Biblical and Theological Studies Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Southeastern Theological Review





First Page


Last Page



A variety of titles and images are used in the Scriptures to describe those who commit their lives to serve in pastoral ministry. Those who are called to such a vocation are described as shepherds or pastors (Eph 4:11), elders (1 Pet 5:1–5), and overseers (1 Tim 3:1), which are all terms replete with meaning and significance. Through these various titles we receive a more full-orbed understanding of what the role and function of a minister truly is. This is due to the fact that words like shepherd and overseer can function as metaphors, describing the realities of pastoral ministry. Therefore, if a term used to describe pastoral ministry were to be overlooked it would leave a considerable gap in understanding regarding the true nature of the pastorate.

It is my contention that terms such as “steward” (οἰκονόμος), and “stewardship” (οἰκονομία) have been relatively overlooked in conceiving of the function and role of one who serves as a pastor. This paper will demonstrate through an exegetical analysis of these words—along with relative cognates—that the overseer is responsible as a steward for rightly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for overseeing the souls of the people in their local church. This metaphor for pastoral ministry reveals a crucial connection between preaching the Word of God and the shepherding and oversight of the congregation as a whole. If this is true there are implications for pastors as they seek to responsibly proclaim the truth of God’s Word and watch over the spiritual temperament of the people within their congregation, knowing they will have to give an account to God as a steward. As such, it will be argued that this image gives greater depth and clarity to the role and function of one who serves in pastoral ministry.

This work will begin to delve into this matter by looking at the literal occurrences of the terms οἰκονόμος and οἰκονομία in the NT, followed by the metaphorical uses, noting most specifically those texts that give clarity to the meaning this metaphor brings to the pastoral task. After observing these occurrences and their significance, the way in which stewardship language influences and unites the ministerial responsibilities of preaching and shepherding will be taken into account. Finally, a theological synthesis will be proposed regarding our findings and the implications that this metaphor may have for pastoral ministry in a present-day local church context.


Church governance, church government, elders



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.