Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Where do you find the role of the assistant pastor in the Bible?
Hey, that is a good question. I am not sure that we do find the assistant pastor in the Bible, however, we do find a multiplicity of elders. Biblicists (Baptists) believe that the terms pastor, bishop, and elder refer to the same office in the local church. Denominationalists will have a variety of interpretations regarding these terms and their use within the local church.
Meaning of Terms
I like to think of the pastor as the minister, the bishop as the manager, and the elder as the mature one.
The three terms are really united. The term pastor refers to his work as a pastor, which is the work of a spiritual shepherd. Being a pastor is his spiritual ministry. The word bishop comes from the Greek word, episcopos, which deals with his spiritual management. The word is often translated as an overseer. The word elder speaks to his spiritual maturity, which does not necessarily coincide with age.
Multiplicity of Terms
The Bible often speaks of these three terms in a plurality. In other words, there were or could be more than one pastor, bishop, elder in any one church. The size of the church is irrelevant, although it does fit logically that the larger the church, the more need there would be for a multiplicity of pastoral staff.
To Be or Not to Be
Should this position be one of assisting, associating, or aiding?
Amongst our Baptist churches you will find the title Assistant Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Assistant to the Pastor. Which title should be used? Well, that depends upon the role established by the church for the assisting pastor. Of course, when there are multiple pastors, it is logical (and I believe Biblical) for one of the pastors to be the leading pastor. What role the leading pastor plays over the other pastor(s) will help to determine what title(s) to use.
My role at Gospel Light Baptist Church is perhaps somewhat unique. We tend to think of the assistant pastor as an understudy, or one preparing to eventually assume the role of a senior pastor. That is not the case with me. I am somewhat retired from the pastoral role, but I want to be a help to someone who is doing the work of a pastor.