There is often, in most cases, one person in the very front of the church, facing the congregation. Who is he? What is his role? We know what we expect, but what does the Bible say?
As a sidenote, I have never been to Bible school. But I can read. Sometimes, I may interpret differently, but when it’s in black and white, and in version after version, it is what it is. So, if you don’t agree with me, and EVEN IF YOU DO, crack open the Big Book.
The word “Pastor” is what I use when referring to the man at the head of our church. That’s just the word I like. In the King James Version, 1 Timothy 3 refers to pastors as “bishops.” However, the NIV uses the terms “overseers.” So, call it what you may, I think this is referring to the leader of a Bible-based church. I will come back to this later.
What does the Bible say?
1 Timothy 3: 1-7 -Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Okay, that tells me what he is supposed to be “like.” I guess these are the job qualifications, but not really the job description.
Ephesians 4:11-13- So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
1 Peter 5:1-4– To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Titus 1:9– He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
This kind of tell me what he is supposed to do. As a matter of fact, this is all I can find that is specifically about the head of the church. Can you find anything else? I’ve searched and checked the context about many things, and they all come back to believers. Not necessarily the head of the church.
I’ve searched the Bible, I’ve searched the commentaries. What it seems to me is that they are responsible for our faith, before God. One site that I liked mentioned an entire list of things they “should do.” To me, it seems like the most wonderful thing we can hope for is that they can be a picture of Jesus to us, a Good Shepherd of sorts. They show us by example how to live, how to love, how to serve. We can look to their family as an example. We can talk to them. We can ask questions, and trust they know the answer. However, we must follow the same call to love and to serve, as they do. As a matter of fact, something I’ve been considering lately is that when I received the Holy Spirit by making Jesus mine, my life should be showing the fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:24). Oh, definitely: all day, every day, that is a picture of me! Imagine!
Now I come back to the “unrest” in churches, where ministries are torn apart, and elders, pastors and deacons are judged. I know now, that they are responsible for the church. They are the overseers, they are the examples. But their call to life is the same as mine. What does the Bible say about when we have a problem with a church leader?
1 Timothy 5:19-21: Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
He “charges” us? Obviously, that’s the Apostle Paul talking, and he sounds pretty serious. And when he says “without partiality,” does that mean we cannot be partial to our best friend? Or someone we know really well? Or someone also holds power? Thank you, Lord, that when you hold these men (and possibly women) responsible for your sheep, you also cover them with your protection. One would have to be pretty confident that their issue or their problem is iron-clad to go up in front of others. When we don’t follow this, and we talk in private, on the phone, over coffee, there is almost no accountability. Women, especially, are quick to forgive a friend who is “venting.” God’s people can not listen to this talk: without partiality, it cannot be entertained. It cannot be given the time of day. Obviously, I think before going in public, we should follow the Matthew 18:15 prescription: If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. If that doesn’t work, in love and immersed in God’s Word and praying, go to step 2. But never, never, speak against the ones who hold office of the Lord. We have been told.
Now, do you think this could be true of all ministry leaders? Of all the people who serve God in an area of power? After all, when the Bible was written their probably wasn’t a youth minister, a children’s minister, etc. Do you think God gave Paul this instruction for all the people who serve Him?