3159 21st Street N.
St. Petersburg, FL
Elder Steve Shelton
(727) 822-1918



 By Jerry D. Locke

     For several months I have had this title for an article in my files. From time to time I have said to a preacher here and there, "I am going to write an article, 'The Pastor -- Neither Puppet nor Pope.' "On those occasions I have had favorable responses encouraging me to tackle the task. Only after several months of consideration do I feel comfortable enough to handle such a dangerous subject. 
     For the past eighteen years I have had the privilege of pastoring five of the Lord's churches in the state of Texas. They have ranged in size from less than 20 to more than 200. Each church has had its own unique challenge and each church has made its own profound contribution to my life. Also, while pastoring God has allowed me the honor of traveling in the southern states preaching in many churches for revival meetings, youth rallies, summer camps, and Bible con­ferences. During this time I have quietly observed two diverse concepts regarding the role and responsibilities of the pastor.
     On one hand, there are churches that believe the pastor's primary responsibility is the preaching of God's Word.  A certain group in the church, usually the deacons, are in complete charge of the church's affairs when it comes to policy and finances and the pastor is little more than a puppet.
     On the other hand, there are pastors who think they are above and beyond the people in the church and are accountable to no one but God. A well-known and respected fundamen­talist preacher, Curtis Hutson, says in his book, Ingredients Of A Great Church, "God doesn't bless a ministry, God blesses a man. The local church is the product of God's blessing upon a man." Dr. Hutson then illustrates his point by referring to the decline of Spurgeon's Tabernacle in London and the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta after the deaths of their respec­tive pastors. In both cases the building remains, but the congregations became very small. In some circles, the pastor is pope -- infallible, the final authority on earth, and the next thing to God Himself.
     As in every discussion, there is always a little truth to be found. And there lies the danger t a little truth. It is not my intention to criticize either the churches that run their pastors or the pastors that run their churches. Each group is firmly entrenched in their belief that they are "right." The real issue is, "WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?" In the light of divine Scripture, what is the role and responsibility of the pastor?

 The Pastor is To Preach

     Few churches would disagree that the pastor is to be the preacher for God's church. Early in the ministry of the Apostles they made God's Word a primary priority (Acts 6:1-4). Paul proudly Said he was ordained a "preacher" (I Timothy 2:7). He also charged Timothy, the young pastor, to "preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2).
     No one would dare try to take the Bible out of the pastor's hand and tell him he can't preach the Word of God. The rub usually comes when the pastor preaches something someone doesn't like! You know, something like tithing, or holy living, or witnessing, or against gossiping. No one would tell the pastor he can't preach the Word of God, but they do withhold their tithe and atten­dance and starve him and his family out.

 The Pastor Is To Be Overseer

     According to Acts 20:28 the Holy Spirit places the pastor as "overseer" of the church. It is a shame that in so many churches the calling of a pastor is reduced to a parade of personalities. When a church follows the direction of God, the Holy Spirit brings the right pastor and the right church together. And when the church votes to call the pastor and the pastor accepts the church, there is more than human deci­sions involved· The church and pastor are actually agreeing with God's will and God's leading. The real fact is the Holy Spirit appoints pastors to His churches; the churches follow God's appointments.
     The word "overseer" means one who "see over." It's really that simple. The pastor is to see over all the work of the church. The pastor is not expected~ to do all the work, but he is expected to oversee all the work of the church. In other places the pastor is given the title of "bishop," which means superinten­dent (1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:7; Philippians 1:1).
     In some churches there are clearly some "hands off" areas where the pastor is to stay out. The pastor is per­mitted to preach, but the administra­tion of the church is not in his job description. The pastor is allowed to oversee his pulpit, but not the treasurer or the choir or the Sunday School.
     Peter tells the elders of his day, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, TAKING THE OVER­SIGHT thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3). It has been well said that if the pastor does not take the oversight of the church he pastors, someone else in the church will. Peter teaches us here that one can oversee the affairs of the church and at the same time not lord over the church.

The Pastor Is To Rule

      There is such a negative attitude toward authority in general, that even God's established authority is disregarded and downplayed.

     Look closely at what the Bible says:

·        "Let the elders that RULE well be counted worthy of double honour  " (1 Timothy 5:17).

·        "Remember  them which have the RULE over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God. " (Hebrew 13:7)

·        "Obey them that have the RULE over you, and submit yourselves..." (Hebrews 13:17).

·        "Salute them that have the RULE over you, and all the saints." (Hebrews 13:24).

This word "rule" according tor W. E. Vine, a well-respected Greek scholar, means "literally 'to stand before'; and hence, to lead, to care to tend to, has the meaning of presiding over."
      A common complaint of some church members against their pastor is that he is too domineering,  maybe even a dictator. I have no intention of cover­ing for those few pastors who may be overbearing and arrogant. There may be a few men who see themselves as "popes" over God's churches. But in over forty years as a P.K. (preacher's kid) and over twenty years as a preacher I have not met one.
     On the other hand, I have known quite a few pastors who tried to lead their churches in soul winning and growth who have been asked to leave. In many churches, a charter member, someone with the money, a domineer­ing woman, or the deacons are the rulers of the church. What they say goes. And if they insist, the pastor goes! This is a violation of Scriptural teaching, for the pastor is to be the leader of the church.
     When Christ sent His messages to the seven churches of Asia in Revela­tion 2 & 3 they came to the "angel" of the church, the pastor. The church may not recognize and respect the authority of the pastor, but God does.

The Pastor Is Accountable.

     It would be foolish to think that a pastor could do a good job without some accountability to his church. The pastors of the New Testament were not above the members. They were in one body, the local church. The pastor is accountable to the church. He is accountable to the church for his doctrinal, moral and spiritual condition.
     But in like fashion, the church is accountable to the pastor. That's right! The Bible says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls. "(Hebrews 13:17). The church is to "follow" the pastor. "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversa­tion'' (Hebrews 13:7). I have known some churches that would not follow their pastor's recommendation for a certain preacher to hold a meeting or purchase of some much-needed equip­ment. In many churches, the pastor is not as respected as some of the "old-timers" in the church.
     Further, the pastor is accountable to God for the work of the church. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for you souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is un­profitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17). At the Judgment Seat of Christ every pastor will give account to God for his administration of the Lord's church. Charles Spurgeon asked a young preacher of the size of the church he pastored. "We have only about 50," the young man said. Spurgeon is said to have replied, "That is more than you will want to give account to God for at the Judgment."
     From my study of the Word of God I am again convinced that the pastor is neither a puppet nor a pope. As a man, the pastor is capable of blunders and mistakes. The pastor may not always be right, but he is always the pastor. And when a man faithfully performs the office of a pastor, he is to be highly respected and honored to the glory of  God.

The Scripture teaches the church to:

·        Take care of the Pastor – 1 Corinthians 9:13-14.

·        Esteem the Pastor in love - - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

·        Honor the Pastor -- 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

·        Remember the Pastor - - Hebrews 13:7.

·        Obey the Pastor -- Hebrews 13:17.