Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shepherding Basics

As I've written about before, Scripture talks of Christ being our Chief Shepherd (Lead Pastor), and a good/great shepherd. And I see no evidence that anyone in the early church used the word shepherd, pastor, or overseer as a title for themselves or job description.

However there are a few verses that refer to Christ followers as shepherding or pasturing. So what can this mean for me?

One simple idea is how I'm a type of shepherd to my children. It is easy to see that I:
  • care for them
  • feed them
  • guide and teach them
  • scold and correct them
  • encourage and build them up
The goal is to build them up to maturity, so when they are older they will be able to shepherd others. I love them more than a shepherd would love his sheep, yet I don't really want them to be sheep forever.

Are there other people in my life that I am shepherding also? I believe as I mature in my faith there should be.

Are there people in my life that are still shepherding me? Yes.

Some will be more gifted at this than others. I'm thinking the goal of shepherding should be to feed, guide, correct, and encourage others, to build them up so they can mature to the point that they are shepherding others as well.

What do you think?

Related Posts:


Anonymous said...

“I see no evidence that anyone in the early church used the word shepherd, pastor, or overseer as a title for themselves or job description.”

Jon, I’m not sure what the “end run” is that you have in mind, or why (at least this is how it comes across to me in your blog) you feel that you need to try to deny or discredit what seems to be a fairly clear office or role that God has established and appointed for His bride, the church.

The 3 primary words used to describe the role or office of elder, overseer, pastor/shepherd are:

“presbuteros” translated into English as “elder” (Presbyterian)

“poimainō” translated into English as “shepherd/pastor”

“episkopos” translated into English as “overseer/bishop”

It’s obvious from the following texts that these 3 words are interchangeable and although they define different aspects, they all speak of one specific office or role.

To say that there is no New Testament evidence that the early church didn’t use the word shepherd, pastor or overseer as a title, I think is wrong. It’s obvious that they didn’t use these English words, but they most certainly did use the Greek equivalent to define the role of elder/shepherd/overseer. The plain reading of the following texts would bring one to the conclusion that what Peter and Luke and Paul are talking about is a specific role and to that role or office, the title of elder, overseer, and shepherd/pastor is given.

1 Peter 5
So I exhort the elders (πρεσβύτερος presbuteros) among you, as a fellow elder (συμπρεσβύτερος sumpresbuteros) and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd (ποιμαίνω poimainō) the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight (ἐπισκοπέω episkopeō), not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Acts 20
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders (πρεσβύτερος presbuteros) of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: …pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (ἐπίσκοπος episkopos), to care for (ποιμαίνω poimainō) the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…

1 Timothy 3
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (ἐπισκοπή episcope), he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer (ἐπίσκοπος episkopos) must…

Titus 1
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders (πρεσβύτερος presbutero) in every town as I directed you…

Jonathan said...

Thanks Steve for those verse. I know the term office was used as a title in both the OT and NT. I am not questioning that.

However in the OT I believe the role of elder was simply that of older wise men who were well respected in the community. I believe their culture had a role for elders to play within the family and community, but they were not necessarily viewed as the spiritual leaders. There were Priests and Prophets who specifically held those roles.

So I'm not clear how that role should translate to the NT church.

I looked at this in more detail here if you want to follow my thought flow:

I'll take a further look at the other terms in the verses you listed soon.


Anonymous said...


Why do you feel that there needs to be a link between the concept of elder in the OT and NT? Why do you think the role of the OT elder should translate to the role of elder in the NT?

The OT deals primarily with a specific ethnic, political, cultural group of people – the Israelites. So the concept of elders had a specific role in that culture… as you mentioned (perhaps similarly to how our Aboriginals here in Canada view the role and term “elder”). As we enter into the NT era though, and the focus of God’s agenda transcends all cultures and ethnicities, the transfer of specific cultural nuances breaks down. I think that trying to bridge or make a link between the Old & New Testament on this topic of “eldership” will lead to erroneous conclusions.

Whereas the role of elder in Israel (in the OT) really was open to anyone and fairly general, the role of elder in the church of Jesus Christ (in the NT) is a specific office, and that specific office has some specific qualifications and carries with it some specific roles.

There is no indication in the scripture that we should attempt to link the OT concept of general eldership with the NT calling of a specific office of eldership.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Steve,

So do you think for the early Jewish believers there were two distinct groups of elders?

If I were a Jew in an early church community would I have one set of elders who were my ethnic, political, societal elders. And then another separate group of church elders?

That may have been confusing. If that were the case wouldn't they have used a different name for this new type of elders to distinguish between the two groups of elders?

Jonathan said...

I must add my angst with these types of posts.

I do struggle with balancing making my faith journey public, with the reality that what I'm processing may sound judgmental towards others.

I don't know how to do one without the other.

My desire is to recognize (for myself) the parts of my religion that are extras. And place all my dependence on my Lord.

We both know a lot of church traditions were added on in the centuries following Christ. The reformation took many steps to remove some of the things holding the church back, but it chose to hang on to many others.

Anyways... I honestly have no judgmental feelings towards people who hang on to a variety of traditions (Catholic, Protestant, whatever). I know many truly love and follow the same Lord in many imperfect ways. God is the judge. My viewpoint can't determine anyone's heart. For me what matters is what I do with what God is teaching me.

So even if some of this stuff sounds judgmental towards specific people. Please give me some grace and believe me that I'm not judging any individuals. I'm just questioning some of my past traditions.

I love and respect you brother.

Anonymous said...

Yup… I do think that. A sort of cultural "elder" and the appointed elder in the local church. There's no indication that these 2 were one and the same in the context of the local church

If you were a Jew, you might have been confused – I don’t know. I’m guessing that there may have been quite a bit of confusion for the Christ-following-Jew, on a number of different levels, as they transitioned from living by the Levitical/Ceremonial law to living under the banner of grace, and I suspect that the concept of the office of elder in the local church may have been one of the lesser concerns of confusion, particularly in light of something like Peter, the primary leader (and elder) starting to chow down on unclean food.

It’s pretty clear that the elders referenced in the New Testament (in the context of the newly formed church) were an appointed group of men who were called to the office of shepherding and oversight of the local church (and given the title of elder) and not a general “older and wiser” person who, by virtue of life experience, gained the recognition of being an elder.

Anonymous said...

Jon, I most certainly will extend grace brother... questions are a legitimate part of our faith journey and so there's no need to apologize for that.

I would add though, that when a person makes their journey and their questioning public (like in your blog), they are opening themselves up to public scrutiny and rightfully, people may feel that things they believe strongly in, and are now being questioned or dissected, need to be defended and preserved.

Also (perhaps this comes as a bit of a caution Jon), your questions can potentially become more than what you intend them to be. Your legitimate questions and musings, now that they become public for all to read, may become a means of teaching for those who may not be at the same spiritual point that you're at (as people read your thoughts, they may embrace them not as a journey of thoughts and questions that you’re on but rather as truth and fact). For most, they will recognize your questions as a journey and will engage with you one way or another – in support or opposition or further challenge, but for others, it could potentially become fuel for unnecessary and perhaps even harmful questioning.

So, for what it’s worth, I’d encourage you to keep going hard on your journey – keep seeking God’s truth. Perhaps some of your journey needs to be done in a personal and private journal and the parts of your journey that you choose to make public, just be aware of the potential consequences.

I love and appreciate you too Jon!

Jonathan said...

Hmm... I'm not sure if its that clear to me yet.

We are putting a lot of weight on a term that can then mean a variety of different things then.

1) oldest son
2) old man
3) community elder
4) church elder

πρεσβυτέρου means:
- oldest brother or son (Gen 44:12, Gen 27:15)
- Aged, old people (Isaiah 47:6, Gen 19:4)

Similarily πρεσβύτερος
- oldest son (Luke 15:25)
- old (1 Kings 1:1, Gen 24:1, Josh 23:1)

Are we really sure that ἐπισκοπή means 'office of overseer' in 1 Tim 3, when ἐπισκοπή gets translated "of visitation" in 1 Peter 2:12? And something else in Job 10:12?

And are we sure καταστήσῃς means appoint? Or could it mean to set in order.

Do we know if these elders were give some decision making authority, or were they simply to be recognized as the older wise men to look to for guidance, and who would watch over and care for believers they were disciplining.

Anyways... that's some of the questions that are floating around.

This in no way nullifies your calling.

For me it is challenging myself to consider taking seriously any opportunity where God allows me to watch over and caring for others as well.

Jonathan said...

Oh, and thanks for that other comment too. My responses here got out of order.

(The last one was a response to your 3rd comment, not the 4th)

Jonathan said...

I have a bunch of scattered thoughts on this.

ἐπισκοποῦντες for oversight in 1 Peter 5:2 shows up a second time in Hebrews 12:15 and gets translated "See to it", "look carefully", "watching"... and it seems to be written to all believers.

I'm not sure if I'm the right guy to put this all together.

A blogger brother I respect has done a series covering this topic here. I haven't read it all, but I suspect he's reading the way I am.

I pray for God's wisdom.

Jonathan said...

OK, sorry. That was a bad link I gave in the last comment. There is an extra 1 at the end. And when I went to look at it, it wasn't a summary page like I thought.

I'll try to take a further look into this.

However at this point I still don't see evidence that anyone in the early church used terms like shepherd, pastor, or overseer as a title for themselves or a job description.

I do see evidence that people were called elders.

But maybe I'm missing something still.

Is shepherd the flock a noun or a verb?

The more I read however, I do sense a consensus that the 3 terms you list are used interchangeably.

But am I wrong in thinking that all believers should feed, guide, correct, and encourage others, to build them up so they can mature to the point that they are shepherding others as well?

To me this simply sounds like disciple making, which we are all called to do. But many like me have not been faithful.

Anonymous said...

I agree… I do think the Bible expresses and God expects that every believer should be involved in caring for each other. That's how the church of Jesus Christ should function. This doesn't negate the call on certain people though, who have been appointed to a specific role/office to be shepherds/overseers/elders over the flock.

The scriptures that I mentioned in my very first post indicate clearly that there were a specific group of men who were called elders and overseers in the local church. It doesn't indicate that they called themselves by that term (except for Peter who calls himself a "fellow elder") but if others called them that, I suppose one could conclude that they went by that term...

I’m not sure we're on the same playing field here Jon - seems pretty clear in the texts, but maybe I'm missing what you're trying to get at.

I don't want to just embrace a "Christian Religious Tradition" as it pertains to church structure and leadership and oversight, but I also don't want to complicate the scriptures from their plain reading, or read things "out of them" that are fairly clearly there. Maybe some of the church structure that we see today is not just religious tradition, but actually biblically based practice. It's how I see the role of elder/shepherd/overseer with the clear understanding that all Christians should be involved in caring for each other. Biblically, it seems that one doesn't negate the other.

Jonathan said...

FYI: If anyone follows through this comment thread. I've taken a look at the passages listed here in a series of posts summarized here: http://jonjourney.blogspot.com/2011/11/summary-on-elders-overseers-shepherds.html