Another topic I think the church should dialog on is leadership. Is there a place for hierarchy in the church? Are some brothers a type of leader who have some special authority over the others? And what about titles, positions, and offices? Are we really doing this by the book?
Of course, in any gathering there will be some who lead others. The guy who starts the wave at a football game is a leader. Not because he has any special authority, but because others see what he is doing and want to follow.
What about elders? I understand there were elders in the NT church... just like there were elders in the OT ... society. However the elders in the OT society were not viewed as spiritual shepherds or overseers. I'm not sure how this translated into the NT church. I suspect it was common to look to the older wise men in the community for advice and guidance. However I don't see Scriptural evidence that these elders made decisions on behalf of the rest of the body.
What about pastors and overseers? I find it interesting that nobody in the NT called themselves these titles. It may be that shepherding and watching for and caring for others is more of description of what we are all called to. It may have had little to do with a title for an office or position. Yes, some will be more gifted than others... so they should be leading by example to encouraging the rest of the body to shepherd and oversee as well. In my opinion the only one who qualifies to use the title Chief Shepherd (or lead pastor) is Jesus.
I suspect if anyone was going around calling themselves 'Pastor' in those days, Jesus would have added that to this list in Matt 23:8-12 (NIV):
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.Church history is full of people using titles like preacher, pastor (shepherd), bishop (overseer), clergy, deacon (waiter or servant), priest, minister, reverend, archbishop, cardinal.
But I can't find any evidence those in the early church used any such titles. They refereed to themselves servants, brothers, apostles (sent ones), prisoner.... I think they understood their role and position in this new kingdom Jesus was establishing.
HOWEVER... just because I am questioning the use of the titles Pastor and elder, I do not want anyone to think I am against those who use these titles. I pray I can show grace and love towards my brothers who use these titles. My dad is a retired 'pastor'... and of course I still love him dearly. And I have other good friends who use these titles. I recognize that they are passionately seeking to love and follow the same Jesus I am seeking. In my opinion, it may not be so much about what we call ourselves that matters... but what we do. And I know most people who have used the titles pastor and elder have been doing shepherding, caring, feeding, etc. And we should all strive to follow that example.
- Leading The Way - a summary post attempting to organize my thoughts on leadership
- Summary on Elders Overseers Shepherds - 9 post series
- Leadership lessons from dancing guy video
- Authority of Timothy and Titus
- Biblical Elders
- Elders in Christs church
- Church Leaders
- Church Polity
- Who wants to be a leader
- Leadership is not decision making
- The Pastor
- The First Pastors
- The Choosing of the Seven
- Shepherding Basics