Before we answer this, let’s consider what a “pastor” is according to Scripture. In Ephesians 4:11 we read, “And He (Christ) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some PASTORS and teachers” (NKJV). The “apostles and prophets” were those who, in the early days of the church, laid the foundation of Christianity by teaching the fundamental truths concerning the Person and Work of Christ (see Ephesians 2:20 and 1st Corinthians 3:10). The “evangelist” is one who preaches the goods news of salvation through Jesus Christ (see Acts 8:5 and 21:8). The “teacher” is one with a good knowledge of Scripture and endowed with the ability to teach others what he has learned (see Acts 11:25-26). And finally, the “pastor,” which means “shepherd,” is one who has a real heart for the saints and desires to see them 1) grow spiritually, 2) be comforted when they are going through trials, and 3) be restored to the Lord when they wander away from Him. Like the literal shepherd who cares for a flock of sheep, they are willing to spend their time and energy caring for the well-being of Christ’s sheep and lambs. The modern-day notion that a pastor is one who leads a congregation in worship and ministry and who has “all the gifts rolled up into one” (because of being trained in a seminary or other Bible institute) is not scriptural, thus the thought “a pastor of a church” will not be found in the Bible. The fact is that just as a shepherd works alone with his sheep in a private setting, the work of a true pastor/shepherd will often be done in private as they seek to mentor young converts, comfort the saints who are lonely, grieving or going through other trials, and or restore those who have fallen into sin.

The Apostle Peter was inspired to write to pastors in 1st Peter 5:1-3, “The ELDERS who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder…..shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as OVERSEERS, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being EXAMPLES to the flock.” We learn here that a pastor will be 1) one who is older and experienced in the Christian life (an ELDER); 2) one who is exercised to watch over the saints to see if they are going on with the Lord (an OVERSEER); and 3) one who is qualified to guide the saints by a godly EXAMPLE. The Apostle Paul met with pastors/elders from Ephesus and he exhorted them with these words, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you OVERSEERS, to SHEPHERD the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Here we learn the truth that it is NOT a seminary or Bible institute that makes one a pastor/shepherd, but the Holy Spirit. It is a supernatural gift given by the Spirit of God (see 1st Corinthians 12:1-11).

Those who have this gift will be recognized by other believers. Paul wrote about this in 1st Thessalonians 5:12-13, “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are OVER YOU in the Lord an ADMONISH YOU, and to esteem them very highly in love for their WORK’S SAKE.” We might very well ask, “How exactly do we recognize them?” Surely we will see them actively seeking our spiritual welfare and by laboring with us to that end. But I would especially encourage you to read and study 1st Timothy 3:1-9 and Titus 1:6-9 to see the Divine qualifications for one who is an elder/pastor. In both of these passages we read that they must be “the HUSBAND of one WIFE”; in other words, the elder is a MAN and not a woman.

We have seen that there is no such thing as “a pastor of a church” (Scripture teaches the opposite, for in all the local churches there was a “plurality of elders”). We have also seen that elders in a local church are MEN. But this does not mean that women can’t be  gifted, for the New Testament gives us examples of godly women who 1) labored in the gospel (see Philippians 4:2-3); 2) prophesied (see Acts 21:8-9);  and 3) expounded the scriptures (see Acts 18:24-27). But in each case it seems obvious that their gift was done a PRIVATE SETTING, and NOT PUBLICLY when the church came together for ministry. That the woman’s gifts are not meant for public use is especially borne out in the Apostle Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 14:34 and 1st Timothy 2:11-12, “Let your women keep silent in the churches…and if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church….Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”

To my dear sisters reading this, let me encourage you by pointing you again to the scriptures above where women labored in the gospel, prophesied, and expounded the scriptures. You too can have the gifts of evangelism, shepherding and teaching, yet the use of your gift will be done in a private setting like the home or other places where you are not “usurping the authority over a man.” One may fault the Apostle Paul for his teachings that prohibited women from exercising their gift in public, but you can be sure Paul valued greatly those women who labored for Christ in the proper sphere. You can see this by reading his words in Philippians 4:2-3 and I would draw attention to his complimentary references to the service of sisters in Romans 16:1, 3, 6, and 12.  (382.1)  (DO)