Examining the Roles of Clergy – Introduction; Purpose

“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
  • Servants
  • 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:

  • Unbiblical
  • 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.

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12 Replies to “Examining the Roles of Clergy – Introduction; Purpose”

  1. I have read  your comment,it is so true.
    Kept up the good work.I will be reading to find out how it comes out with comments.

  2. OK then my first reply is you is that the best sources on the early church are extra canonical.  The NT itself doesn’t have that much on the structure of the church.  What it does have varies widely.
    I would recommend you attend an orthodox (and it must be orthodox) Jewish service to get a feel for how different a synagogue (Pharisee) is than a church.  I’d suggest a Hindu temple to get a feel for what temple worship is like (though on a smaller scale) (i.e. Sadducee).  In my experience Christians have experienced a very narrow range of structures and really can’t even picture what the early church likely looked like.
    In terms of doctrine,  if you want to understand why we have what we have.  Which requires reading the church fathers not the NT and seeing their views on the OT system.  Basically what we have today is very much a system justified from a misunderstanding of the OT system not really in the bible at all.
    After those two I’d move onto alternative visions of the church.

    Interesting topic. Interesting view.
    “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.”
    Yes, okay, right on.
    Can’t find clergy-laity in the Bible either. Hmmm.
    Have you ever jousted with windmills before?
    Sounds like you have.
    Have you ever jousted with a man’s traditions before?
    What is popular is not always truth.
    What is truth is not always popular.
    Jesus was a tradition breaker
    and angered a few religious leaders.
    I heard there are over 500,000 pastors in the U.S.
    And over 300,000 places called church.
    A lot of them are probably led by a single pastor.
    Don’t know how to check that out.
    Would be interesting to know for sure.
    How many people are called pastor in the Bible?
    How many people have the title pastor in the Bible?
    How many people were ordained a pastor in the Bible?
    How many congregations are led by a pastor in the Bible?
    Looking forward to some intersting thoughts.
    Be blessed in your sarch for truth.

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