The term “pastor” (Greek, poimen, literally means ‘shepherd’) refers to the function and responsibilities carried out by a spiritually gifted believer in the position of an elder who oversees the congregation in the New Testament.1 A pastor is a minister who is responsible for the care and guidance of a Christian congregation.2 They are leaders who came to be known as bishops who oversee the church in the early second century3. The Greek noun episkopos translated as ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’ refers to someone who has a definite function or fixed office of guardianship and related activity within Christian communities.4 As time passes, they are referred to as pastors, while the bishop is in charge of overseeing the various churches. Their job is to look after, serve, and be examples to the flock.5 Elders in the early church were usually male spiritual leaders (pastor) who oversee a local church. However, women can also pastor, that is, care for, protect, feed, and instruct the flock while being under the leadership of a male pastor. One example is Nympha, whom Paul greeted along with the church that meets in her home.6 Paul is unlikely to ignore the male pastor who is supposed to be present. So it is safe to assume that [Pastor] Nympha is also the one in charge of a group of believers (church) while [Senior Pastor] Paul oversees her. This is similar to how the husband and wife jointly care for their children, while the wife is still subject to her husband’s authority and leadership.7
I wonder if there is anything in the Bible that says when the Holy Spirit bestowed spiritual gifts, particularly that of “pastor-teacher” (shepherding and instructing), He only did so to men. This is because it says nothing about this spiritual gift being limited to male believers. Perhaps those who disagree with this view can show some specific passages. I would assume that all spiritual gifts are available to both men and women. He must realize that being a pastor-teacher is a gift, not a job or a title. It was only in the early second century did St. Ignatius of Antioch begin to appoint a bishop, an office that oversees local churches.8 This is perfectly acceptable since, just like the elders in the New Testament, spiritually mature leaders gradually emerged over the course of time.9 Through the ordination process of the local church, they are eventually elevated from the ranks of the laypeople to those of the clergy.10 Ordination is still practiced in many local churches today, with apostolic leaders, a male senior pastor, and other lead pastors who are both male and female under male leadership. Surely, the gift of being a pastor-teacher is not limited to male believers, but also includes women who can feed the flock and equip the church.
Disclaimer: This brief article seeks to educate believers about the Bible’s teaching on women as pastors. This is not an academic paper nor a position paper, but rather a brief personal response to some believers who have inquired about what the Scriptures truly teach on the subject. I have consulted with and seek the assistance of Dr. Winston Reyes to provide the necessary passages and additional insight to assist believers in studying the Scripture on this topic.
1 See Eph 4:11.
2 See Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.
3 See 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:7.
4 See Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).
5 See 1 Pet. 5:1-4.
6 See Col. 4:15.
7 See Eph. 5:23.
8 According to Dr. Everett Ferguson, “A Singular Bishop. The writings of Ignatius of Antioch to the churches of Asia Minor early in the second century describe a three-fold ministry of one bishop, a plurality of elders, and deacons in the churches. The emergence of one bishop at the head of the local church seems to be a fact for Asia and Antioch at the beginning of the second century. This development appears not to have occurred at this early a date in Greece and the West. By the second half of the second century the Ignatian type of church organization was generally accepted.” Adapted from Everett Ferguson, “Early Christians Speak Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries,” (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1981, 1987, 1999), 9.
9 See 1 Tim. 3:6.
10 This practice of ordaining is no longer new. We can see how Joseph was place in a position to rule (Gk. kathistēmi, ordain) over Egypt and Pharaoh’s household (Acts 7:10). In Jesus’ parable, the steward was appointed as the ruler (Gk. kathistēmi, ordain) of the household (Matt. 24:45). The seven men were also appointed (Gk. kathistēmi) with overseeing a specific task (Acts 6:3). God qualifies the men and women who have risen to prominence with such spiritual gifts. A local church’s apostolic leadership has the authority to ordain them in that role or function to be recognized by their church as they faithfully carry out their ministry of preaching and teaching.