bits from bob....

Is the modern church of Christ "pastor driven"?

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

I received the above question with a request that I answer it. Before addressing the question, I want to observe that it is difficult to provide a "one size fits all" answer. Consider these options. First, the person asking the question may have been with good heart attempting to understand how God intends the church to function. Second, the person asking the question may be attempting to focus the fact that many elders are largely inactive with regard to their biblically-mandated responsibilities, especially with regard to the shepherding role. Third, the person asking the question may have been calling attention to the fact that some preachers assume roles that are more in keeping biblically with elder responsibilities. Finally, the question as submitted does not define the term "pastor". That is, one cannot tell whether the reference to "pastor" is to biblically chosen pastors-elders, or if the reference is to a single pastor-minister.

In churches of Christ, the accusation is often made that the church is preacher-driven or minister-driven rather than elder-driven. The accusation may be accurate in some churches. However, the accusation may exhibit a lack of awareness of how many churches function. Consider some possible parallels. Is the football team quarterback-driven or coach-driven? Is the university president-driven or board-driven? Are the hospital's activities doctor-driven or administrator-driven? My experience has been that most preachers are trying to do what the elders have asked them to do. The preacher brings ideas to the eldership, but would hardly move ahead with major initiatives without the approval and support of the church leaders. The preacher may be the "front man" or apparent leader, but in many such cases the biblical role of the elders is intact.

In our haste to criticize surrounding religious groups who have "pastors" and boards, we may also exhibit a lack of awareness of how those churches function. We can argue with the terminology (there is no biblical example of churches with only one person filling the "pastorate", and there is no biblical example of "pastors" with specialized responsibilities-youth pastor, singles pastor, etc.), but we often misidentify the roles and the authority exercised. Some churches use the word pastor in much the same way that we use the word minister or preacher. From a practical vantage point, in many churches the "youth pastor" is the youth shepherd and the governing board has delegated that responsibility so they do not have to be involved. That can be true whether we use the term pastor or minister.

Let us seek biblical patterns of shepherding and ministry so that every church member fulfills their appropriate role and responsibility in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).

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Last updated August 15, 2011