One must have three flavors of ice-cream to truly have a Neapolitan. Three distinct flavors for one amazing experience. Now, those who loath one of the flavors try and pick out the ones they like. Sometimes people cheat and slice the separate flavors apart. Then you don’t have Neapolitan, you just have three different flavors of ice-cream. The office of pastor is like Neapolitan ice-cream, three distinct flavors that make for one distinct office.
The three flavors
The Bible uses three key terms for the office of Pastor: Pastor/shepherd, Elder, Bishop/overseer. To see these terms used interchangeably, read 1 Peter 5:1-3. In fact Titus 1:5-9 use two flavors interchangeably while describing their actions as that of the third flavor of the other. In Acts 20:17;28-30 Paul talks with elders in their role as bishops to perform the task of shepherds. When you hear the term pastor, think three flavors, one dessert.
Flavor #1: Elder
The term elder is a carry over form judaism. Elders would gather to offer council and wisdom. This is a critical role for the pastor. It should also be noted that elders is frequently given in the plural. A key aspect we see in ministry is that it should not be done alone. Even Jesus sent out his disciples two by two. This flavor carries the idea of wisdom and team.
Flavor #2: Bishop
The term bishop or overseer carries the idea of administration or leadership. Clearly Jesus chose to organize his religion to make sure all is done in order. Paul’s instructions to the church of Corinth, Timothy, and Titus points to the need for order. (For a later discussion, order is not the opposite of love and authenticity.) This flavor carries the idea of administration.
Flavor #3: Shepherd
The term shepherd carries the idea of protection and feeding. It is a stewardship role whereby someone takes care of the flock of his owner. In this case, pastors take care of Jesus’ sheep. The descriptions of shepherds for the church is to guard against false doctrine and to teach proper doctrine. Of note in the 4 gifts Jesus gave to the church, the term pastor-teacher us used. Jesus’ concern with Peter at the end of John was that he would shepherd. This flavor carries the idea of protection and teaching.
Of the three flavors, the term pastor is most often used. It should be noted that Jesus gave pastors, not CEO’s. This is not to say that leadership isn’t needed in the church. That flavor is clearly there and it is described as a gift. But, the primacy of these three flavors is to pastor. In Proverbs 29:18 it says that without vision people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law. It is vital that people are regularly taught the Scriptures with clarity. Without that, interaction with the living word of God, nothing else will truly matter. The idea isn’t to be scholars, but to have a clear view of who God is and to live in light of that.