In short, the Protestant Reformation struck a blow to Roman Catholic sacerdotalism. It was not a fatal blow, however, but merely a semantic change. The Reformers retained the one-bishop rule. The pastor now played the role of the bishop. The bishop-driven church evolved into the pastor-driven church. The pastor came to be regarded as the local head of a church—the leading elder.183 As one writer put it, "In Protestantism, the preachers tend to be the spokesmen and representatives of the church and the church is often the preacher's church. This is a great danger and threat to the Christian religion, not unrelated to
In their rhetoric the Reformers decried the clergy-laity split. But in their practice they fully retained it. As Kevin Giles says, "Differences between Catholic and Protestant clergy were blurred in practice and theology. In both kinds of churches, the clergy were a class apart; in both, their special status was based on Divine initiatives (mediated in different ways); and in both, certain duties were reserved to them
The long-standing, postbiblical tradition of the one-bishop rule (now embodied in the pastor) prevails in the Protestant church today. Tremendous psychological factors make laypeople feel that ministry is the responsibility of the pastor. It's his job. He's the expert is often their thinking.
The New Testament word for minister is diakonos. It means "servant." But this word has been distorted because men have professionalized the ministry. We have taken the word minister and equated it with the pastor, with no scriptural justification whatsoever. In like
IMany Reformed churches distinguish between "teaching" elders and "ruling" elders. Teaching elders occupy the traditional position of bishop or minister, while ruling elders handle administration and discipline. This form of church polity was brought to New England from Europe (Hall, Faithful Shepherd, 95). Eventually, due to the unpopularity of the office, the ruling elders were dropped and the teaching elder remained. This was also true in the Baptist churches of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often these churches lacked the financial resources to support one "minister." In this way, by the end of the nineteenth century, the evangelical churches adopted the "single pastor" tradition. Mark Dever, A Display of God's Glory (Washington, DC: Center for Church Reform, 2001), 20; R. E. H. Uprichard, "The Eldership in Martin Bucer and John Calvin," Irish Biblical Studies Journal (June 18, 1996): 149, 154. So the single pastor in evangelical churches evolved from a plurality of elders in the Reformed tradition.
Niebuhr and Williams, Ministry in Historical Perspectives, 114. The so-called "lay-preacher" emerged out of the evangelical revivals of the eighteenth century (p. 206).
Kevin Giles, Patterns of Ministry among the First Christians (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 195-196.
manner, we have mistakenly equated preaching and ministry with the pulpit sermon, again without biblical justification.
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