Should we dispense with Pastors?

T.C. has an excellent post up which briefly examines this question.

To Viola and Barna the modern day pastor is an easy target—a punching bag, if you will:

THE PASTOR. He is the fundamental figure of the Protestant faith.  So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself!

Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic.  (pp. 105-6, Pagan Christianity, emphasis mine)

For many fundamentalists, this statement in bold is absolutely true.

As a Community Organizer, I spent about three years visiting hundreds of congregations from across the theological and denominational perspectives. One of the new ideas I encountered was the idea that the podium/pulpit/stand which the pastor stands behind didn’t have to be in the middle.

In some of these sanctuaries, the platform area (the area up front, where everyone looks) had two podiums (generally, some had one) for the pastor/preacher and another speaker. In the middle was the communion table which represented Christ, as the Communion itself does.

For me, this is the idea ‘set-up.’ He acknowledges the ministry, but they are no longer front and center – Jesus Christ is. What do you think? Does it matter to whom we see front and center (yes, a loaded question)?


Let me state with Jim – Pastors are needed. This is the comment which I left at Jim’s post:

For the matter, I do not believe we should dispense with Pastors whatsoever, just the idolization and the full reliance upon them to do everything for us that so many have. Pastors are needed, strong pastors.

Oh, and I am in total disagreement with the fundamentalist pastor who reports and is responsible to no one. It is unbiblical.


Kevin has a response to T.C.’s post as well.

You Might Also Like

25 Replies to “Should we dispense with Pastors?”

  1. I’m thinking your point on Fundamentalist Pastors is a stronger point than I’d like to think it is. That chapter would read very differently if it was aimed at more mainline church gov’t.

    It’s also interesting to note, as I’m sure you must have, the historical age of the places that tend to have each style of internal architecture. I’d love to know if you saw many places that bucked that trend – younger traditions/denominations with pulpits off to the side, for instance?

    1. Younger buildings? A few. Older building, younger congregations? about middle. Older building, older congregations, pastors to the side.

      Bill, having grown up in fundamentalists churches, where the pastors do not report to anyone, nor train anyone, etc…, I have seen something happen to the pastor, and everything go south quickly.

  2. Here is the comment I lfte on TC’s site…

    Here is a thought…

    If, as Eph 4 states, the church was given pastor(s) as a gift, then perhaps if a church were to remove the title/office of Pastor and seek out those in the body who are gifted as pastor, then the body would be well served by a multitiude of pastors gifted by the Spirit of Christ.

    I do believe this is the essence of Viola’s chapter…the positive to the negative of removing a Pastor.”

    1. John, thanks for the comment.

      My other view is that the pastor/teacher is so far down the ‘gift’ line but yet, we have elevated them to such a level that is frankly, non-scriptural. Yes, their are leaders, ministers, pastors/teachers, but in many places, it is only one pastor, answering to none. We need to remove the centrality of the pastor, and indeed, exercise the Body more.

  3. The job of the gifts/offices listed in Eph 4 was to work themselves out of a job.

    We need somebody. Pastors will do, if they can train people to independency.

  4. A couple questions:

    1) What about a more congregational style of leadership? Does there have to be a single entity on whom the focus rests (whether at the center or on the side)?

    2) You talk about how a “fundamentalist pastor who reports and is responsible to no one” is unbiblical, but what is the alternative? If hierarchy is the alternative (i.e. being responsible to higher-ups in the church structure), the buck stops with someone, meaning there is no fundamental difference—the “unbiblical” thing you’re referencing is simply higher up the chain. If the answer has to do with reporting and being responsible to a group of people (to prevent this hierarchy from ending with one guy in power), how is this different from essentially congregational leadership, with the “elders” running the show?

    1. 1.) Exactly what I am speaking about. From the beginning, there seems to have been a plurality in the ministry. Today, for many, there is only one.

      2.) I don’t necessarily support the hierarchy either. Instead, I think that their is a mix, in which some authority lies in the hands of the congregation and some in the plurality of the ministry. There should not be one person who answers to no one, self-appointed, who controls everything, money – power, everything.

      Does that answer you question, Jason?

      1. More or less, yes. I think all too often when people talk about church authority, they’re imposing a hierarchical system not witnessed in the New Testament or not recognizing that the “one-man” problem doesn’t go away if it’s simply pushed higher up the ladder. It seems that the New Testament church was quite charismatically oriented—but also under the supervision of groups of “elders” (i.e. veterans in the faith), who tried to ensure things didn’t get out of control.

        The problem is that this is not a “safe” system, so things tend to move towards hierarchy so people can feel more comfortable that things are being truly overseen. As a historian, it’s interesting to me to trace the theological developments in ecclesiology both in the early centuries of Christianity and today.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.