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 Vol. 3, No. 1                                        Page 14                                                January, 2001

My Father's Business: Pastors

By Dennis (Skip) Francis

Any discussion of the "pastor," as it is used in Ephesians 4:11, must first begin with a basic understanding of how the word is used in Scripture. Many today believe the "pastor" is the "evangelist," but the verse in question clearly defines it differently. As we see in Acts 20:17-28, the "elder" (vs. 17) is to be an "overseer" (bishop, vs. 28) and to "shepherd" (pastor) the church of God. Just as the "evangelist" is also to "preach" and to "minister" (2 Timothy 4:2-5), the "elder" is to be a "bishop" and to "pastor." These are simply different aspects of the same office.

There is a great deal of difference between an "office" and the "work" of that office. Many who do not hold a particular office are still involved in doing the kind of work that men holding the office participate in. This is how men in business are promoted; they do enough of the kind of work done by their superiors in order to demonstrate their abilities to hold the higher position. This is also true of the pastor.

Much has been said in recent years about the qualifications of elders (pastors), as spelled out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Probably the most important thing to remember about these prerequisites is that they are minimum qualifications for the position. Just as a company advertising to fill a position will give the minimum qualifications, any resume that doesn't contain them will go from the in basket to the wastebasket.

Some in the church today believe that a man can meet "some" of the necessary qualifications and then "grow in" to the job. This is simply neither the case scripturally, nor is it good prudence. Just as in the above case, a company wants someone who can already do the basic job without a long period of training. A pastor/bishop/elder needs to be able to do the job from day one. He should already have done the work even before he held the office.

The discussion at hand concerns the work a pastor does in "equipping the saints for the work of ministry." What is that work? How important is the pastor in this work? Where does the pastor's influence begin and end?

The work of the pastor, as shown in Acts 20:28, as well as in 1 Peter 5:1-4, is a mixture of shepherd and overseer. As a shepherd, his function is to "lead," "feed" and "heed."

The pastor leads by example; "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3). He is not to be puffed up in character, but is to set a humble example of spiritual leadership.

The pastor also provides healthy spiritual food for the flock -- the food of sound doctrine. This involves holding "fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:13). Once this food is secured, it must be distributed; "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).

In the course of all this, he must be watchful, taking heed for the dangers of grievous wolves who will not spare the flock.

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30).

The ever present danger today comes not only from outside the church, but men even from the eldership will rise up and draw away the sheep. This is the danger; the solution is to "stop the mouths" of these gainsayers (Titus 1:11).

As an overseer, the pastor must recognize the depth and the limits of his position. An overseer does not do the work given to others to do. This principle is outlined in Acts 6. When a problem of a physical nature arose in the church, the apostles responded in this way: "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables" (Acts 6:2). The elder must oversee, but allow some distance for those overseen to do their work. In the business world, the term "micro-manage" means to oversee every aspect of the work done by others. This is usually resented and work that is done in such a system is often poor. This is also synonymous with being "lord's over" God's heritage, as expressed in 1 Peter 5:3. "Oversee" but don't "lord over."

One cannot say enough about the influence of the pastor in the work of the church. His presence is felt in every area of the work. If the elders are at odds with one another, that soon becomes evident in the direction (or lack of direction) that the church goes. An effective eldership will set the example in work, in manner of life, in spiritual things, in prayer and in teaching others. An elder who does not teach is "robbing God" (Malachi 3:8) by not giving his knowledge to the church he shepherds. One of the qualifications of an elder is "apt to teach" (1 Timothy 3:2). A note of caution from Acts 20:30, some in the eldership may "teach" perverse things. As one preacher from the past put it, "some elders are 'apt to teach' almost anything!"

Many congregations have survived for years without elderships. Sometimes this is due to the lack of qualified men. At other times, it is because it is what they have become accustomed to and it is in their "comfort zone." Brethren, a truly effective church is one that has set "in order the things that are lacking" (Titus 1:5). Where qualified men exist, an eldership should exist; where there are no qualified men, men should be trained to qualify.

Remember, 1 Timothy 3:1, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."

Copyright 2001 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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