I guess this must be controversial. Years ago, I was talking to a customer in my Christian bookstore, and I began to point out the obvious, which is that Timothy and Titus were not pastors. It took the man a second to believe that I was suggesting this. When he realized I was serious, he said, “We’re done here.”
He put down the books he was going to buy, walked out, and he never came back again.
Really, though, there’s not any question scripturally.
Proof Timothy and Titus Were Not Pastors
1. Timothy and Titus were told to appoint pastors.
The word “pastor” is only used once in reference to the Christian church. They are mentioned to exist in Ephesians 4:11, and nothing specific is said about them.
“Pastor” is used as a verb in other places in the apostles’ writings. It’s translated as “shepherd” rather than “pastor,” but it’s the same word. The ones who are said to do the pastoring are the elders (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
Elders and pastors are interchangeable terms in the Scripture (see Bishops, Elders, Pastors). Both Timothy and Titus are told to appoint elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). They are not elders themselves.
2. Timothy is said to be an apostle, and Titus must be one, too.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 says that the letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. 1 Thessalonians 2:6 references “we” as “apostles of Christ.” Since we all regard Paul as an apostle, and the Scriptures specifically say Barnabas was an apostle (Acts 14:14), it’s a simple conclusion that everyone who traveled with Paul was regarded as an apostle, even if temporarily.
There is no doubt that Timothy and Titus were functioning in that role in Ephesus and Crete. Both were there temporarily (2 Tim. 4:21; Tit. 3:12). Paul tells them the reason they were left, and in both cases it included intalling elders.
Apostles traveled; elders stayed in one place. The idea that an elder (pastor) could be raised in some faraway church, trained in seminary, then recruited by a pastor search comittee is a modern, heretical [the word, in a general sense, means “divisive”] tradition. Tertullian described something different going on in the early church:
The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honor not by purchase, but by established character (Apology 39)
3. Apostles must be pastors and evangelists.
This should be listed as a free bonus, but it’s part of the proof that Timothy and Titus were not pastors.
I don’t have the room to give the proof of that. I have to limit myself to showing you that both Timothy and Titus were doing the jobs of pastor and evangelist.
It may not be wrong to call the three letters, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, the pastoral epistles. The letters are full of pastoral instruction. Paul gives constant advice on how they should train the church. That is shepherding (cf. Eph. 4:11-12).
However, that was not the only job Timothy and Titus had. They also had to appoint people to do the shepherding on a permanent basis because they were moving on.
They were also evangelists. Apostles build churches. Unlike today, in the first century apostles couldn’t draw their members from unchurched Christians or members of other denominations. They had to win their church members from among the Jews and Gentiles (two very different crowds and methods).
Paul tells Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). We like to apply that, as we do with many verses, to all Christians, but there is no good scriptural reason to do so. Apostles are required to do the work of an evangelist and the work of a shepherd. Some of the rest of us are called to shepherd or evangelize, but that is not a general command for Christians.
Paul doesn’t seem to tell Titus to do the same, or suggest anything similar. It’s possible that Titus had his hands full with a group of converts that were “liars, evil beasts, and gluttons” (Tit. 1:12). It’s possible that Titus didn’t have the same gifts Timothy did.