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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Overseers in Acts 20:28

Here is part 4 of a series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors. Looking at Scripture references typically used to support the traditional models of church leadership. (See links below for previous posts.)

I took a 10 month break on this series because I recognized that this topic can come off sounding judgmental and divisive. Yet I think there is some value to posting the rest. As always, I welcome dialog. I don't claim to be the authority on this. And I struggle because I have close friends and family who will see things differently. I still respect who they are and what they believe.

I post with the hope that some will see that my questions with tradition are rooted in questioning if we have really been doing things 'by the book'.

Acts 20:28 (NIV)
"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

Or Acts 20:28 (YLT)

"Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit made you overseers, to feed the assembly of God that He acquired through His own blood, "

I want to look at the bold terms and examine their meanings. I'll use http://biblos.com/acts/20-28.htm to help with the Greek.

overseers - ἐπισκόπους - episkopous
epískopos (a masculine noun, derived from 1909 /epí, "on/fitting contact," which intensifies 4649 /skopós, "look intently," like at an end-marker concluding a race) – properly, an overseer; a man called by God to literally "keep an eye on" His flock (the Church, the body of Christ), i.e. to provide personalized (first hand) care and protection (note the epi, "on").

"Though in some contexts 1985 (epískopos) has been regarded traditionally as a position of authority, in reality the focus is upon the responsibility for caring for others" (L & N, 1, 35.40).
shepherd - ποιμαίνειν - poimainein
  • A verb, to tend to
  • Not a noun or office title

What I know:
  • Paul was addressing the elders here (who may simply be those recognized as the older wise men in the community of believers).
  • They were told to keep an eye on God's flock, to watch over it
  • They were told to tend to it, and care for others
  • These are things all believers should do. These elders need to be examples of this so the rest can follow.
What I don't know:
  • Were these elders appointed for a short term to govern and manage the affairs of each local assembly, making decisions for an organization or corporation?
  • Does watching over, tending, and caring for include any decision making authority for others?
If we start with what Jesus had to say about leadership, I think the meaning here becomes clearer.

Matt 20:25-28 (NIV)
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 23:8-12 (NIV)
"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master 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 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

What do you think? Do you think Acts 20:28 supports the traditional office of elder/overseer/pastor? Am I missing something?

Previous Posts in this series:

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