Beware of Self-appointed Pastors

The New York Times has an interesting feature on “Women at the Pulpit.” The accompanying video is titled “Female Pastors on the Rise” (see above). Among other things, the article describes why female pastors are on the rise in the Brooklyn area:

Contributing to the growing numbers of women becoming pastors are real estate and denominations. Churches formed in nontraditional spaces, like storefronts, offer aspiring pastors more opportunities to preach. And in Holiness and Pentecostal churches, ordination and authority often come directly from the Spirit, said the Rev. Dr. Dale T. Irvin, president of the New York Theological Seminary.

Two brief words about what this means: First, many women who were not welcomed to preach at more traditional churches found out they could rent storefronts and start their own. Second, the Pentecostal tradition is an independent church movement. That means that one needs no denominational credentials to be a pastor. Believing themselves to be set apart directly by the Holy Spirit, they take the office upon themselves.

This procedure is problematic—and not merely because these happen to be women. To be sure, the Bible speaks clearly to the issue of women in the pastorate (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:12). But the Bible does not allow any person—men included—to take the pastoral office upon themselves.

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Beware of any pastor who is self-appointed. Their ministry springs from an unbiblical premise.


  • Josh Headrick

    If a person’s ministry springs from an unbiblical premise, do you think that they will be just as subject to the warning of James 3:1 as those whose calling is more aligned with the guidelines found in the pastoral letters?

    Or would you say that James 3:1 was written with these sorts of people in mind?

    • Brian Watson


      Since these self-appointed pastors have Bibles and, I assume, they open them and even preach from them (however faithfully or unfaithfully), then James 3:1 applies to them. It was written to anyone who presumes to preach and/or teach the Word.

  • James Stanton

    “Second, the Pentecostal tradition is an independent church movement. That means that one needs no denominational credentials to be a pastor.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by independent. There are church entities within Pentecostalism that function like the SBC. This is perhaps more true overseas in places like India where churches cannot easily survive without the support of a larger body. The (American white/black) Pentecostal tradition may not mirror that of more recent immigrants.

    In my experience, being raised as a Pentecostal, ordination does not seem to require any sort of formal education but there is sanction involved in many cases from the church body or from the parent church to a church plant.

    “Believing themselves to be set apart directly by the Holy Spirit, they take the office upon themselves” Perhaps you are referring to “women of the pulpit”. Otherwise it’s quite the generalization.

    • Denny Burk

      Dear James, I didn’t mean to generalize that all Pentecostals operate this way. I know that they do not. I’m just saying that some ecclesiological structures are more vulnerable to this kind of abuse. Baptists (my denomination) are an independent church tradition as well and there are Baptist churches that could be vulnerable to this kind of thing as well.

      • James Stanton

        Yes, I think you’re correct in that many Pentecostal churches are particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse although I think female Pastors are still relatively rare and unacceptable to most traditional Pentecostals.

  • Steve Lynch

    It’s funny how all of the offices of Ephesians 4:11 have been co-opted by Pastors… and then… they like to say who may and who may not be a Pastor.

    very odd. Very suspicious.

  • Ian Shaw

    Maybe thsi is where Kwame Kilpatrick got himsimelf in trouble by thinking he was annointed to become mayor of Detroit and do great things. I’m sure he always knew that would mean robbing Detroit blind and being found guilty of RICO charges.

    • Lauren Bertrand

      Sadly, Ian, Kwame Kilpatrick was duly elected by Detroit’s tiny, tiny electorate–probably less than 25% of the (rapidly shrinking) population. I have two family members who dutifully continue to live in Detroit, and they told me that virtually no one CAN vote, since most people claim a residential address outside of the city limits in order to avoid paying the outrageously high costs for car insurance that come with a Detroit address. Thus, the address they have on file is Southfield, or Royal Oak, and they cannot register to vote. And, thus, Detroiters have decided that cheap insurance is more important than their fundamental rights as Americans. And the result: the few people left to vote can cast the ballot for folks like Kwame, whose profligate ways largely explain why the city is in such dire financial straits now.

  • A. Amos Love


    You write…
    “The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed.”

    I’ve noticed, those are some tuff Qualifications. And, most congregations looking to hire a pastor/elder/overseer, and most who desire to be a pastor/elder/overseer usually “Ignore” or “Twist” the Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9.

    Titus 1:5-8 KJV
    5 …ordain elders in every city…
    6 If any be *blameless,* the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    7 For a bishop “must be” *blameless,* as the steward of God; not self willed,
    not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
    8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, *just,* *holy,* temperate;

    Usally, there is lots of push back, excuses, twisting, when these three are mentioned.
    1 – For a bishop (overseer) “must be” *blameless.* 2 – Just. 3 – Holy.

    1 – That *must be* is the same Greek word as: …You *must be* born again. John 3:7.
    *Must Be* – Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
    *Must Be* – Thayer’s – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.
    Seems to be a small word but very important.

    1 – Blameless – Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
    Blameless – Thayers – that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
    Blameless – Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    2 – Just
    Strongs #1342 – dikaios {dik’-ah-yos} from 1349;
    Thayers – righteous, observing divine laws, innocent, faultless, guiltless.

    3 – Holy
    Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
    Thayers – undefiled by sin, free from wickedness,
    religiously observing every moral obligation.

    Now that’s three tough qualifications for pastor/elder/overseers. Yes?
    How many pastor/elder/overseers today, who honestly examine themselves, seriously considering these three qualifications can see themselves as Blameless, Just and Holy, innocent, without fault, above reproach, undefiled by sin, and thus qualify to be a pastor/elder/overseer? And, if they can see themself as *blameless?* Is that pride? And no longer without fault? 😉

    Which Qualifications, are WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, allowed to “Ignore?” – “Twist?”
    Which Qualifications are NOT important?

    If WE, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests, His Body, His Kids,
    Take seriously the many tough Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9…

    The number of Biblically Qualified – pastor/elder/overseers – is quite small. 😉

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

    • Scott McCauley

      A. Amos, I think some of the criteria are *qualitative* and some are *quantitative*. “one wife” would be quantitative and therefore measurable. The only way to make “blameless” quantitative would be to say “guilty of zero sins”, but that makes Jesus the only one meeting that criterion. So it must be meant as a qualitative criteria and therefore somewhat subjective.

      Now, you could say that people take “one wife” to mean “one or zero”, but I think that’s just due to a colloquial way of speaking. Then again, maybe not. Maybe elders need to be married. Hmmm…..

      That’s just how I look at it anyway. Blameless cannot mean “0 sins” because it would disqualify everyone but Christ. So it must therefore be a subjective quality.

  • Don Johnson

    Extracting text out of its immediate context like Denny did for 1 Tim 2:12 is not a recommended method for good interpretation; such a method gives no confidence at all as it constitutes verse hijacking. The teaching unit is at least 1 Tim 2:8-2:15 and I think it is 1 Tim 2:8-3:13.

  • Curt Day

    As well as identifying the problem of self-appointed ministers, we should also note that wrong actions are often a response to a bad situation. So, we will not know the whole problem until we recognize the situation to which the increase of self-appointed pastors are responding to.

  • Teresa Rincon

    “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious…”

    Rules out Pope Calvin for sure.

  • Ken Temple

    Acts 13:1-4 shows that even the apostle Paul and Barnabas first served in a local church for a year (Acts 11:26); and then under the teachers and prophets (leaders/elders) they were set apart for the ministry after an extended ongoing time(s) of worship and prayer. Then the Holy Spirit spoke. They were sent out by the church (v. 3) and sent out by the Holy Spirit (v. 4). When Biblical local churches sent people out for ministry, the Holy Spirit sends them out.

  • A. Amos Love


    Maybe you’re correct about “Blameless.”
    And it “must therefore be a subjective quality.” 🙁

    But, subjective, in the dictionary means…
    1 – based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions:
    2 – dependent on the mind or on an individual’s perception for its existence.

    Are you saying us Mere Fallible Humans can make the meaning of “Blameless” be any thing we want it to mean? Because, the meaning of “Blamess” can be “subjective” – “influenced by personal feelings?” Or “dependant on the mind” of those desiring Power, Profit, and Prestige? Those who desire to control and manipulate God’s people? Those who desire “Titles/Postions” pastor/leader/reverend, NOT found in the Bible? Those who are seeking Celebrity?

    Seems Jesus is the only one in the Bible called – Shepherd/Leader/Reverend.
    How come, NOT one of His Disciples called themselves, pastor/leader/reverend?
    Are you Blameless when you take the Name of the Lord? And take that Name,in Vain?

    Yeah – Maybe you’re correct about “Blameless.” Although I doubt it.
    Paul did NOT say, “zero sins” – Paul said “Must Be Blameless.” Three times. 🙂
    Blameless – Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    Paul did NOT say, “Must Be kinda Blameless” – “Must Be kinda Blameless, sometimes”
    “Dependent on your mind, and influenced by personal feelings. 😉

    NOPE – It can NOT be a “subjective quality.”
    These Qualifications can NOT be “influenced by personal feelings”- Can they?

    And you write…
    “Blameless cannot mean “0 sins” because it would disqualify everyone but Christ.”

    Wrong reasoning…
    Isn’t this post about “Self-appointed Pastors?”
    If a pastor/elder does NOT qualify? Knows they do NOT Qualify?
    Wouldn’t they be considered, in the same class as, “Self-appointed Pastors?”

    Try this reasoning…
    Do the Qualifications, Must Be Blameless, Just, and Holy, Dis-Qualify – You? Me?
    Does, Must Be Blameless, Just, and Holy, Dis-Qualify – Your pastor/elders? 🙂

    And, when the Qualifications do Dis-Qualify: You? Me? Your pastor/elders?
    Will these pastor/elder/overseers repent, and remove themselves?
    Give up their Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Reputation?
    And be a good example to the flock?

  • Kevin Doerksen

    As a believer, when I confess my sins, God is faithful and just and forgives me of my sins, cleansing me from all unrighteousness-1John 1:9. Yes, Amos, we can be and are made holy and righteous by the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross. As such, any man that meets all of the other requirements of a Pastor/Shepherd/Elder is thus qualified. Broadens out the qualified a bit more, no?

  • Paul Wilkinson

    I work in a Christian bookstore environment. Many years ago a “lone ranger” preacher rode into town and I felt the need to develop an instant set of criteria that consisted of (a) Who called you here? (b) Who sent you here? (c) Who trained you? and (d) To whom are you accountable?

    I thought I had a fairly iron-clad set of questions.

    This is how the conversation went:

    Me: Who called you?
    Him: God.
    Me: Who sent you?
    Him: God
    Me: Who trained you?
    Him: God
    Me: To whom are you accountable?
    Him: God.
    Me: [sigh!]

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