A little while back I heard a sermon with the topic calling Christians to be pastors and leaders of churches. The sermon had much truth in it, but one particular point did bring up questions about Christianity and the Church. The speaker had the pastors and those called to be pastors called on stage. It was an interesting move and I was intrigued to see where he went with it. He proceeded to say that even though all of us are saved and had our place in the Kingdom to serve, it was the men and women on the stage that were part of a deeper calling.
In a sense, I got it.
They have a different role.
But I can’t help but wonder if there is an undercurrent of clergy versus laymen sneaking into the Churches. So let’s explore what is the Biblical view of leading roles in the church.
In looking for the word pastor, I only found one. Ephesians 4:11. I thought it was odd that it only found in the NLT once, so I looked it in greek. To my surprise, the word only means Shepherd, which is used many times in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. Pastors are merely watching the flock. Making sure the sheep/people are taken care of. It’s an important role for now while the Great Shepherd is gone, but more on that in a second since it ties in with another role.
You might be asking why I am mentioning something generally attributed to pastors, but the New Testament has a more wide open tradition than the Church today.
The word preacher is found 1 Timothy 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:11 in the english. The greek uses a word that is a term for an official herald or a public announcer (sometimes of a divine being). Paul says that he is God’s herald in these cases, though he say that it is only because God gave it to him. He reflects a person who is lowering himself to being under a more important being and cause.
This word is used many times for people who proclaim things. The high value proclamation in the New Testament is about the Good News that God is still working out a good plan for the world He created. That is something that all Christians are commanded to do.
Some translations have the term in 1 Corinthians 8:18. Although the word itself is not there in the greek, the idea of proclaiming the Good News is there.
It makes sense that preaching is not a limited activity by leaders in the Church, but by all of God’s children.
I know some people from some traditions use this position. Trust me, I am not wanting you to deconstruct and trash your traditions, but to see them with a good light. Elders are from the word we get Episcopal from. In the greek, it can mean a position of responsibility or oversight. It is seen mostly in I Timothy 3:1-2, 5:19, Titus 1:6, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
The important passage for my purposes 1 Peter. It starts with the term for Elders. So we recognize that there are Elders in the New Testament on some level.
However, the Greek muddles up a couple roles. Peter starts talking about shepherding and the Great Shepherd. Sound familiar? Look back to the Pastor section.
Which is it?
I think it’s safe to say that there is not one position over the other, nor is there a differentiation in Peter’s eyes. Pastor is shepherd is elder. What is the most important part is that Peter says they are going to see the Great Shepherd revealed one day(look ahead to Revelation). When that happens, there will be no other shepherd worthy of mention. No name above that name of Jesus.
This is another position that some denominations use. Once again, I am not saying ditch your tradition, but keep trying to see it in a good light.
What is a deacon? That is something that you could get a million answers to. One thing that is definitely true is that the New Testament had people that were called by that name. The meaning, however, was slightly different than how we might use it today. Every New Testament use except for 1 Timothy means servant/minister (this is my opinion even for Romans 16:1). This is interesting. This shows the highly valued term to be that of simply a servant, which is a reflection of Christ Philippians 2:1-11 and Romans 15:8.
So we have pastors (shepherds), preachers (public announcers), elders (episcopal ?), and deacons (servants). Some of what we have talked about is applied to pastors of today and sometimes leaders in the church. Other things sound more like things all christians should be doing. Although we probably might disagree on how the specifics of the roles should work, what we can agree on is that it must reflect Christ. If you have to be a leader be a servant.
Do not just say it…
be the servant.
We do no have to be afraid of the positions of authority since they have a purpose, but you do not have to be a pastor or deacon or elder to do the work of the King..
Just be a servant and reflect Christ.
Hear the words of N.T. Wright, “There are…no “special Christians. Ordination, for those called to it, is simply a sub-branch of Baptism, setting certain persons aside (as in Ephesians 4) so that, through their ministry, the whole baptized body of Christ may continue to function as such and grow together to maturity. Every Christian has a different calling. But all callings are marked with the same water, the same cross.”
Pastors, this means be humble, because you are in your place because God allowed you to be there.
Everyone else, be ready to do something.
Grace and peace.