“All too often those ‘in charge,’ be they clergy, boards, vestry, sessions, or what have you, tend to think of the church as ‘theirs.’ They pay lip-service to it being ‘Christ’s church, after all,’ then proceed to operate on the basis of very pagan, secular structures, and regularly speak of ‘my’ or ‘our’ church. …. The church belongs to Christ, and all other things–structures, attitudes, decisions, nature of ministry, everything–should flow out of that singular realization.” – 1 Corinthians, NICNT, 135 (HT – Εις Δοξαν.)
During this week, I want to examine the roles of clergy – their authority and their duties. Coming from a fundamentalist (mixed with Southern Baptist) background, I developed, early on, a view that the singular pastor was the direct mouth of God. Yet, in studying the Scripture, I find that this is wholly unscriptural. Because of this, and because of recent experiences in the lives of those around me, I find it necessary to explore the fundamentals of the ministry of the Church.
We know that with any power, there comes the ability to abuse it – and none more so it seems than the power of the ministry. So many see the men and women of God as the final, infallible word – and that to challenge them is to challenge God Himself. I have known of people who whisper when speaking of the Pastor (not to mention the Pastor’s wife) as if the Pastor is omnipresent in some supernatural way. So, this week, I will attempt to devote some time in establishing the ministry as:
- Human; fallible
- Multiple person in the ministry
- Held accountable by the people
- The aid in union between Christ and His Church
It is my contention that a singular pastor is:
- Unhealthy for the Pastor himself
- Unhealthy for the congregation
To begin, Paul gives us a two-fold division of ministry:
This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.”
In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. (1Ti 3:1-13 NLT)
Further, we will enumerate the types of ministers commonly recognized by the Church –
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13 NLT)
We will examine the qualifications tomorrow.
I want to focus on the use of ‘pastor’ in nearly all English translations – one which I believe mutes the meaning of the word.
Thayers’ Lexicon gives the word as:
ποιμήν, ποιμένος, ὁ (akin to the noun ποίᾳ, which see: (or from the root meaning `to protect’; cf. Curtius, sec. 372; Fick 1:132)), from Homer down; the Septuagint for רֹעֶה, a herdsman, especially a shepherd; a. properly: Matt. 9:36; 25:32; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 2:8,15,18,20; John 10:2,12; in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow, John 10:11, 14. b. metaphorically, the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church, John 10:16; 1 Pet. 2:25; Heb. 13:20 (of the Jewish Messiah, Ezek. 34:23); of the overseers of the Christian assemblies (A. V. pastors), Eph. 4:11; cf. Ritschl, Entstehung der altkathol. Kirche, edition 2, p. 350f; (Hatch, Barnpron Lects. for 1880, p. 123f). (Of kings and princes we find ποιμένες λαῶν in Homer and Hesiod.)*
The image, to me, is clearer pertaining to the duties of the person who holds that office – this person is to be a shepherd and a teacher, one office, but the duties involved care, compassion, motivation, and education. We are welcome, of course, to backwards apply our understanding of ‘pastors’ but do we miss out on something pertaining to the position?
My short answer is yes – a pastor is supposed to be a shepherd – one who moves with the compassion of Christ to care for the flock.
Would you count a pastor as good who:
- Ignores the hurting
- Puts his family first before the needs on the congregation
- Responds by email to congregants in need
- Ignores the needs of his parishioners
- breaks the law
These examples are those pulled from a wide range of sources and may not be typical of your local ministry; but they do happen, and often, leading to the destruction of the congregation, or at the very least, individuals.
As we move forward, we will examine the qualifications of the elders and the deacons, as well as what a true ministry team should look like. And finally, examine the Tradition of the primitive Church. I would like you to feel free to start the discussion, however, on what you think a ministry team should look like. Please feel free to respond to these posts as you feel able.