Was the Apostle Paul a Pastor?

Timothy Gombis, Pauline Scholar extrodinare, writes the following in a Christianity today article:

If we encountered Paul today, he would not be the strong and decisive leader we often imagine. In fact, many of our contemporary churches would hardly consider him a viable pastoral candidate.

What would cause Gombis to make such an absurd comment? Well, because it was true. Gombis goes on to assert:

Evangelicals place a high priority on leadership, perhaps because historically our movement has been carried along by strong leaders. The great figures in our heritage have been powerful speakers and compelling visionaries, many of whom have built colleges, seminaries, and, in some cases, entire denominations. These are also the traits we want to see in our pastors.

Isn’t this the truth?! Because one or two “strong leaders” have shown up, we have now made that an expectation for all pastors and church leaders, that they be “strong and charismatic, dynamic.  Gombis continues:

Thus we intuitively assume that Paul was someone just like this. We think he must have been a compelling figure, a charismatic and decisive leader, and a powerful speaker. From the moment of conversion, he immediately put his great abilities to work for Christ, taking over the leadership of the church and becoming its powerful spokesperson. When we look at the evidence from the New Testament, however, we find a very different picture…

Indeed we do, but are we willing to recognize that? One of Gombis’ final assertions is “If we encountered Paul today, we might be disappointed to find someone quite unlike the strong and decisive leader we often imagine.”

I really appreciate this because I know there are many out there with the spiritual gift of pastor and they do anything but fit contemporary modles of what is con trued as “pastor.” and I think this is to the shame of the American church at large and especially to the charismatic movements, who all too often conflate the concepts of charismatic, as in spiritually gifted, with notions of charisma as dynamo and lots of charm and energy, a type A personality. It is not that a pastor can’t have these characteristics but it should not be expected that all folks with the spiritual gift of pastor to have such characteristics.

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9 responses to “Was the Apostle Paul a Pastor?

  1. Could Paul really be considered a pastor, though? The church must have looked quite a bit different back then. I don’t know that their categories of leadership easily map on to ours. Also, he seemed to be more of a traveling missionary/church planter, and not someone who such around for the long haul.

    Still, even if Paul didn’t have some of the qualities that we look for in leaders in modern evangelicalism, he apparently had access to the Spirit’s power and that seemed to make all that difference. Is Gombis arguing that our pastors should model Paul in that sense? Should we expect our pastor to display real works of the Spirit’s power?

  2. I often say I don’t want to be led at church, I want to be pastored. I don’t want to lead a church, nor do I want to pastor a church – rather I want to pastor people. I don’t believe our mandate is to build the church – that’s Christ’s job – instead its the churches job to pastor the community in which it lives – which means all who call themselves Christ’s servants.

    Paul was an Apostle and not so much a pastor….however scripture clearly shows that there were times that Paul did put on his pastors hat.

  3. I think Paul was a missionary, pastor, an overseer of pastors, and a theologian. What he wasn’t doing was overseeing building projects, strategic planning campaigns, and building his celebrity pastor reputation. But, that was then and this now.

  4. What kind of nonsense are u preaching here….u hav no clue what a pastor must be….u never mention 1 Timothy 3 (qualifications) or Titus 1 ??? Charismatic my foot….ur a major part of the problem wt the apostate modern day church…but again the Lord warns us of ur kind in Matthew 13 & 24……

  5. Yes I believe so and have written a book called Paul as Pastor published by BRF in the UK in 2012 to make the case. I think much of his minstry was pastorally driven and most of the terms that we use about pastoral care come from the dictionary of his Epistles- Patrick Whitworth

  6. Paul was an apostle, preacher and missionary. Nowhere in scripture can you find where Paul was called an elder, bishop or pastor. If he was, he was a bad pastor because he was always away from whatever church he was thought to have pastored.

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