Chapter Three ------------------------------------Feedback Box:
"Pastors: God's Job Description"
Scripture study of the duties of the "shepherd" of the church, showing none of the duties suggests doing all the talking. A Shepherd, or "pastor", is supposed to be an administrator, or a moderator; his gift, and the gift of "prophesying", or preaching, are two distinct gifts.
Let's look again at the familiar passages about the duties of pastors; and let's look at the passages about the qualifications of pastors, for further clues to their duties. Let's see if they suggest whether one of the duties of pastors is to do virtually all the talking, or to censor discussion before it is even articulated, by pre-approving all communication during "worship service", and all discussion subjects even during Sunday School Bible "studies".
1 Peter 5:14 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage, but being ensamples [examples] to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (KJV)
Hmmm. Pastors are supposed to be "examples" for church members. How does that apply to preaching? "But Peter is talking about elders, not pastors! The elders don't do any preaching; they are the ones that pass out communion!"
Ah, but my Greek dictionary notes "The NT uses the words bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangebly", which is borne out by verse 2 saying these "elders" are supposed to have "oversight"; and also by verse 1 which says Peter was one; and we know he was not limited in his duties to passing out communion.
"I know. Peter must have meant to say 'pastors are supposed to be examples for the congregation, except of course when it comes to the one main thing pastors are known for doing: preaching. They are just supposed to be examples for others in the little daily activities which hardly anyone ever sees them doing.' Peter just forgot to explain that."
Sorry, but it seems to make more sense to assume Peter conducted church the same way Paul did, where pastors were moderators rather than unchallenged lecturers. If so, then even their "preaching" could be held up as a model for others to imitate. Even their "oversight" could be a model for others, when we remember that Jesus' model of authority was authority through service.
Matthew 20:20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping [him], and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father. 24 And when the ten heard [it], they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 25 But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Did you notice 1 Peter 5:3 "...Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage..."
1 Timothy 3:15 This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
What sort of "ruling" is Paul talking about? Are we back to the world's "lording" it over others by giving orders what people may say or do when they come together? Or can we stay with "ruling" by example? For the answer to this, let's consider what sort of authority is effective with your own family.
What sort of family bonds would you have if you pre-approved everything your wife and children could say or do when they came home?! How long do you think they would "obey" you? And for as long as they did, how much do you think your children would mature?
Don't your wife and children need to be able to express themselves freely? Don't they need latitude to practice the Gifts they have received from the Holy Spirit?
"But pastors pre-approve what members can say and do during the Worship Service all the time, and that never seems to prevent them from ruling their church!"
Good point. I wonder why it is that people will submit to dictators in their churches and governments so much more readily than in their parents and spouses? I think I am going to put off figuring that out for another book. Meanwhile, we must ask: if Peter meant for a pastor to be far more of a dictator with his church than with his family, why do you suppose he thought the ability to "rule" his family with freedom demonstrated the skills needed to "rule" his church as a dictator?
Today when a pastor's kids are arrested and his wife divorces him, these verses are given, in many churches, as grounds for dismissing the pastor. But in fact, I don't think anyone would ever say his actual ability to be the boss of his church, by the dictatorial American model, is diminished by his inability to hold together his family. Those are two separate sets of skills, so the reason for dismissing him boils down to clumsy obedience to these verses: even though we can't see what one has to do with the other, these verses say it does, so we have to assume they do. Besides, he is such an embarrassment to us now.
But if Paul actually meant for Timothy's church to be the same as he wanted the Corinthian church, where what members said and did was not pre-approved by the pastor, and where, in consequence, excellent moderator skills were necessary, then family skills were very much related to church fellowship skills!
Notice Paul never actually told Timothy to use a broken family as grounds for firing a pastor who is already in place: he told Timothy to use good family skills as a qualification on a job applicant's resume! Perhaps Paul consciously meant to make this distinction. Perhaps it makes more sense, once someone is functioning as a pastor, and his family falls apart, to determine the adequacy of his fellowship skills by looking directly at his fellowship skills, rather than by looking at his family skills, which are, after all, a less direct indication of his fellowship skills. Perhaps the reason for looking at family skills at all, before a person is a pastor, is because that's the only skills there are to look at. Just like an employer looks at a young job applicant's schooling because that's all there is to look at; but after he is hired, he only cares how well he does his job, and cares nothing about his schooling!
1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, [new convert] lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
This is a bit off our subject, but I have often heard verse 7, where a qualification of a pastor is "a good report of them which are without", interpreted as requiring the respect of the community!
That has always puzzled me, since community reaction to fearless proclamation of the Gospel is not often "respect"! I don't think Paul had a great deal of community "respect"! The Bible's account of community reaction to Jesus offers us a study in the fickle "respect" of the community.
John 2:24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto [trust] them, because he knew all [men], 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
Turns out the Greek word which the KJV translated "report" is the same "marturia" which KJV translates "martyrs"! It means a witness. It is the boldness of the witness which Paul and his type practiced -- the courage to proclaim the Gospel and its relevance even where influential community leaders will use police and courts to shut out the Gospel -- that has taught us to associate the word "marturia", or "witness", with "someone who is tortured for Christ"!
1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise [must] the deacons [be] grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being [found] blameless. 11 Even so [must their] wives [be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
These are the qualifications of deacons, but not the duties. I see no new clues here whether pastors are supposed to be verbal dictators or moderators.
Is "deacon" different than a "Minister"? Actually the Greek word for "Minister" is "Diakoneo". It means "servant" or "slave" or "those who execute the commands of others", (similar to our word "administer",) or serve the needs of others. It is ironic that our word "administrator" has come to imply great power, since administrators usually serve the public, or a large number of stockholders, so that no one person whom administrators serve has more power than the administrator! Similarly, it is ironic that our word "minister" has come to mean a virtual theological dictator among those he "serves"!
These verses are the only place in the Bible where KJV translators have translated this word "deacon". No special reason, probably. It is a transliteration [the same word sounds similar in both languages] of "diakoneo", and hundreds were involved in the translation, so it is to be expected that the same Greek word would be translated three or four equally correct ways.
Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (KJV)
The duties of leaders here are given as edification, and perfection, of members. A vision is offered of the great maturity of members which is to result. These verses do not specify whether this is to be accomplished by a verbal monopoly or open discussion subject to scrutiny from all.
That is, beyond a little common sense. How do we expect spiritual maturity to develop the fastest: by being told what to think and being offered no opportunity for rebuttal? Or by searching the Scriptures like Bereans, with others scrutinizing our own scrutiny, to either confirm or rebut each new theology presented? (Acts 17:10-12)
Would you raise your child by making him come to you to pre-approve everything he wants to say to the rest of the family, before you will permit him to say it? Would you teach a child in school that way? If you do not think anyone can become intellectually, socially, or morally mature that way, why do you think anyone can become spiritually mature that way?
I have watched people debate in political conventions, where hundreds instantly scrutinize you if you say a word out of place; I have watched this process politically mature participants very quickly! By contrast, I have watched people watch politics on TV, where their only interaction with what is going on is to mumble to someone else in the room who is only half watching anyway, and I have watched this process preserve them as political pygmies.
Likewise I have watched people sit like bumps in churches, and have marvelled at the survey I once heard of which found that only 4% of "Bible Believers" have read the Bible once through, and at how similar this proportion is to the proportion of those who seem to participate meaningfully! I have seen people escape from this morass and grow!
Titus 1:5-16 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. 12 One of themselves, [even] a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians [are] alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things [are] pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving [is] nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (KJV)
No new duties laid out here. I like the last verse because it takes another poke at "Easy Believism" which says you need but intellectually affirm a couple of facts and then coast the rest of the way to Heaven. Such paganism is consistent with the philosophy that you can sit like bumps on logs, like knotholes in the pews, and tell yourself you have obeyed the "gathering ofyourselves together".
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
See there? Here is the one verse every preacher quotes to tell you to go listen to him, and what does it say we are supposed to do when we "gather together"? Sit like knotholes? Hardly! We are supposed to "consider" one another [Gr: fix one's eyes on attentively; perceive, observe, understand] -- try fitting that into a scene where hardly anyone even knows each other except an occasional name and a polite smile!] and we are supposed to "provoke" one another to love and do good works! [Gr: to irritate, incite!] Church isn't supposed to be comfortable! You are supposed to get under each other's skin, when that is what it takes to get some activity going, and to shed the scales of apathy and meanness to nurture Godly love! What does that do to the theory that if you irritate somebody, you are not being "loving" -- rather, you are being "divisive"?
The very reason Paul gave for "gathering together" (holy irritation) is what American churches label as "divisive", which is grounds for expelling a member from church!
I asked an usher at a church I visited, "does this church sponsor a Bible discussion?"
The usher was puzzled by my choice of words. "Er, we have a Bible study", he offered.
"You mean where a leader picks the subjects and does most of the talking, like a 'sermon'?" I queried.
"Yes", he answered, eyeing me with suspicion of my strange distinction, as if wondering what cult I had been in, that I had even thought of such a hare-brained adventure as a Bible discussion!
Has "church" always been a place where people gather to listen to one man do virtually all the talking? Where discussions, when they occur, are limited to topics designated by one person, or worse yet, to topics dictated by a Sunday School Lesson publisher a thousand miles away?
No. And it shouldn't be now.
I would have thought Bible believers would not need any further evidence of this than that of 1 Corinthians 14: that in Paul's ideal fellowship gathering, everyone, literally everyone, contributed to the preaching, as well as to other activities. But that isn't enough to persuade you, is it? Yes, that's you I'm talking to! You, personally, and no one else! Now that you have seen the Biblical evidence that 1 Corinthians 14 calls for wide open discussion, that still isn't enough to persuade you to cease supporting monopolized communication and commit yourself to creating 1 Corinthians 14 "fellowship" in your neighborhood, is it?
Even after reading that evidence, you still look upon today's "preacher" model as "church", and upon upstart attempts to get 3 or 4 people together for Bible discussion (because that's all they can find who care for that much thinking) as something less than "church", and therefore the thing to drop if you don't have time for both (and who has time for anything anyway?) Don't you?
So I have not relied solely upon the Word of God for evidence of how God defines Fellowship. That was all I needed to persuade myself (and a few fellow fringies) of what must happen, but just for you, I have gone further.
I have inquired how Fellowship is conducted among persecuted Christians, on the theory their services may be closer to the Holy Spirit than ours, since only those attend who love Jesus enough to be tortured for Him. I have interviewed Prem Pradhan of Nepal, where the sentence was one year for being a Christian and three years for converting a pagan; Christians from Sudan, where the UN and the oil-rich Arab nations support the Moslem capital's brutal efforts to exterminate the Southern Sudanese because they are mostly Christians; and Tom White, USA director of Voice of the Martyrs. Turns out their experience of Fellowship is closer to the 1 Corinthians 14 model than to the American Preacher model
I have inquired how Fellowship was conducted in early America. Turns out "church" was politics, Bible study, and community business rolled into one. No one in those days accused the church of being irrelevant to society, any more than anyone today accuses government of being irrelevant to society!
But even after reading Chapter One, and even after you are forced -- by reflection, further Berean searching, and possibly re-reading of Chapter One -- to admit that "church" as we know it would have seemed bizarre to Paul, not to mention persecuted Christians today, or America's Founding Fathers, that still won't be enough to inspire you to form a Fellowship after God's pattern, or to insist that your own "church" get back to the Bible, will it? You will still keep going to "church", and when someone asks you to join their Bible discussion, you will tell them you don't have time, won't you?
Because "church" as you know it is a tradition you have known all your life. Your whole life's experience has taught you to DEFINE "church" as a place where you go and sit beside people you never meet and listen to one man, safe from public contradiction, teach you what the Bible means. Anything else simply isn't "church".
So I have gone even farther. Just for you, not for anyone else, just you, personally. I have proposed ways your "church" can begin to open up channels of communication incrementally, in small, easy doses.
It is almost premature to start thinking about specific applications of inter-member communication, before every last objection to it has been addressed. On the other hand, there is only so far we can continue disposing of every last objection, before we have formed a clear picture of just what is being objected to: just what a Bible Discussion might actually be like, with a large congregation. So we will move now to possible ways your "church" can begin turning into a church, in small, easy doses, before we listen to the witness of Martyrs, and of America's Founding Fathers.
Perhaps I should warn you ahead of time: should you succeed in opening up Bible discussion in your "church", more will occur than mere discussion.
Chapter 4 "Church" is "broke"
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