The "ONE MAN PASTOR" System is NOT in the Bible
-by Andrew Strom.
Most churches today are run using the 'Senior Pastor'
model, where one man (-almost always with a degree
from Bible College) does most of the ministering and
is looked up to as "the man of God". Few could deny
that pastors are truly the ones who are running the
But amazingly enough, in the Book of Acts, which is
the history of the first 30 YEARS of the early church,
the word 'Pastor' is NOT EVEN MENTIONED ONCE. In
fact, even in the whole New Testament the word is only
used one time - and that is near the bottom of a list of
ministries in the church: "It was he who gave some to be
apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists,
and some to be pastors and teachers..." (Eph 4:11, NIV).
-This is the only place where the word 'Pastor' can be found.
There were elders and 'overseers' (-these terms are inter-
changeable) in the New Testament church. But that is
totally different from the position of "one man pastor" that
we have today.
So how did Pastors end up running everything? And what
effect does this have on the church?
Well, when you study history it becomes obvious that we
mostly got this concept from Rome - not from the Bible.
As Beckham said (-quoted in one of our previous articles):
"Using a combination of the Roman governmental and
feudal systems, Emporer Constantine developed a church
structure that has lasted for seventeen centuries... People
go to a building (cathedral) on a special day of the week
(Sunday) and someone (a priest, or today, a pastor) does
something to them (teaching, preaching, absolution or
healing) or for them (a ritual or entertainment) for a price (offerings)."
In most cases, what we are seeing today is the
continuation of this "Clergy and Laity" system that
dominated the church during the Dark Ages. There is
very little difference, really. The titles have changed but
apart from that it is basically the old Roman Catholic
system of professional 'Priests' running everything. We
call them 'pastors' but the position is basically the same.
These are people who have gained a degree from Bible
College, and now we pay them to be our "minister". Never
mind the fact that we are ALL supposed to be ministers!
What this results in is two different 'classes' in the church.
-The "ministering" class and the "churchgoing" class
(or 'laity'). -Which is something that God utterly detests.
He cannot stand His people being divided up into 'classes'
like this. It is the doctrine of the "Nicolaitans" (Rev 2).
But is it really that bad? What harm does it really do?
Below are the specific ways that this "one man pastor"
model does enormous harm to the church:
(1) It puts one person on a pedestal - above all others. In
many churches this veneration of the pastor closely
resembles Idolatry. His word is law and the entire
church revolves around this one man.
(2) This leads directly to PRIDE. The position that we
place these men in is terribly dangerous for them and
for the whole church. It is very difficult NOT to develop
Pride when treated in this way. Pride is the most subtle
and spiritually fatal of diseases. It wreaks havoc wherever
it finds a home.
(3) Control, manipulation and spiritual abuse become
common where power is concentrated in the hands of
one 'venerated' figure. Power corrupts. Flattery corrupts.
Veneration corrupts. And before you know it, people
are being terribly damaged and wounded by the control
and the "management techniques" being exerted from the
top. Then new teachings on "covering" and "submission"
are wheeled out, to lend an air of legitemacy to the
oppression that is being visited upon people. Everyone
is told to 'submit' and not to question. The "one man
pastor" system lends itself to this whole scenario like a
hand in a glove. It is virtually made for it.
(4) It turns the church into a bunch of "spectators". In
other words, everybody sits around and watches while the
'professionals' do most of the work. It is their "job" after
all. -This is an absolute disaster. For we ALL have gifts
and callings and anointings from God.
(5) The position lends itself to "robes and titles". Jesus
said to his disciples, "You are not to be called 'Rabbi,'
because you have only one Master and you are all
brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you
have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be
called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ."
(See Matt 23:5-12, NIV). -None of this seems to stop
men from taking on "titles" today.
(6) Many pastors by their nature tend to be "play it safe"
types. They don't like the boat being rocked and they
are often resistant to real change. The fact that today's
church is in the hands of pastors, rather than apostles
and prophets (as it should be) who are the "risk-takers"
of the church, means that it is slow to react and is easily
out-manoevred by the enemy. We desperately need
anointed 'risk-takers' and change-oriented leaders today.
(7) Because the position of Pastor is usually the "only job
going" in the church, it forces many who are actually
evangelists or prophets to become Pastors, just so they
can get to minister. Often they are quite out of place, and
many times this leads to disaster.
(8) All of this creates such a load on the shoulders of
the man that is appointed Senior Pastor, that this job
has one of the worst BURNOUT rates in the western
(9) At the end of the day, just like church buildings, the
best reason for rejecting this model of leadership is that
it is simply NOT IN THE BIBLE.
Some people say that having a 'board of elders' who
can hire or fire the pastor keeps all of this in check. Not
so. It may keep the "control" side of things down, but
the mere fact that they feel the need to "appoint a
pastor" just shows how hooked into this system they
really are. It is centuries old, and all we are doing is
So how did they do things in the New Testament?
Well, the first thing we need to realize is that the
apostles were not "professionals". Apart from Paul they
had never been to Bible College. (-These were run by
the Pharisees!) Most of the apostles were simple
fishermen and tax-collectors. But they had spent MUCH
TIME WITH JESUS. -That was their qualification.
And it is clear that Pastors were never in charge of the
church. It was the APOSTLES who were given that role.
But they never "lorded it over" the people. And wherever
they went they appointed elders or overseers (plural) to
watch over the church in their absence. Unfortunately,
some translations of the Bible use the word "Bishop",
which gives the impression of a 'hierarchy'. But this was
not in the original. As Greek scholar W.E. Vine states:
"'Presbuteros', an elder, is another term for the same
person as bishop or overseer. See Acts 20:17 with verse 28."
So these were just simple "elders" - that's all.
It was only when the church fell into serious decline and
then into Romanism that the complicated "hierarchies"
began. Before this, it was all very simple. Perhaps one
day it will be so again.
Now, some will want to ask - Does all this information
make me "anti-pastor"? -Not on a personal level. In
fact, I tend to get on with pastors pretty well. I meet
them all the time. But we have to realize that a lot of
them are struggling inside a system that is completely
unscriptural - and change has got to come.
God bless you, my friends!
Kindest regards in Christ,