verses, you can see that most of modern Christianity has smashed the intent of Peter. Peter clearly refers to elders, admonishing them to shepherd the flock of Elohim until the Second Coming of the Messiah. These elders are to serve willingly and without dishonest gain as ‘overseers.’ The word that is often translated as overseer is episkopeo, used 2 times in the New Covenant scriptures. These elders are simply watchers or guides as spiritually mature disciples. As spiritually mature disciples, these elders looked after the needs of the gathering where disciples routinely met. In the same sense, Paul called on the Ephesian elders to give them instruction as a brother in Messiah. (Acts 20:17, 28-29) This is intended to be a routine function of all disciples today! (“How YHWH Marks His People“)
Unhappily, pride often gets in the way of honest communication and concern that should be part of Elohim’s body of Messiah. Cultural status becomes a concern as disciples begin to lust after notoriety and who is greater. In some faiths, one leader is often appointed or elected in some way. Other times, a professed leader simply develops a following. Today, the leaders of many religious bodies fail to follow the direction of scripture.Many ‘pastors’ build up their own kingdom on earth instead telling the full truth of YHWH’s Kingdom. They are full of pride and competition that furthers their own well-being. They want influence through power, privilege and prestige. They serve themselves, a condition that scripture routinely advises against. (1 John 2:25-27; John 14:15-21; Ezekiel 34:1-31; “Humility: Do You Need It?“; “The Politics of Pride“; “Putting Down the Titanic Pride of Man – Placing Satan Under Your Feet“)
First century disciples had no concept of a modern pastor. In the Bible, elders are often referred to in the plural. They held an informal position of oversight with the idea of keeping the gathering lined up with scripture through accurate knowledge, rightly-dividing scripture and listening to the Sanctified [Set Apart, Holy] Spirit. (2 Timothy 2:15) These elders did not have a professional association, but simply a casual function within the congregation. Instead, the goal was (and is) for every disciple of Messiah to function as a shepherd, finding and bringing Elohim’s people into a special and close relationship with Him through sharing and friendship. This was designed to be accomplished through teaching and personal relationships. Yet, this has been abandoned in favor of supporting a ‘priestly class’ of professionals while Christians of ‘lower standing’ support them and the demands of government about them. This lower standing and ignorance leads to a carnal life that looks at the commands and traditions of man over the truth and authority of YHWH, or the significance of Yahshua [Jesus] the Messiah and His provision for life. This mindset often substitutes the traditions of men along with rejecting the Counselor that all disciples are to have, the Holy Spirit. (“Disciple of Messiah: Live Your Belief“; “Your Purpose in the Body of Messiah“; “Listening and Doing as a Disciple“; “Consenting to Fables of Men“)
Beyond the function of spiritual elders as shepherds or overseers in local gatherings, Elohim’s people did not have earthly leadership. They looked at Yahshua [Jesus] and the commission that disciples had been given. A hierarchy of man didn’t exist. First century disciples were without priests, a temple or the sacrifice as practiced by the Jews. This was replaced by the sacrifice of Yahshua [Jesus] the Messiah. Apostles had the purpose of planting seeds of truth to establish new gatherings of disciples. These gatherings were not controlled through hierarchy, but by personal love for YHWH and His holy provision for all disciples. Unhappily, this was not always the case, especially as time wore on. (“Which Shepherd Do You Believe?“; “The False Shepherd and the True Shepherd“; “A Time of Hardened Hearts: Strengthening the Brotherhood in Messiah“)
Ignatius of Antioch could be a prime example of a first-century elder run amok, heralded by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Coptic Christians with special status as a ‘saint,’ regardless of the fact that all disciples of Messiah are referred to as ‘saints’ in translations of scripture. Through his letters, it is held that Ignatius believed in elevating one elder above the other elders in a new position known as a ‘bishop.’ The position of bishop had leading power and authority. In a letter to the congregation at Smyrna, the letter reports that “whatever” the bishop “approves, that is pleasing to God…” This kind of power smacks of anything but true leadership in the Messiah. In that time, the role of a bishop was held out as the chief opposer of false doctrine and the champion of church unity. A hierarchy was built through a power structure similar to the political Roman Empire. By the end of the third century, this hierarchy prevailed, in the process of being modeled after the priesthoods of ancient Babylon, Egypt and Persia. The congregation became a powerless group of slaves watching a religious ‘dog and pony show,’ often in a language they could not understand. However, many experts hold the letters that Ignatius wrote as forgeries, composed by others around the time of Constantine and the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church (or later). These letters hold all kinds of corruptions, introducing many early elements of an apostate ‘church’ that shamelessly adopted paganism to further the needs of political power. In time, these bishops could forgive sins and the Roman bishop became the ‘Pope.’ The inventions of man were designed to separate the average disciple from the true ‘High Priest,’ Yahshua [Jesus] Messiah, to become known as ‘Christ’ based on what the Romans called Him. After the Council of Nicea, bishops officially began to delegate tasks to priests with absolute authority, further obscuring the role of believers. Over time, these bishops became occupied with political duties, leaving many religious matters to the priesthood. The average disciple was demoted to little more than a feudal slave, depending on culture over the centuries. (“Responsibility & Accountability“; “Are You Rejecting YHWH’s Holy Spirit?“; “YHWH’s Track of Righteousness“; “Are You a Slave to the Job God?“)
Constantine elevated his version of ‘Christianity’ to the religion of the state. All the bishops, priests and other clerics, often called the clergy (Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria), were exalted with special privileges and exempted from paying taxes, much like the state religions of today. Bishops were endowed with the power of worldly judgment with authority above Roman governors. Constantine ordered fixed salaries for the state church.
Constantine merged the role of Roman Emperor with the rule of the Roman Catholic Church or ‘universal church,’ blurring the separation between the ‘church’ and the world. It’s been said that Judea gave Christianity ethics, Greece gave Christianity theology and that Rome gave Christianity organization while absorbing rival beliefs into the ‘universal church.’ Those that took part in the clergy claimed to possess gifts that were not available to the regular man, deliberately reinforcing their authority in the ‘mysteries of God.’ The more mysterious their teaching, the better it was for their authority. In time, the church became one with Roman law and the clergy became an elite group of ‘holy men,’ ordained through formalized ritual based on Roman secular office. Some church leaders (Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom) held the priest up as an ‘angel of God,’ above the common man. Ordination came to provide divine grace. The bishop became an earthly god ‘under God.’ These are the roots of the pastor that you know today. (Job 32:21; Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6; “The Bible & Higher Authority“; “Disciples of Messiah & the Authority of Man“; “The Real Meaning of Romans 13“; “The Spiritual Authority of Christian Women“)
Those that persecuted all kinds of people into submission through the ‘universal church’ were the worst kind of apostates. The Reformation and many centuries of religious squabbling have not separated Christianity from the paganism that the Roman Catholic Church adopted. Satan continues to blur righteous standards of the Bible with fraudulent religion filled with paganism. Most men see incorporating cultural elements into their beliefs as a harmless practice, without considering the truth of scripture, a scripture that religion has attempted to change. Professed Christians have gone down the same road as their predecessors, the Jews, by adopting the inventions and traditions of man. However, this does not disprove the value of Yahshua [Jesus] and the Divine Sacrifice made for those that will read and obey scripture. (“Discipleship of Messiah: You are a Spiritual Watchman“; “Spiritual Authority & Satan’s Wheels of Destruction“; “Ongoing Corruption of Christianity“; “Christians in the Face of Persecution“)
Yahshua [Jesus] banished all religious forms of hierarchy among disciples. Disciples are to be diakonos or ministering servants, not professional ministers. (Matthew 20:20-26, 23:1-11; Luke 22:24-26) Disciples are not to be spiritually mute and ignorant observers of entertainment. The spiritual Israel that Yahshua [Jesus] created did not establish the organizational models of man that most churches cling to. Nowhere in the first century Bible books does the division of authority between believers exist. All disciples of Messiah share the same status under Yahshua [Jesus] as ‘High Priest.’ All disciples of the Master, all disciples are the new spiritual Israel of YHWH. Sanctified disciples cannot be fettered by the state as a religious corporation ruled by the state. Scripture tells all to get out of Babylon, (Revelation 14:8, 17:1-5, 18:1-8) resisting Satan and his agents. (John 10:10; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3-4; “Leadership & Highly Effective People“)
Instead, spiritual elders are to shepherd the flock of Elohim as supervisors on a voluntary basis, not through overpowering authority or force, nor out of greed, but as examples to those that are less mature. With regard to the role of shepherd, these mature discipless must lovingly guide, grounded in accurate knowledge and the Holy Spirit. This is in stark contrast to one man holding all authority over a group of people. Whatever leadership that does exist is by example without putting overbearing and unscriptural demands on the gathering of YHWH’s people. Any pastor claiming the church assembly as ‘his’ needs to be rebuked. The body or gathering of Messiah belongs to YHWH through the provision of the Messiah and the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 20:28-30) The Bible explains how spiritual elders were to work together for the good of all disciples. (Acts 21:17-26, 1 Corinthians 12:22-23, 26, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 4:1-6, 5:17-22; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 4:11-13; James 5:14; Ezekiel 34:1-4, 7-20, 23-24, 29-31; Revelation 19:11; “The Image & Mark of the Beast System“; “Bible Truth That Many Christians Don’t Accept“; “Listening to the Holy Spirit“)