Ministry Titles: Can I be ordained as a Pastor, Deacon, Evangelist, etc.?
The permissions and use of ministry titles by an ordained minister is an area of some confusion for both members of the clergy and the general public. For this reason, we will briefly discuss a few definitions of terms to offer a standard by which titles may be identified and used in ministry.
The title “ordained minister” is used to describe a person who has been recognized as having been called to ministry by God.
Titles such as pastor, evangelist, bishop, etc. are used to describe the roles in which an ordained minister serves.
The most common formal titles for a minister are: Reverend (Rev.), Minister (Min.), and Clergy. Any ordained minister may use these titles because they describe the role of a spiritual leader, while remaining neutral to a specific function. Someone wishing to address a minister (without knowing their area of service) may also use these titles to safely show respect without sounding uninformed.
The most common informal titles for a minister are: Pastor and preacher (no abbreviations). However, these are mainly used in the Southern regions of the US as blanket terms to cover any area of ministry.
An ordained minister is generally accepted in Evangelical Christianity as a person qualified to serve in any of the offices of ministry. Additionally, we find that a minister is likely to change their roles through their years of service to God. For example, it is common for a missionary to return to his or her home and later pastor a church, or serve as an evangelist. Therefore, it is a local church or ministry that decides the role in which they will receive an ordained minister. The use of a title is fitting whenever a minister is actively serving in a role known for its title, or they have served for an extended period of time.
For this reason, the NACM does not recognize ministers in their areas of service. Rather, we recognize people as ordained ministers. This way they have the freedom to follow their convictions about the different areas where God is calling them.
What Are the Differences? The Short Answer is None
The title “pastor” appears in only two places of the Bible: seven places in Jeremiah and Ephesians 4:11.
In Jeremiah the Hebrew word used is “râ?âh” or “raw-aw ” which is defined as a shepherd tending to or overseeing a flock.In Ephesians the Greek word is “poim?n” or “poy-mane'” which is translated literally and figuratively as “shepherd”.
Because Jesus referred to his people as “sheep”, we may conclude that the church is a sheepfold of God (there are many verses in the New Testament to support this analogy). Jesus referrers to himself as a shepherd, and Peter calls him the “chief shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). Even so, it was Peter who Jesus told to feed his sheep. Jesus also said:
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Joh 10:16).
The above words “will be” speak of the future tense. Therefore, until this time comes there will be under-shepherds. These shepherds (pastors) will watch over God’s flocks until he comes and makes them all one.
From this we conclude (in New Testament terms) that a pastor is one who watches over a church. Such is also a “minister”. In our society one who serves in ministry is recognized with ordination and thereby exists as an ordained minister. Being labeled an ordained minister speaks of the individual’s calling to ministry. Being labeled a pastor speaks of the role in which he or she serves.
Regarding the Titles of Deacons
There is no real difference; however, churches have all sorts of interpretations about the roles of deacons. Often, local churches install deacons on a temporary, or seasonal basis. In such instances they are given a “minister’s license” so that they may visit hospitals, jails, shelter, etc. This approach is intended to offer them temporary status as ordained ministers that at some time expire from service.
The NACM does not recognize ministers on a temporary basis. Rather, we believe that spiritual callings to ministry are lifelong commitments. Therefore, we do not place expiration on our recognition of ordination.
Evangelists and an Ordained Ministers, Whats the Difference?
The title “evangelist” appears twice in the Bible as the Greek word “euaggelist?s” or “yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace'”. It is interpreted as simply being a preacher of the gospel. It is typical for a local ministry to send an evangelist out into their community to invite people to church functions, hold church services in jails, and preach the gospel on street corners. For this reason, it is common practice for the sending ministry to give the evangelist a “license to preach”. This is very much the same as minister’s license, or ordination certificate. However, a license must have an expiration date. Sometimes an evangelist may serve on probation for a season before their church recognizes them as a full fledged ordained minister.
The NACM does not recognize ministers on a temporary basis. Rather, we believe that spiritual callings to ministry are lifelong commitments. Therefore, we do not place an expiration on our recognition of ordination.