Pastor elder bishop

In today’s churches, there seems to be a lot of confusion over the Biblical definitions and functions of what the Scriptures identify as the “pastor”, “elder”, and “bishop”. The New Testament explains to whom these three terms apply and what their roles are in our local congregations of believers.


Acts 20:17 and 28 uses these three positions interchangeably, identifying them as the same person. In verse 17, the ”elders” are being addressed. Verse 28 further refers to these same “elders” as “yourselves”. In the same sentence, they are also described as “overseers” (bishops) acting as a “shepherd” (pastor): 

“Therefore take heed to yourselves (elders – v. 17) and to all the flock,

among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops),

to shepherd (pastor) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

 (Acts 20:28)

The Greek word for “pastor” is also translated as “shepherd”. His responsibility is to feed and tend the flock. People are starving for a word from God. The teaching of the Bible is the only thing that will feed their hungry souls. They need the pastoral care of a loving guide.


One might be tempted to think that the term “elder” only refers to age. In a Christian sense, it was used of those who presided over assemblies of the church. That should be done with the dignity and wisdom of someone who is beyond his years of numeric age .Youthfulness  does not disqualify a man from being an elder. Remember, Timothy was a young pastor.


“Bishop” comes from the Greek word for “overseer”. Titus 1:5-9 uses “elder” and “bishop” interchangeably. They are the same person. His qualifications are clearly outlined in these verses:

Pastor elder bishop

5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

Pastor elder bishop

What about deacons? While the word “deacon” does not appear in Acts 6:1-8, that passage probably refers to the origin of this duty. The word “deacon” means “servant”. Their qualifications are given in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. When deacons function as the Bible describes, the work of the church is blessed (Acts 6:7). Pray for your deacons and your pastor/elder/bishop.



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