WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MINISTER, A PASTOR, AND AN EVANGELIST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“What is the difference between a minister, a pastor, and an evangelist?” What a question and thank you for asking. Let us see what the Scriptures say.
“Minister” is a general term that means a “servant.” It is usually used in Protestant churches to refer to the clergy (local church leaders). We will look at how the Bible uses the term:
- Joshua was Moses’ “minister” (Exodus 24:13; Joshua 1:1).
- Aaron was to minister unto God in the high priest’s office in ancient Israel (Exodus 28:1,3,4).
- Israel’s other priests were called “to minister unto [God]” (Deuteronomy 21:5; Joel 1:9,13; Joel 2:17).
- The Levites ministered unto the LORD in the Tabernacle (Numbers 8:23-26) and later the Temple (2 Chronicles 13:10-12; Jeremiah 33:21-22).
- Luke 4:20 says a “minister” served in the synagogue of Nazareth.
- Jesus said He was a “minister,” someone who served Israel in order to serve Father God (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
- Acts 13:5 says John Mark was Barnabas and Saul’s “minister.”
- Acts 26:16 calls Paul a “minister” (cf. Romans 15:16; Ephesians 3:7; and Colossians 1:23,25).
- Timotheus called a “minister of God” (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 4:6).
- Apollos and Paul are called “ministers” (1 Corinthians 3:5).
- Paul and his ministry companions were called “ministers of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
- We Christians are called “ministers of the new testament” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
- Paul and his ministry companions were called “ministers of God” (2 Corinthians 6:4).
- Tychicus was called a “minister” (Ephesians 6:21).
- Jesus is called a “minister of the circumcision [Israel]” (Romans 15:8; cf. Hebrews 8:2).
- Government officials are called “ministers of God” in the sense that they keep order in society and punish evildoers (nationalism) (Romans 13:4,6).
- All Christians are ministers in the sense that God has given to us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
“Pastor” conveys the idea of leading and feeding God’s people. In fact, pastor is Latin for “shepherd,” where past– means “fed, grazed.”
Throughout the book of Jeremiah, JEHOVAH censures Israel’s religious leaders, the “pastors,” for misleading His people:
- Jeremiah 2:8: “The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.”
- Jeremiah 10:21: “For the pastors are become brutish [stupid, cruel, animal-like], and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.”
- Jeremiah 12:10: “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.”
- Jeremiah 23:1-2: “ Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.  Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.”
Talking about Israel’s restoration one day (that is, the Lord’s Millennial Kingdom), JEHOVAH promised Israel: “And I will give you pastors according to mine own heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).
When Jesus Christ resurrected and ascended, “He gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:11-12: “ And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” In the early days of the Church the Body of Christ, God gave Christians various spiritual gifts. Notice this is past tense—“he gave.” Those gifts had already been given prior to Paul’s writing of Ephesians.
“Evangelist” is the role fulfilled when the Gospel is preached. Our English word “evangelist” comes from the Greek word euaggelion—this word is translated in our English Bible as, “gospel,” “good tidings,” or “glad tidings” (“good news”).
Acts 21:8 calls Philip an “evangelist” (this was the same Philip who preached the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout Acts chapter 8). Paul instructed Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Again, when Jesus Christ resurrected and ascended, “He gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:11-12: “ And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” As stated earlier, in the early days of the Church the Body of Christ, God gave Christians various spiritual gifts. Notice this is past tense—“he gave.” Those gifts had already been given prior to Paul’s writing of Ephesians.
WHERE WE FIT IN
Since we have a completed Bible canon, written and preserved, there is no need for spiritual gifts to operate today (for more information, see below the link to our study, “What is the ‘that which is perfect’ in 1 Corinthians 13:10?”). However, God still needs men to lead His people, teach His people, and preach the Gospel. Rather than Christians operating with spiritual gifts, today, each and every Christian has a completed revelation from God, a complete Book, the 66 books of the Holy King James Bible. We do not need any more “words from God.” It is that completed and written revelation from God, that enables us to do the work of the ministry and accomplish God’s will. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
» Can women serve in the ministry? If so, how? (COMING SOON!)
» What is the “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10?
» Must Christian women wear head coverings?