What's the difference between a pastor, minister, missionary, evangelist and elder

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Pergamum, Nov 5, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    These terms are widely used, but are the differences that regulate their use? What, for example, is the difference between a minister and a missionary, or a pastor and an evangelist, or a pastor and an elder.

    How would I explain these differences to others, like my children (or uneducated local church-people).
  2. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    I thought maybe that was the lead in to a joke...
  3. jd.morrison

    jd.morrison Puritan Board Sophomore


    I would say that there is really no big difference other than direction.

    Pastor/Minister = shepherds and educates
    Missionary/Evangelist = witness to unbelievers and shepherds
    Elder = shepherds and governs

    At least that is how I would define them... I could be wrong though...
  4. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    All Christians are ministers. The word is often used to falsely draw a line between paid professionals and lay people. But all should strive to minister.

    A pastor is a shepherd is an elder. There is no distinction. If an elder is not a shepherd then he's failing to fulfill his call to the church. Some are stronger in certain areas, but all are pastors.

    Missionary is a contemporary word that is, like minister, a word that offers excuses to those who who think the great commission doesn't apply to them, right where they are. However, when using the term I usually am speaking of those supported in their focus on ministering to unreached people; whether at home or abroad.

    Evangelist - someone who preaches the Gospel in an effort to convert them and is instrumental in planting churches. However, I can't be certain that we can define it that narrowly.

    Both a missionary and an evangelist should be assessed to have the qualifications of an elder. They must possess the character to do this sort of work. Unfortunately, our churches have made a practice of sending the young and inexperienced to do mission work, rather than sending their most experienced. My deepest respect goes to those, such as Wayne Mack, who take their years of knowledge and experience to the mission field.
  5. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    :lol: hmmm something like, "A pastor, a minister, a missionary, an evangelist, and an elder walk into a bar...." :oops:
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If it was a joke, rabbi and priest would have also made it in there... and they'd all be in an airplane with one parachute short....
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Pastor = an elder qualified man called to one existing congregation

    Elder = elder qualified man acting in the capacity as an elder (sorry, redundant definition)

    Evangelist = one who spreads the Gospel within one's own cultural boundaries. I wouldn't say that they need to be elder-qualified because one can evangelize women and children as well. Philip in the NT may or may not have been (not sure).

    Missionary = one "sent out", usually to plant a church where one does not yet exist or the chuch exists in an immature state. This entails crossing cultural bounds. I would say that they should be elder qualified, and perhaps Big M Missionary should be distinguished from little m missionary because some people are "sent out" to aid other parts of the world in lingusitics, teaching women and children, etc, and the majority of missioanries are women.

    How are those definitions? How can they be improved?
  8. bob

    bob Puritan Board Freshman

    I am of the opinion that it is very difficult to support a biblical distinction between the elder and the pastor. I would regard the biblical words of elder, pastor, shepherd, bishop etc. as all one and the same office. That said, I think that while they all must be qualified as per 1 Tim and Titus, there can be some distinction in their gifts and thus their usage within the church.

    It is my view that the church should properly recognize two offices - that of the elder and the deacon. I view the apostle, the prophet, and the evangelist as formal offices that existed only in the apostolic church. It is difficult for me to assume that these offices are still functioning given so little is said about their function (especially in regard to the prophet and the evangelist) and no instruction is given regarding their qualification.

    Little is said regarding the evangelist - I think the word is used only three or four times. As near as I can determine, the NT evangelist function more like our modern day missionary - gifted men that went into areas without a church and established churches. While the formal office no longer exists in my opinion, I think there are those who can do (as Paul exhorted Timothy) the work of an evangelist. My preference regarding missionaries is that they be men who are both godly and gifted men capable of being able to teach and admonish new converts - thus qualified and able to being the work of planting churches and able to shepherd it until elders are established.

    In Christ,
  9. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    I agree with Bob.
    Are we pursuing biblical definitions, or attempting to put them into contemporary usage? I would avoid the latter, personally.

    Pastor literally means shepherd, so that's an easy one. If one looks at the terminology then it is apparent that elder, pastor and overseer are the same position (cf. Eph 4:11, 1 Tim 3:1ff, Tit 1:5ff, and others). There is no distinction, but each use of the word seems to focus on a certain function. In Ephesians 4:11 evangelist falls between prophet and pastor. I see this list as a set/subset relationship, wherein each group fits within the following group. Therefore, I would see evangelists as necessarily meeting the same qualifications as pastors. That doesn't mean that we are not all to evangelize, because we are. But, biblically speaking, the position appears to fall between prophet and pastor. And, like Bob, I tend to think that this position is no longer present, having been rendered unecessary with the close of the canon.

    Missionary is not a biblical term, as far as I know. It's certainly not an office. We use it for those sent to proclaim Christ, minister to those outside our local congregation and plant churches. I would classify this as a subset of elders, but allow for women in certain circumstances. Regardless of whether or not most missionaries are women, it would take some serious convincing for me to support a woman missionary. But there are some instances where I consider it appropriate (support roles, women's ministry, for example).
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If missionary are a subset of elders, then the issue of women missionaries needs to be addressed more deeply.

    Paul uses the term "fellow laborour" (sunergois I think) and classifies both men and women into this term; maybe that is an alternative for the term missionary?
  11. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Perhaps. Much of the problem, as I see it, is that "missionary" is not a biblical term. How do we classify it? It's a pragmatic word we use so that we don't have to define it each time. As I ponder it further, I think I would put it as a subset of deacons, rather than elders. Missionaries do not have to be apt to teach, if they are in a support role. Again, this is difficult because we're outside of Scripture here. Missionary pilots don't need to be apt to teach, for example. But, regardless of their function, all missionaries should meet the character qualifications for deacons. If they are church planters then they should meet the qualifications of elders.

    I wonder if it would be more comprehensible to simply say what they do. For instance, Pergy is an elder sent by ... church to plant churches in ... Woudn't that be a more accurate portrayal? Then, for the pilot; Ace here has been sent to serve missionaries in ... by delivering supplies and flying personel in and out as needed.

    Well, I'm just thinking out loud. When it comes to elders and deacons, we need to stick to Scripture. When it comes to missionaries it becomes more pragmatic, and possibly even philosophical. My philosophy of missions holds the supported missionary as an extentoin of the leadership of the local church, so that's how I think. But, in some circles, missionaries don't even have local churches. And, in many groups, the sending churches don't keep the relationship with the missionaries. This, too, I've seen with a good friend. His sending church really isn't involved in his ministry anymore, and has asked him to find someone else to handle his support.

    Ha, rambling... sorry.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Church planting missionaries need to be apt to teach. And if they are a subset of deacon how can they ordain elders and plant churches?

    Yes, you are right, I too know several missionaries who are not close to their home churches.

    Paul uses the term Sungergois (sp?)or "fellow-worker" to describe all those that labor with him in what appears to be apostolic missionary teams in the NT. These co-workers included men and women and for a variety of tasks.

    Missionary comes from mitto, the Latin for apostello or apostle, but calling missionaries even "little a apostles" would not go over very well.

    If you hold that missionaries must be viewed as extensions of the leadership of the local church then this eliminates your ability to send anyone off as a missionary if they want to serve as a pilot or a computer guy overseas and eliminates women as well as potnetial missionaries.
  13. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Not if there are deaconesses, first of all. Second of all, women are to instruct women. I don't see the problem here. That, and the fact that not all who are sent fill teaching roles, is why I changed from a subset of elders to a subset of deacons.

    As for the comment on church planters and "apt to teach," see the last sentence of my first paragraph in the quote above.

    Finally, Latin really doesn't help us. It does historically, but not scripturally.

    So, where does that put us and the definitions you're working on?
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Are you advocating deaconesses?

    If we want biblical rather than pragmatic definitions, then the closest definition that fits would be Paul's sunergois (sp?) or "fellow-labourers" in the Gospel, such as Priscella and Aquilla.
  15. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    That's my understanding, yes. I don't want to derail the thread, so here' s simple and quick explanation.

    1 Timothy 3:11
    Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.
    Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

    There is no possessive pronoun. "Their" is added by the translators. And the word used for "women" does in no way necessitate "wives." Though I know it's a debate that won't be solved here (it's been tried :)), I don't think that affects my view because it's based mainly on the fact that not all who are sent are in teaching roles. Either way, they must possess the character traits of a deacon as provided in Scripture.

    So, rather than "missionaries" we send out "fellow laborers"? Or, are you defining missionaries as "fellow laborers"?
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am defining missionaries as following the pattern of Paul and his apostolic band in Acts. Paul's co-workers are called "fellow-laborers" repeatedly. This broad term seems to allow for unordained people to serve in "missions" and even for women to serve in missions (even without a need for deaconesses to exist).

    In fact, I see a startling lack of ecclesiology in Acts altogether compared with other concerns.
  17. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    I think you're right. Acts is descriptive, not prescriptive. That's a problem many charismatics run into, attempting to equate what happened with what should happen.
    Nevertheless, church leaders are clearly present in Acts - even elders.

    Acts 11:30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
    Acts 14:23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
    Acts 15:2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
    Acts 15:4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
    Acts 15:6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
    Acts 15:22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
    Acts 15:23 They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.
    Acts 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.
    Acts 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
    Acts 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
    Acts 22:5 as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, the ecclesiology is there but not really fleshed out. An interesting note is that elders are usually associated with churches whereas Paul's teammates seemed more mobile.
  19. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Interesting note. What do we do with that though? His team mates worked in association with apostolic authority.

    Another thought - though elders are "associated" with churches, does that mean they must be in proximity. If we send our "best guy" to the mission field, then isn't he still an elder of our church, even if he has no local church in his field?
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page