Pastors are important in Christ’s church, but there is a lot of confusion about their role. It seems that many people do not understand what the Bible says about them, so their expectations of them are sometimes flawed. The term “pastor” is not a title as much as a description. It means something important, and their function in the church should be understood and appreciated.

ROBERT >> Evangelists and pastors. That was the subject of our lesson last week, and we want to continue it this week. What’s the difference between an evangelist and a pastor? And what does that matter to me as a member of the body of Christ, his church?

>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.

ROBERT >> In our study of the church, that church you read about in your Bible, we have learned that it is described as the body of Christ. In Ephesians 1:22-23 we learn that Christ is head over all things to the church which is his body. Christ is head of the church, but in the body of Christ are various members that play different roles, that perform different functions.

We’re looking at Ephesians 4:11-12, where we read about some of those offices in the church. It says here that, He Himself, that is, Jesus Christ, gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. He went on to say, For the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The apostles and prophets, the evangelists, pastors and teachers have been given to equip the church for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, the church.

Already we’ve discussed the apostles and prophets who delivered to us the will of Christ for his church. It’s been preserved for us in the Bible. And thus, the apostles and prophets have served their purpose in the church. But we also read about evangelists and pastors, teachers. We looked last week at the evangelists, and we learned that the evangelists were the preachers of the gospel, the proclaimers of the good news of Jesus Christ, the ministers of the word of God. We learned how important they are to the church, to reaching out to other souls, to helping other souls not only outside the church, but inside the church to get to heaven by the proclaiming of the message of Christ, by continuing to point people to Christ. It was so important that they get into the word, that they study, that they meditate on that word, and that they live that word in their own life that they might be an example for all others.

Evangelists are so important to the church that God would have the church support the evangelist in the work that he is doing so he can devote himself fully and completely to the preaching of the gospel. We all need evangelists in the church. But we also need pastors.

You’ll notice that these are two separate and distinct offices. He gave some to be apostles and prophets, he gave some to be evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. And so there is a distinction made. Just as is there is between an apostle and a prophet, so is there a distinction between an evangelist and a pastor. The preacher is not the pastor; the pastor is not the preacher. It’s two separate and distinct functions and offices in the church: The evangelist, the preacher of the gospel, and then there’s the pastor.

The pastors of that church you read about in your Bible, they were shepherds. They were those that were in charge of the flock of God among them; that is, the congregation of God’s people. These shepherds, these pastors were to watch out for them, they were to feed them, they were to tend them, they were to take care of them. And these pastors or shepherds were the elders, the older ones in the church.

They were the presbyters. These were men of age and experience. These were mature men. And these mature men who served as shepherds in the church were also the overseers or the bishops of the church, the superintendents of the congregation.

Let’s see how this all plays out in Acts the 20th chapter. If you’ll turn with me there in your Bibles, you will remember that the apostle Paul was completing his preaching tour, and he wanted to speak with the elders of Ephesus before he went on to Jerusalem. And so here in Acts chapter 20 he called for these elders from Ephesus, the congregation there, to meet him at the city of Miletus.

It says in Acts 20:17, From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called for the elders of the church. Elders from Ephesus, come down and meet me here in Miletus. I have some things to say to you. And so the apostle spoke to them when they met him there, and among the things that he said to them, I want you to notice verse 28.

Here he says, Therefore take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. Now you’ll notice in this passage that Paul is talking to those elders, those older men, those mature men of age and experience, and he’s telling them that they are overseers. Bishops is the way it’s sometimes translated. These are the superintendents of the church. So the elders, he says, you are the overseers.

And he says that you are to shepherd the church. There’s the word pastor in its verb form. You’re to shepherd the church. You’re to tend the church, you’re to feed the church, you’re to protect the church, to watch out for the church like a shepherd would his flock. Shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.

Oh, what a serious, what a sobering word the apostle Paul has for the elders who serve as bishops or overseers and pastors or shepherds in the church. The church was purchased with the blood of Christ. It’s precious to him. But he has given these souls into the hands of these shepherds or pastors. And they’re to take care of the church.

As you read on in these verses, look in verse 29. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Paul knew that false teachers would come into the church. Some would arise right out of the church. And they would try to draw people away from God, try to take them away from Christ, to destroy the church. And so he goes on to say in verse 31, Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn every one night and day with tears. So now brethren I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul was concerned about the souls of the church, that they would indeed not forfeit their inheritance, but enjoy that inheritance one day. And so as he’s with these elders who are bishops or overseers, who serve as shepherds and pastors of the congregation, he encourages them to go to God and to go to his word that he might protect the flock of God among them, their congregation.

Look at this also with me, if you will, in 1 Peter chapter 5. In 1 Peter chapter 5 we see this very same kind of instruction. Now, Peter, who was an apostle, also served as an elder in the church. And so it shows us that one man may serve in two different offices at the same time. One might be an apostle and also an elder, like the apostle Peter. One might be a preacher, but he also might serve as an elder. One might serve in various functions and roles in the church at the same time. But let’s remember that an evangelist is not a pastor and a pastor is not an evangelist. They’re two separate and distinct offices, though one man may serve in both of those offices at the same time.

Now here in 1 Peter 5, Peter says, The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder. So this apostle was also an elder with these other elders. He says, A witness of the sufferings of Christ. That speaks of his apostleship. And also a partaker of the glory which will be revealed, as all of us will be partakers of the glory of Christ if we keep faith with Him in the end.

What does Peter, this apostle who also served as an elder, say to the other elders? Look at verse 2. He says, Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers; not by compulsion, but willingly; not for dishonest gain, but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. You see in this passage once again that the elders, these men of age and experience, these mature men in the congregation, were to be the shepherds or the pastors of the church. They were to shepherd the church, again, to feed the church, to tend the flock. Shepherd the flock of God among you. And these elders who served as shepherds or pastors were also the overseers, serving as overseers. There’s the word sometimes translated bishop, the superintendents of the congregation.

And you’ll notice that these elders who were shepherds or pastors who were overseers of the church, that these were to actually be an example for the church. He says, Not as being lords, verse 3, over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. Not only did the pastors rule over as bishops and lead as shepherds, but they were to be an example, one who is truly watching out for and feeding and tending and protecting every member of the congregation.

I want you to note that pastors have the oversight of the church among them only. Did you see what Peter said? The flock of God among you. It’s not for a pastor of one congregation to try to pastor another or for one bishop to try to be put over several different congregations. No, the pastors rule over the flock of God among them only.

And let me also say that each congregation is autonomous, or self-governing. That’s what Peter means when he tells us that the elders have oversight of only one congregation. Every congregation is its own congregation, with its own elders, with its own pastors, bishops, or elders.

And so you see here that as we look at that church in the Bible, the church of Christ you read about in the Bible, we’ve got Christ as head and we’ve got the apostles and prophets who delivered to us the word of God, and we’ve got evangelists who are about preaching the gospel of Christ; but in each congregation there are also these men, these elders who serve as superintendents or shepherds or pastors over the flock of God.

Notice also that there was a plurality of pastors in each congregation. That’s right. God never set up one man, just one man, over any congregation. And you see this over and over again as you read about the church in the New Testament. Look with me in the book of Acts. As the church had its beginning in Acts chapter 2 and began to spread and Christians began to meet in different places around the world, these congregations formed.

In Acts 11:30 we read this: And this they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Elders. Not an elder or the elder, but elders, plural. Elders, plural, ruled over the church, the congregations in those days.

Look at it in Acts 14:23. So when they had appointed elders, plural, in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Again it was elders, plural, in every congregation.

In Acts 15:2, Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. It was not just one, but many.

Look in Acts 15:4, and again we read about the elders, plural.

In Acts 15:6, it was the apostles and elders, plural, that came together to make a decision here in this chapter.

Look over in Acts chapter 20. You remember we read in verse 17 how the apostle Paul called for the elders to meet him in Miletus? Elders, plural, not just some elder from Ephesus, not some head elder or top elder or chief elder or senior elder; no, it was the elders, plural.

And it was the elders to whom he spoke in Acts 20:28. He said, That the Holy Spirit made you overseers, plural, to shepherd the church of God.

This is a pattern that we see throughout the New Testament church, throughout the scriptures.

In Philippians 1:1 when the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he began to open the letter this way: He said, Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. Not with the bishop, the head bishop; no, he said with the bishops, plural.

In Titus 1:5, the apostle Paul gives instructions to this preacher. Look what it says. For this reason I left you in Crete that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders, plural, in every city, as I commanded you.

And so we see the elders who served as the bishops and the pastors in the church were always in a plural number. They were an eldership, if you will.

Look in 1 Timothy 4:14. Here the Bible says, Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership, the council or estate of the elders.

It was not just one man who ruled over any congregation. Each congregation was self-governing, it was autonomous; but the elders, plural, served as the overseers and the bishops of the congregation.

Now I want you to notice that not just any person could serve as a pastor in the church, or a bishop. The pastors had to be qualified.

Look with me if you will in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. This is a faithful saying. If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle; not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? Not a novice or a new convert, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. And moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

You see, to be a pastor, to be selected and appointed and placed in the position of a pastor over a congregation, one had to meet certain qualifications. He was a married man, and he had proved himself as a faithful husband. He was a father of children, and he proved himself at home as one who ruled his house well. He was one who lived a righteous life, a man of reputation, a man of good and righteous heart. And you can read some more about these qualifications in Titus 1:5-9.

We also notice here from 1 Timothy 3:11 something about their wives. Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

Yes, it’s important, the wife that would stand by her husband as he served with the other elders as pastor in the congregation. And so we learn that in these congregations of that church you read about in the Bible, there were a number of elders who would serve as pastors, overseers of the congregation. Not just any elders, but those who met these qualifications.

But let me leave you today with the idea of our relationship as other members in the church to these pastors of the congregation. Let’s notice a few things about that.

First of all, they should be counted worthy of double honor. Look with me in 1 Timothy 5:17-18. Here’s what it says: Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine; for the scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain, and the laborer is worthy of his wages. Just as we learned last week that the evangelist was to live by the preaching of the gospel, that he was deserving of the support of the church for the work that he does, so this is also true concerning the elders who serve as pastors and bishops in the congregation. They’re worthy of double honor.

We ought to give them the proper respect as those who are over us in the Lord. But they also are worthy of our financial support, monetary support as well, that they might devote themselves fully and completely to the work of the church.

Let’s notice something else about our relationship with these men. Against an elder receive not an accusation. Look at 1 Timothy 5:19. Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. This is so important, because we don’t want to, just because we don’t like an elder or maybe don’t agree with all of the opinions and decisions he makes for the congregation, to get rid of him.

Unless there is an accusation that can be established by at least two or three witnesses, we should not seek to remove an elder from his position over us in the Lord. We must show them the proper honor and respect as those whom God has placed to help his church.

And number three, we need to know them, and we need to esteem them exceeding highly in love. Look with me in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. Here the Bible says, And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

Yes, these who serve over us, let’s get to know them. Let’s get to know them closely. Let’s come to them when we have needs. Let’s learn to trust them, develop a relationship with them so they can truly help us and we can help them. Let’s esteem them exceeding highly in love. These are not ones to be spoken against, but are those to admire because of the work that they’re doing for us and to lift them up and encourage them, to show them the love that they are deserving because they’ve given themselves for us.

And then fourthly, let’s obey them and submit to them, as the Bible says in Hebrews 13:17. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive; for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Oh, it’s a difficult work enough to deal with a congregation and all the problems that may be there; and so let’s submit to them.

Let’s let them know that we’ll follow their lead and that we’ll encourage them in the work that they’re doing. And finally, if you’re sick, call for the elders.

That’s what James says in chapter 5, verse 14. You need something, you look to these great spiritual leaders for the help that you need. Folks, let’s be that church we read about in the Bible where Christ is head; where we follow the instructions of the apostles and prophets as delivered to us in the scripture; where we have evangelists who preach the gospel, and we respect those elders who are over us, who serve as pastors, who shepherd us. And thank God that we can be a part of that body.

Let’s thank God today because Jesus Christ has provided us a family, a body who loves us, who cares for us, who can help us all towards heaven. And will you let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you today?

>> I know that my redeemer lives and ever prays for me.
I know eternal life he gives, from sin and sorrow free.

I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.

I know that over yonder stands a place prepared for me,
a home, a house not made with hands most wonderful to see.

I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.

>> Rock of ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.
Let the water and the blood from thy riven side which flowed be of sin the double cure.
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to thy cross I’ll cling.
Naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace.
Vile I to the fountain fly;
wash me, savior, or I die.

ROBERT >> I hope that you found today’s lesson helpful. And to help you in your continued study, we’d like to offer you a free copy of today’s lesson. Thankfully, members of churches of Christ make these materials available to our viewers absolutely free of charge. And all you have to do is contact us, let us know the name of the program you’d like to have a copy of.

You can see the title of today’s program on your screen. Let us know the format which you’d like to have it. You can have the program in the form of an audio CD or a DVD or a written transcript. And you can have any of these formats, again, free of charge. It won’t cost you a thing. You can contact us in a number of ways. We have an 800 number that’s a voice mail system where you can leave the pertinent information. The number is 800-819-2966. If you’d like to e-mail that request, our e-mail address is You can go to our web site, which is If you want to send us a postcard or a letter, our mailing address is P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053. And again, we stress to you there’s no cost or obligation. We just want you to have the material, and we thank you for watching.

>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so.
Showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.

Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.

Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low,
till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven, sing that old sweet song.

Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven sing the sweetest song of all.

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