Part 1: The Scriptures address the pastoral office, not just/only a Senior Pastoral office.
Part 2: The Substantial (historic) teaching of prominent SBC leaders addresses the pastoral office, not just a “Senior” pastor.
Part 3: The Statement of Faith (BF&M 2000) addresses the pastoral office, not just a “Senior” pastor.
Part 4: The Sources (authors) of the BF&M 2000 address the pastoral office, not just a “Senior” pastor.
Part 1: The Scriptures
You may have heard it said that the BF&M 2000 only limits the office of “Senior Pastor” to men as qualified by Scripture, but that is not at all true. Here is the first (of four) reason(s) why:
The Scriptures address the pastoral office in general, not just/only a Senior Pastoral office.
Among other passages of Scripture, the BF&M 2000 cites: Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 2:9-14, 1 Timothy 3:1-15, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.1 None of those passages are limited to the office of Senior Pastor. Rather, they simply address the pastoral office generally. These texts use the terms for the pastoral office – pastor (shepherd), elder, overseer, and bishop – interchangeably. Moreover, these texts understand that only biblically qualified men will hold the pastoral office.
Pastoral Terms Are Used Interchangeably in Acts, the Pastoral Epistles, and 1 Peter
Take a moment to read Acts 20:17-38 and you’ll notice a couple of things.2 First, you’ll notice that the word “elders” is in the plural, and that Paul addresses not a single, or “Senior” man, but all the men gathered. The congregation at Ephesus had multiple men serving as leaders in the church. Throughout Paul’s farewell speech these men are called “elders” (in verse 17), and they’re called “overseers” (in verse 28) which is where we get our word for bishop. Also in verse 28, Paul exhorts them to “care for the church of God” or “shepherd the flock” as some translations put it. That’s where we get our word for “Pastor” from.
These titles and terms are all addressing the same men and office. So, an elder is a bishop, pastor, overseer, and shepherd. These are interchangeable terms describing the formal office, or the function of the office. When it comes to the use of the word “pastor,” while it typically denotes an activity in the Scriptures, we have tended to use the word to refer to someone holding the office. In the mind of most today, the word “pastor” simply sums up the totality of the function and work of the office of pastor. This is why it was chosen for the updated BF&M 2000 (see Parts 2 & 3).
Paul doesn’t just use these terms interchangeably in his speech to the Ephesian elders, but he also does it in his Pastoral Epistles. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, he outlines the qualifications of an “overseer,” but when providing the qualifications for the same office in Titus 1:5-9 he refers to these men as “elders.”3
And Paul is not the only one to use these terms interchangeably. Peter does it too in 1 Peter 5:1-2. He writes:
1 I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly;
Peter addresses the “elders” (note the plural again), and he tells them to “Shepherd” or “pastor” God’s flock. He even recognizes in verse 2 that they are “overseeing,” which is the same word for bishop.
Truth be told, Peter already used the terms interchangeably in 1 Peter 2:25 when he referred to Jesus as “the Shepherd” and “Overseer” of your souls. More to the point, when Peter speaks of the “Chief Shepherd” in that verse, he is referring to Jesus, not to a local church pastor. He does the same in 1 Peter 5:4 too when he assures under-shepherds (pastors) that when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
When speaking of the pastoral office – not just or only the Senior Pastoral office – pastor (shepherd), elder, overseer, and bishop are used interchangeably in the Scriptures. The BF&M 2000 refers to these texts of Scripture, and therefore the Statement of Faith addresses the pastoral office, and not just or only a Senior Pastoral office.5
1Acts 20:28 (CSB): 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.
1 Timothy 2:9–14 (CSB): 9 Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.
1 Timothy 3:1–15 (CSB): 1 This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” 2 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy. 4 He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap. 8 Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must also be tested first; if they prove blameless, then they can serve as deacons. 11 Wives, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything. 12 Deacons are to be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently. 13 For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 14 I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon. 15 But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
1 Peter 5:1–4 (CSB): 1 I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
2 Acts 20:17–38 (CSB): 17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church. 18 When they came to him, he said to them, “You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and during the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I did not hesitate to proclaim anything to you that was profitable and to teach you publicly and from house to house. 21 I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. 25 “And now I know that none of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will ever see me again. 26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 because I did not avoid declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears. 32 “And now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who are with me. 35 In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” 36 After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them. 37 There were many tears shed by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving most of all over his statement that they would never see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
3 Titus 1:5–9 (CSB) 5 The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. 7 As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.
4 1 Peter 2:25 (CSB): 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.