There appears to be mass confusion on the roles and offices that function in the local church. Sadly, privileges in leadership under the headship of Jesus have become nothing more than bragging rights and ecclesiastical twitter handles. Men and women want to be followed and revered due to their titles and positions. As a result, people are offended when confused saints utter the wrong title upon self-proclaimed “Prophets and Apostles”. Even stranger is the hierarchy evident amongst those who should by all means be servant leaders. Pastors, Bishops, and Elders are often at odds in similar context as if they were different titles. When in fact scripture is clear, these titles are reserved for the same “office”. John MacArthur states:

“Bishops and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The Greek word for bishop is episkopos, from which the Episcopal Church gets its name. The Greek word for pastor is poimen. The textual evidence indicates that all three terms refer to the same office. The qualifications for a bishop, listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder, in Titus 1:6-9, are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (1:5, 7).

First Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together. Peter instructs the elders to be good bishops as they pastor: “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [pomaino] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkopeo] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.”

Acts 20 also uses all three terms interchangeably. In verse 17, Paul assembles all the elders [presbuteros] of the church to give them his farewell message. In verse 28, he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [pomaino] the church of God.”[1]

So the term elder emphasizes who the man is. Bishop speaks of what he does. And pastor deals with how he feels. All three terms are used of the same church leaders, and all three identify those who feed and lead the church, but each has a unique emphasis.”

HB Charles Jr. winsomely declares it this way, “A bishop is a pastor is an elder is an overseer.”[2]

For God’s Glory,

Cameron Triggs


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[2] Source: