Are pastors an obstacle to the priesthood of believers?

TC Robinson has a post “The Pastor: Obstacle to every member functioning”. He has raised a question in the blogosphere that has more of us thinking.  It provoked something in me that saddens me because I think it is true.  For many of the pastor-centric churches/congregations, the pastor has been an obstacle to a properly functioning congregation.

TC’s quote from Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna says that 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)

The early church did not have pastors or priests like we do today but the church was able to function.   The people held on to their faith in Christ and died in the name of Jesus Christ.  The church didn’t die but prevailed in the face of persecution, trials and tribulations.  Did the early church have sermons and teaching? Or prayers? Liturgy? Or hymns and songs?  Probably, but they were not officiated by the pastor/priest.   The laity or the people presided over the worship services way before there was ever a pastor as we know today.

The bible mentions shepherds, overseers, elders and deacons, but my question is what positional authority did these positions include?  If we removed the position and authority of the pastor as we know it today, would the church begin to function like it should–as a priesthood of all believers?

13 thoughts on “Are pastors an obstacle to the priesthood of believers?”

  1. A.Amos, how about this one?

    Convulsions: Violent turmoil: “The market convulsions of the last few weeks have shaken the world”

    Violent turmoil happens when a church that is still dependent upon a pastor loses their pastor. If this qualifies as violent turmoil, it’s a convulsion.
    Well, I can’t argue with all your scripture verses, so yes, I’d have to say that Jesus is enough. Yes, Jesus is enough for forgiveness, salvation and life. I don’t deny that Jesus is enough.
    Didn’t God give us the gifts of human faculties of learning and communication? If so, doesn’t God expects us to use the gifts He has given us. God’s gifts are not for our glory, but for the glory of God. Apart from God’s gifts, pastors/leaders/teachers can do nothing, so yes, Jesus is not just enough but Jesus is all we can depend on. As soon as we solely depend on the human faculties that God gifted us with (that is, without continuous dependence upon God), we are rejecting God’s dominion and authority. That’s my answer to Jesus is enough.

    And A.Amos, human faculties and gifts to enhance our learning and communication doesn’t exclude God’s revelation but our gifts ought to work in conjunction with God’s revelation. We don’t need less pastors/leaders/teachers/ but God has given us responsibility to raise up even more pastors/leaders/teachers so that the pastor-centric church doesn’t have to depend only on the pastor for leadership.


  2. Kevin – Why isn’t Jesus enough?

    Kevin said – “If we get rid of the position of the pastor as we know it today, the people might go into convulsion.”

    And that’s bad because of why? 😉


    • ( convulsions) uncontrollable laughter : the audience collapsed in convulsions.

    (Wouldn’t it be “hysterical” if those who were taught they were leaders, humbled themselves,
    gave up their titles and positions, and realized that Jesus could build “His Church” without us,
    without our seminaries, our christian radio stations, christian newspapers, christian publishers etc.)
    Why isn’t Jesus enough?

    • an earthquake or other violent or major movement of the earth’s crust : the violent convulsions of tectonic plates.

    (Aren’t we made from the dust of the earth?) (Isn’t the “Body of Christ” to be shaken?)

    • figurative a violent social or political upheaval : the convulsions of 1939–45.

    (Don’t we as “a spiritual body” need a “spiritual” upheaval?)

    And with out “pastor/leader/teacher” people, real believers, would have to go to Jesus for themselves,
    and learn of Him, by Him, and not man. And realize that they can receive revelation from God Himself.

    And we do have some examples; Jesus, Peter, Paul.

    Jesus, as man, delclared, “He” could do nothing of Himself.
    Jesus, as God, delared, apart from Him “we” can do nothing.
    He didn’t say… apart from the pastor/leader/teacher “we” can do nothing.
    Why isn’t Jesus enough?

    John 8:28
    …I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

    John 5:30
    I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just;
    because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

    John 5:19
    …The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do:
    for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

    Jesus declared that Peter was blessed because;
    1 – Flesh and blood “didn’t” reveal it to him.
    2 – God, who dwelled with in him, “did” reveal it.

    Mt 16:17
    Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
    for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,
    but my Father which is in heaven.

    Paul declared that “his gospel” was not of man
    and he received it from God.

    Ga 1:11-16
    …the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
    For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it,
    but by the revelation of Jesus Christ

    16-To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;
    immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

    Just a thought.
    Do you really want men who write books with words about God to teach you?
    Or, do you want Jesus to teach you,
    “The Word of God,” who wrote “The Book?”

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:

    Kevin – Why isn’t Jesus enough?



  3. A. Amos said: “If we removed the position and authority of the pastor as we know it today,
    would the church begin to function like it should–as a priesthood of all believers?”

    Amos, thanks for your thoughtful comments too. If we get rid of the position of the pastor as we know it today, the people might go into convulsion.

    I think by teaching people that their work/service in church is equally valued, they will gradually get the idea that everyone are “servants of Christ”. When I pray during the service, I sometimes address them as “servants”. I like the terminology you present because they project a more accurate vision of who the people of God really are–the Church of Christ.


  4. Kevin

    I’m blessed that your/these questions are being asked. Thank you.
    Takes lot’s of courage to also put them down in writing.
    “Those that are of the truth hear my voice.” Jn 18:37

    “If we removed the position and authority of the pastor as we know it today,
    would the church begin to function like it should–as a priesthood of all believers?”

    Doen’t that depend on what the word “church” really means.

    Did Jesus shed His blood for; a building, a denomination,
    an institution, an organization, a corporation?
    Should we call a corporation, The Church of God?

    When you use the word”church” what do people see?

    A building with a steeple on it?
    A pastor in a pulpit preaching to people in pews?

    Or will people know that “The Church of God?”

    Are kings and priests unto God?

    The bride of Christ?

    The servants of Christ?

    The sons of God?

    Disciples of Christ?

    Ambassadors for Christ?

    How many will know, in the Bible, no one ever went to church?
    How many will know, in the Bible, you become “His Church?”
    And hear “His voice?” And follow Jesus? And learn from Jesus?

    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.
    John 6:45

    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee.
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus.


  5. Kevin, yes, our interpretation of the biblical data is what is relative. If we could only get it right. But we still have the Spirit as our resident teacher.


  6. It’s probably worth noting that the early church seemed to look Apostolic leadership for doctrinal guidance and direction. So, although they didn’t have “pastors and priests like we do today,” they did have a steadying doctrinal hand. I do agree with the basic premise that churches must get more of the body involved in kingdom work. How wonderful would it be to see churches where pastors could nourish and equip the body, and the body would use its giftedness in service to the Lord?


  7. Bill, radical change over a long period of time takes patience…lots of it. We need God to give us patience that the Spireit would gradually change the heart and minds of the people that they’re place and authority in the church is no less equal to that of a pastor, elder, deacon, teacher or overseer.

    I’d like to see in our churches a greater appreciation for the dedicated service of all our teachers and board/council members, deacons, etc. We often don’t express appreciation enough. It shows the do-nothing laity that work and service is greatly appreciated and encouraged in the life of the congregation.

    TC, biblically is also relative. It depends on whose lenses we see it through.


  8. Bill,

    Good that you admit to “radical change.” 😀 In some cases, I would shout, “Yes!”


    We need church leaders. It’s the Bible. But we need them to function biblically.


  9. If we removed the position and authority of the pastor as we know it today, would the church begin to function like it should–as a priesthood of all believers?

    That’s a little like asking, “If a three year old lost her parents, would she suddenly grow into adulthood?”

    Kevin, thank you so much for your heart in this post. The truth is we need to take our time addressing these issues. As you can probably tell, I’m all for radical change, but abrupt change would be horrendously painful for everyone.

    Parents these days take between 15 to 23 years raising their children. Paul and his associates would stay with new churches anywhere from a few weeks to six or seven years. If we do find ourselves in a vast state of encouraged dependency, who’s to say how long that could take to undo? Or what route we should take? Or what the result should look like?

    But for starters, let’s definitely keep this conversation going…


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