Is it okay to call a woman “pastor” if she is not ordained?

by Matt Slick

CARM strongly recommends that a woman who is in charge of a group of people in the church not be called "pastor" even if she is not ordained.  Calling a woman "pastor" can condition people in the church to accept pastors as being female.  Ultimately, this could lead to a woman holding the senior-pastor position, which would be a violation of Scripture that mandates that only men can be elders.  Call her a director or leader instead.

Biblically, pastors are elders.  Consider 1 Tim. 5:17, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”  Pastors preach and teach in the Scriptures and say this is the responsibility of elders.  Therefore, biblically speaking the pastor is supposed to be an elder.

The only occurrence of the word “pastor” is in Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”  In Greek the “pastors and teachers” are governed by one definite article (‘the’ in the Greek but not translated into the English) which implies that both words are referring to a single person.  Also, both words ‘pastors’ and ‘teachers’ are masculine. 

Biblically, the pastor is to be a male, and to use the term for a female goes against the biblical usage and risks encouraging women to be pastors and elders.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.