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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century » Blog Archive » Styrofoam Theology: Part 1- Pastors and Organic Church


There is a kind of hocus-pocus going on in current evangelical (emerging) conversations. It is a kind of conversational slight-of-hand that is doing away with the concept of pastor. The word “pastor” and the idea of pastor is besieged by many and is being cast into the circular file of irrelevancy. With alleged biblical support and 1st century historical underpinnings , the pastor, presto!, disappears. The sad reality of this confident discovery is that if you do away with pastor, you do away with Jesus. I don’t think that has crossed the minds of the newly enlightened ones.

Jesus was so bold as to call himself twice the “good pastor” (John 10:11, 14). The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus the “great pastor” (Hebrews 13:20) and Peter describes Jesus as “the chief pastor” (1 Peter 5:4). In case it has slipped the minds of the wizened organic church types, the English word pastor comes from the Latin word for “shepherd” which translates the Greek word poimen in each of the aforementioned texts. Jesus didn’t call himself the good-priesthood-of-all-believers-guy. He dared to call himself not a pastor, but the good pastor. Do away with pastor and do away with Jesus. Wow, what amazing things verbal slight-of-hand can do! Gospel magic revisited.

I know the term (poimen) in noun form is only used twice of human leaders (Ephesians 4:11 and Jude 12). Jude gives us a description of bad pastors and Paul mentions pastors as gifted leaders to the church. Paul, now get this, is never called a pastor nor ever described himself by that term. Paul was an apostle. Even Timothy and Titus were not pastors; they were apostolic delegates, emissaries speaking and acting on Paul’s behalf. Yet, human pastors, good and bad, show up in the Scripture right along with apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, overseers, elders, etc. Imagine that. But wait! There’s more. The verbal form, the ministry of pastoring, is mentioned twice, also. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve…” (1 Peter 5:2). It seems that pastoring is what elders/overseers do. Elder, what do you do? I pastor. We have not even tapped into the rich Old Testament sources that fill the New Testament term shepherd/pastor with amazingly relevant meaning. It cannot be denied that behind Jesus’ use of shepherd/pastor in John 10 looms the majestic text of Ezekiel 34.

“But, John,” you respond, “you have got to realize that the church, the church is a leveled playing field. The priesthood of all believers means that we are all apostles and prophets and pastors and teachers and evangelists, blah, blah, blah. Jesus is the head.” So, the new thinking and writing goes. There are no leaders in the church. There is no hierarchy. That’s pagan Christianity. What is so sad is that none of this new thinking is biblical and it is certainly not supported by history, 1st century or otherwise.

So, if you are a pastor as I am, hang tough. When all this trendy organic stuff goes the way of all styrofoam theology, you’ll still be faithful to your calling, training and ministry. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, has his eye on you and your church. I think he sits on a throne and is surrounded by the 24 elders. Imagine that, heaven is not a level playing field, either. I don’t know if the new thinkers will ever realize that as pastors we live and serve within a monarchy and not within USAmerican play churches. They seem to have a beef against the enculturation of the church and think their skewed view of church gives them license to re-interpret the New Testament text and re-write 1st century church history. That, to me, is sad.