the weblog of Alan Knox

The Senior Pastors of the Seven Churches?

Posted by on Mar 9, 2009 in blog links, elders, office, scripture | 14 comments

When people look for justification for the modern concept of the “senior pastor”, they often turn to the first few chapters of Revelation, where Jesus addresses seven letters to the “angel” of seven different churches in Asia. The question is, “Do the ‘angels’ in Revelation 2-3 represent senior pastors or spiritual messengers?”

Now, Alan Bandy of Café Apocalypsis has addressed this question in his post “The Angels of the Seven Churches: Humans or Spiritual Beings?” Alan concludes that these “angels” are spiritual beings and gives 4 different reasons. This is the most convincing reason to me:

(1) One reason is that the most common use of angelos, by far, denotes an angelic being. The sixty seven occurrences of angelos in the book of Revelation, with the exception of 2:1,8,12, 18; 3:1,7, and 14, all unambiguously refer to an angelic being. It seems highly unlikely that angelos significantly differs only in chaps. 2–3 without clearly indicating a different denotation from its normal usage in the book.

If the “angels” of Revelation 2-3 are spiritual beings and not senior pastors, then where will people look for scriptural justification for the modern position of senior pastor?


14 Comments

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  1. 3-9-2009

    Alan,

    Why did I just get into a debate with an “associate minister” about this very thing on Saturday afternoon. This is quite ironic that you post this. It went like this.

    Lionel: How is the bible study going?

    Barber: Man we actually started the church!

    Lionel: Wow that is exciting. Are you one of the elders?

    Barber: No, I am an associate minister and we have a pastor who is the “angel over the house”.

    Lionel: What in the heck is that????!!!!

    Barber: In The Revelation the letters to the seven churches are addressed to pastors right?

    This lead to about a 45 minute discussion brother. By the end of it, he at least said he would research it a little more. Not to mention the previous weekend a friend of mine in seminary used the same language. I had never heard before then but I see that this is quite prevelant! Ugghhh!

  2. 3-9-2009

    You all must be joking. This must clearly be a joke, where is Allen Funt?

  3. 3-9-2009

    One must undoubtedly read the right Christian books that will advise one that this is what the Scripture advocates, ’cause you’re not going to find it in the Scripture itself.

    I know a number of “senior pastors” and really do feel for them. They have always been taught that their position is very Scriptural.

    They love people, and feel called by God to be a senior pastor. They are all middle aged or older. They know nothing else. Now their churches are in decline, and so is the giving. They really do not know what to do with the church or their future. They do not want to consider the possibility that what they do, and their paycheck and economic future are dependent on tradition, rather than Scripture.

    How do you find another job when you’re in your fifties, especially in this economic climate, and have never had another job, except perhaps a part-time,low-paying one when you were in high school or college?

  4. 3-9-2009

    Hi Sam

    I agree with your sentiments exactly, but at the same time it is often the same senior pastors that believe by being paid, they are ‘living by faith’ It is ironic that if they were no longer paid a salary by the church, they would truly understand this concept (from an ex-paid pastor)

  5. 3-9-2009

    Alan,

    And I (very approvingly) thought YOU had a large spoon.

  6. 3-9-2009

    Lionel,

    I’ve had similar conversations. Many people have been taught and have accepted that the “angels” of Rev 2-3 are pastors without considering the text or the context.

    Lanny,

    Nope. No Joke. Google “Revelaltion 2 angel senior pastor”.

    Sam,

    I also appreciate pastors. Many are hard working, caring people who seek to disciple and love others. I’ve learned alot from them, and hope that I will continue to learn from them.

    And, you’re right. It is difficult to know what to do if you decide your means of supporting yourself is not part of the biblical model of the church – especially if that’s all you know.

    Dan,

    Yes. “Living by faith” does not mean making it to the next paycheck, which you know is coming.

    Aussie John,

    I don’t understand the “big spoon” reference, although I assume it is good since you said “very approvingly”.

    -Alan

  7. 3-9-2009

    If the “angels” of Revelation 2-3 are spiritual beings and not senior pastors, then where will people look for scriptural justification for the modern position of senior pastor?

    They’ll look to the church bylaws, which were written by the church leaders that Scripture commands us to obey.

  8. 3-9-2009

    Alan,

    Spoons are used for stirring. Large spoons used for making big stir.

    A.B.’s questioning of the traditional interpretation of “angels” in Rev.2-3 would create heap big “stir” in this place; more than your questioning of the traditional practices of “the church”.

    I have never been able to use the traditional interpretation without trepidation.

    As if you or he need my approval!

    Apart from Jesus Christ, if the church needs anything today, it needs thinking men/women who will challenge the rock hard mentality that seems to deny that thinking is necessary, and that reformation is a “fait accompli”.

    Keep studying, thinking and stirring brethren! You have this old curmudgeons support.

  9. 3-9-2009

    So I’ve been busy, but I guess I need to take a minute and write my series of posts on the senior pastor … hopefully I will start this week.

  10. 3-9-2009

    Yep, this is exactly what I was taught growing up in the COGIC! The “angel” refered to the pastor of those churches.(they didn’t use “senior” because he was the one and only or he had an “assistant” pastor which itself just meant someone to teach the adult sunday school class)

    But that still leaves the question of to “whom” it refers. If the passage is “in a vision”, then it need not refer to anyone specifically. And if it does refer to someone specifically, it would seem that it would refer to the one who was having the vision…John himself. I mean he is the one who will deliver this vision to the seven churches.

    What’s the answer?

  11. 3-9-2009

    Steve,

    You’re probably right.

    Aussie John,

    Ah. That makes sense. Thanks for the explanation and for helping me stir. :)

    Maël,

    I’m looking forward to it!

    Lawrence (agonizinglyhonestchristianity),

    I think Alan Bandy’s explanation is pretty good. That the letters are addressed to “angels” – though delivered through John – are simply part of the apocalyptic/prophetic nature of Revelation.

    -Alan

  12. 3-10-2009

    I have to agree with the fact that these aren’t “senior pastors” but could it be that they were part of the apostolic band and were messengers assigned to these churches? (Like Titus, Timothy, etc.)

    Mike M.

  13. 3-10-2009

    Mike M,

    Could the “angels of the churches” of Revelations 2-3 be apostles or apostolic representative? I suppose. What would lead you to that conclusion? I don’t see anything in the text that would point to apostles.

    -Alan

  14. 3-23-2009

    What led me to think that is from the NT overall, and that in some places messengers = angels, or vise versa. For example, Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:23 calls Titus and others the messengers of the Churches.

    I know I am committing a horrible exegetical sin within the framework of Revelation, but I was thinking about the understanding of the biblical writers in the overall context of the NT.

    Moreover, I am personally not comfortable with “an angelic being” speaking to the Church. I am open to study your understanding further, however, I think since he is talking to the “Churches” then it might be the apostolic messengers.

    I don’t think, however, that the Senior Pastor is thought of at all, since NT context doesn’t allow for that seperate office.

    Mike M