I spent a little time with that great concordance in the intarwebs, Bible Gateway, and confirmed my suspicion. In most translations, the only occurrence of the word "pastor" in Scripture is Ephesians 4:11. Let me quote it for you in (brief) context:
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.In Ephesians 4, "pastor" is one spiritual gift among many, mentioned in a list of such gifts, in the context of verse 7: "to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." Other lists of spiritual gifts can be found elsewhere in the New Testament, and one popular (and IMHO helpful) course in vocational discernment lists no fewer than 19 spiritual gifts gleaned directly from the pages of the NT.
9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions [c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
So I ask you: what scriptural basis is there for the fact that nearly every freaking church on the face of the planet has one or more "pastors", who are in charge of the church and (de facto) everything that goes on in it? Why have folks who are expected (de facto) to have all of these gifts in at least enough measure to have authority over all activity in each sphere? Why (most of all) does nearly every church have one person, the "Senior Pastor" or "Rector" or whatnot, who has ultimate authority in the community? If we are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and love one another (John 13:34-35), then why does a single someone need to be "in charge"?
Ah, because co-leadership doesn't work. That's what I hear, anyway. It's contrary to my experience and the experience of others, but lots of people who have never tried it know very well that it doesn't work.
I don't think that there's anything inherently wrong with the role of "pastor" as it's become almost universally expressed in the Church. I have no doubt that there are some people who really are so broadly gifted that the role is an ideal one for them, vocationally. I have no doubt that there are some communities, in some cultural contexts, who are ideally led by a person in that role. But I honestly find it flippin' bizarre that this role has become as universal as it is, given some major drawbacks of this arrangement:
- Having "clergy" - i.e., a class of people who are the designated church leaders and professional Christians - by implication defines the rest of us as not church leaders. This makes it damn hard to do more than pay lip service to the idea of the "priesthood of all believers" - which is a big reason, IMHO, why most churches don't do more than pay lip-service to that 100% scriptural idea. I went back to the Bible Gateway and searched for "priest". This one's harder, so correct me if I'm wrong - but I'm pretty sure that every occurrence of that word prior to Hebrews refers to the Jewish temple priesthood, or possibly to pagan priests. Hebrews talks a lot about priesthood - almost always in relation to Jesus as high priest; the other occasions refer to Melchizedek. Then, finally, there are a handful of references to priesthood in 1 Peter and Revelation, which seem to be the only mentions of Christian priesthood (apart from Christ himself) in Scripture - and all of them refer to the priesthood of all Christians. The Bible seem pretty darn clear on this issue, and my own experience confirms (to my satisfaction, anyway) that all followers of Jesus are gifted by the Spirit, blessed with God-given passions, and called to different forms of ministry and mission. So why do we create two classes of disciples?
- So the existence of "clergy" can allow those who aren't clergy feel like they're off the hook - like they've got somebody else who will do the work of following Jesus (worshiping God, serving neighbors, preaching the gospel, etc.) for them. But what about the clergy themselves? It's been my experience that an awful lot of "pastors" are run ragged by the demands of the rather artificial and extrabiblical role we've constructed for them to inhabit. Part of it has to do with gifting: few people are actually blessed (or saddled) with all the leadership-oriented gifts to the extent that we expect "pastors" to be gifted. (To me, this is not unexpected - Ephesians 5 and other passages indicate that these gifts are given variously to various people, not all to one.) So pastors have to "fake it" in areas where they're not as gifted, which is inherently draining. Part of it is just workload: if one person has to be in charge of everything in a community of any size, how can that not be exhausting? Most larger churches "deal with this" by hiring various associates and assistants and whatnot. Good luck with that. You've spread the exhaustion among a handful of clergy - and maybe a bunch of lay ministers who really "get it" and choose to actively follow Jesus even though it's obviously optional for lay people. (And a huge percentage of the work all these ministers do, typically, is enabling and maintaining programs for the nominal majority, who can see that it's perfectly OK just to show up occasionally and maybe chip in a bit for the high-quality spiritual services they receive.) I know very few clergy who aren't madly overworked. It seems to me that actually expecting to take advantage of the gifts of all community members would take a lot of load off of these over-stressed clergycritters.