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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Spiritual Leadership - Pastor, Preacher, Minister, Bishop, Overseer, Shepherd, Elder, Deacons

Matthew 20:25-28 But having called them, Jesus said, You know that the rulers of the nations exercise lordship over them, and the great ones exercise authority over them. But it will not be so among you. But whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your servant; Even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.


In today's world, many people don't know what the role of a pastor is suppose to be. We have let TV, movies, media define what we think pastors and spiritual leaders are. Unfortunately, the media people don't have a clue what constitutes biblical leadership. But even Christians who should know better don't know the Biblical role of pastor or deacon or elder. I think this is why pastors get away with some of the stuff they get away with. People are ignorant about what the Bible teaches on spiritual leadership, authority, qualifications, basically the whole job description. We've all see the mockery of preachers...and let's be real here...there is some substance to the mockery. There have been lunatics who stand on sidewalks shouting blasphemies but holding Bibles, there have been mega-maniacal TV preachers jetsetting around the world, there have been conmen passing themselves off as pastors and there has been power mongering and politicking within church circles. It's shameful and it's NOT what God wants. Christians are human beings who have the same sinful natures that everyone is born with. If we are true Christians then the Holy Spirit is living in us and teaching our born-again spirit how to walk as Christ wants us to walk but it's a process that takes time and we never reach perfection until we die. So you will see us make mistakes and fall and sin and be grouchy and selfish at times. It shouldn't be, but it is. Then there are those who aren't really saved but they go to church, even become ministers. They are wolves in sheeps clothing. The only way we as human beings have of knowing if someone is saved or not is by "their fruits". I.e. by their actions and the results. Even this means we make mistakes and judge someone wrongly as being a Christian or not. We can't see into their hearts, all we have is their actions and words and lifestyle. And we can only see them in part. So it's easy to make mistakes.

So what does God say about pastors, elders, deacons? To summarize...if you want to be a celebrity, a hot shot, a rich famous man, don't become a pastor. God says you should be a servant leader. This goes against our human nature. We think a successful pastor is one who can afford the best cars, the best clothes, the nicest home. We think the bigger the church gets, the more he should reflect material wealth. A pastor of a mega church that brings in lots of money and lots of seat fillers (people) has to be a "successful" pastor, a man blessed by God, and should recieve the same compensation that a CEO of a successful company recieves. I'm here to tell you that this is not what God says in His Word.

I hope you will take the time to read through the following Bible Dictionary definitions and search the Bible for the reference scriptures so you can know for yourself, what God says about church leadership.


"Overseer" , Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

The word "overseer" (Gk. episkopos) is used a limited number of times in the New Testament, but it has significant implications for a proper understanding of leadership in the church.

The noun episkopos appears five times in the New Testament and means overseer, guardian, bishop. It is used in reference to Jesus Christ in 1 Peter 2:25 and in other places of individuals who have a function of leadership in the church (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7). The verb episkopeo appears in 1 Peter 5:2 and means to take care of, to oversee, or to care for. Episkope appears in 1 Timothy 3:1 and refers to the position or office of overseer or bishop. It seems clear that a plurality of overseers (elders) was the New Testament model, though flexibility apparently existed as to structure. It is quite likely that one overseer or elder would have primary leadership as the pastor among the other elders in the local church, such as James in the church at Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:13-21). The office itself is restricted to men. As men are called to be the spiritual leaders in the home, so they are to be the spiritual leaders in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Timothy 2:9-3:7).

The first responsibility God has given the overseer is to watch over the flock. Acts 20:28a states, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers"; and Hebrews 13:17b says, "They keep watch over you." The idea is one of spiritual alertness, being on watch, being ready. Overseers watch for the souls of those entrusted to them in the Lord. They know that to protect them, constant attention is necessary.

A second responsibility of the overseer is to shepherd the flock of God as instructed in 1 Peter 5:2. To shepherd carries the idea of tending, caring for, feeding, protecting, and leading. All these tasks are involved in the overseer's service of ministry to the spiritual flock of God. Responsibility is not a compulsion but something that the overseer has entered into willingly.

In Acts 20:27-30 overseers are told to shepherd the flock of God, by declaring the whole counsel of the Word of God (v. 27). The reason is because there will arise false teachers who will seek to lead many astray (vv. 29-30). The importance of shepherding is revealed by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, when he instructs leaders to confront personally those who are idle, timid, or weak.

First Peter 5:2d-3 also addresses the issue of attitude and motivation of the overseer when it commands spiritual leaders to be "eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." "Eager" carries the idea of ready and willing. The point is that the overseer should be quick to serve but careful to curb the desire to rule in an autocratic or dictatorial manner. There is always the temptation to abuse authority. The key is to maintain balance in this area of the ministry. The overseer clearly is to direct, lead, guide, even rule (Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17). However, his model is the Lord Jesus; therefore he is a shepherd leader, a servant leader who sets a humble example for the flock to follow. If the people are to see the pastor as a ruler (or leader), the pastor is to view himself as a servant. Trouble begins when one or both reverse those role assignments. A pastor who exalts himself as ruler is an unbearable tyrant; a flock that views its shepherd as its slave is destined for spiritual disaster.

It is important to consider the relationship among the overseer or bishop (episkopos), the pastor (poimen) and the elder (presbuteros). Scholars are virtually unanimous that in the early church the presbuteros and the episkopos were one and the same. Indeed, there is no clear evidence for a monarchical episcopate being firmly established until the early decades of the second century.

There are solid biblical reasons to justify the assertion that overseer and elder refer to the same person. In Acts 20:17, 28 Paul addresses the same group of men in the same speech as both elders and bishops or overseers as he reminds them of their work of shepherding. In 1 Peter 5:1-2 Peter calls himself an elder and instructs the elders to oversee the flock. In Titus 1:6-7 the same group is called both elders and overseers.

In writing to a local congregation, the church at Philippi, Paul addresses himself to the bishops or overseers (Philippians 1:1). It is inconceivable that Paul would have sent no greetings at all to the elders, who were in every church. The bishops and the elders must be one and the same body of individuals.

Finally, the qualifications for the overseers in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and the elder in Titus 1:5-9 are basically identical. Episkopos and poimen clearly refer to the function of the office, while presbuteros emphasizes the character of spiritually mature men of God. It was a term of respect and esteem the early church employed to describe its pastoral leaders, even though they were, on occasion, very young.

The qualifications the Bible gives for the overseer strongly emphasize character in all aspects of life, both personal and public. Most of the qualifications are self-explanatory, and they are listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9. That the overseer must be above reproach appears to be an overriding qualification, expressing the idea that the overseer should demonstrate integrity in every area Paul mentions. His life and reputation are of such a nature that he is not open to attack or censure. No fault can be found in him that would disqualify him from office or open him to discipline by the body (cf. 1 Timothy 5:19-20). The overseer is to be above reproach in his personal life. He must be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, upright, holy, disciplined, loves what is good, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not overbearing, not quick-tempered, and not a lover of money.

He must also be above reproach in his family life. He is to be the husband of but one wife (lit. "a one woman kind of man"), manage his own family well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect. Being the husband of but one wife is widely debated, but the idea of fidelity to one's wife is certainly the underlying principle.

The overseer must be above reproach in his public life. He must not be a recent convert, and for good reason: he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. Also, he must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.

Finally, the overseer must be above reproach in his professional life. He must be able to teach and hold firm to the message so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

The authority of accountability of the overseer is summarized in Hebrews 13:17. The duty of the congregation is twofold: they must obey and submit. Three motivations are given for obedience and submission to the leadership. First, they watch over the people. The imagery is possibly that of the leaders keeping awake at nights in their concern for God's people. Second, they will give an account to God for their oversight of the flock (his flock cf. 1 Peter 5:2). God has placed them in this position and therefore they will answer to him. The final motivation is that they may serve with joy and not grief. If there is a lack of obedience, it is of no advantage to the church. Hebrews 13:17 is a somber reminder that the welfare of the community is intimately related to the quality of the people's response to their leaders.

The office of the bishop or overseer is both a great privilege and an awesome responsibility. The pastor/elder/overseer is to shepherd, direct, teach, and protect the flock of God entrusted to him with integrity and humility, looking to the Lord Jesus as the model for ministry.
by Daniel L. Akin


"Shepherd", Easton's Bible Dictionary

"Shepherd" is a word naturally of frequent occurence in Scripture. Sometimes the word "pastor" is used instead ( Jeremiah 2:8 ; 3:15 ; 10:21 ; 12:10 ; 17:16 ). This word is used figuratively to represent the relation of rulers to their subjects and of God to his people ( Psalms 23:1 ; 80:1 ; Isaiah 40:11 ; 44:28 ; Jeremiah 25:34 Jeremiah 25:35 ; Nahum 3:18 ; John 10:11 John 10:14 ; Hebrews 13:20 ; 1 Peter 2:25 ; 5:4 ).

The duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. "In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief (see 1 Samuel 17:34 ).", Deane's David.


"Elder", Easton's Bible Dictionary

"Elder" is a name frequently used in the Old Testament as denoting a person clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence ( Genesis 50:7 ). It also denoted a political office ( Numbers 22:7 ). The "elders of Israel" held a rank among the people indicative of authority. Moses opened his commission to them ( Exodus 3:16 ). They attended Moses on all important occasions. Seventy of them attended on him at the giving of the law ( Exodus 24:1 ). Seventy also were selected from the whole number to bear with Moses the burden of the people ( Numbers 11:16 Numbers 11:17 ). The "elder" is the keystone of the social and political fabric wherever the patriarchal system exists. At the present day this is the case among the Arabs, where the sheik (i.e., "the old man") is the highest authority in the tribe. The body of the "elders" of Israel were the representatives of the people from the very first, and were recognized as such by Moses. All down through the history of the Jews we find mention made of the elders as exercising authority among the people. They appear as governors ( Deuteronomy 31:28 ), as local magistrates ( 16:18 ), administering justice ( 19:12 ). They were men of extensive influence ( 1 Samuel 30:26-31 ). In New Testament times they also appear taking an active part in public affairs ( Matthew 16:21 ; 21:23 ; 26:59 ).

The Jewish eldership was transferred from the old dispensation to the new. "The creation of the office of elder is nowhere recorded in the New Testament, as in the case of deacons and apostles, because the latter offices were created to meet new and special emergencies, while the former was transmitted from the earlies times. In other words, the office of elder was the only permanent essential office of the church under either dispensation."

The "elders" of the New Testament church were the "pastors" ( Ephesians 4:11 ), "bishops or overseers" ( Acts 20:28 ), "leaders" and "rulers" ( Hebrews 13:7 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ) of the flock. Everywhere in the New Testament bishop and presbyter are titles given to one and the same officer of the Christian church. He who is called presbyter or elder on account of his age or gravity is also called bishop or overseer with reference to the duty that lay upon him ( Titus 1:5-7 ; Acts 20:17-28 ; Phil 1:1 ).


"Deacon", Easton's Bible Dictionary

Anglicized form of the Greek word diaconos, meaning "runner," "messenger," "servant." For a long period a feeling of mutual jealousy had existed between the "Hebrews," or Jews proper, who spoke the sacred language of palestine, and the "Hellenists," or Jews of the Grecian speech, who had adopted the Grecian language, and read the Septuagint version of the Bible instead of the Hebrew. This jealousy early appeared in the Christian community. It was alleged by the Hellenists that their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of alms (money for the poor). This spirit must be checked. The apostles accordingly advised the disciples to look out for seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost, and men of practical wisdom, who should take entire charge of this distribution, leaving them free to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual functions of their office ( Acts 6:1-6 ). This was accordingly done. Seven men were chosen, who appear from their names to have been Hellenists. The name "deacon" is nowhere applied to them in the New Testament; they are simply called "the seven" ( 21:8 ). Their office was at first secular, but it afterwards became also spiritual; for among other qualifications they must also be "apt to teach" ( 1 Timothy 3: : 812 -12). Both Philip and Stephen, who were of "the seven," preached; they did "the work of evangelists."

continuing from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary

The idea of serving others was not popular among the Greeks. Jews on the other hand found nothing inherently distasteful about service. Yet it was the Lord Jesus who raised service to a completely new level. He used the word as an expression of his humiliation in giving his life in suffering and death as a ransom ( Matt 20:28 ; Mark 10:45 ). Thus the word takes on the sense of loving action for others, especially in the community of faith, which is rooted in and founded upon divine love as seen in the atonement of Christ.

In this light, Paul could speak of being a servant of the new covenant ( 2 Cor 3:6 ), of righteousness ( 2 Cor 11:15 ), of Christ ( 2 Col 11:23 ; Col 1:7 ; 1 Tim 4:6 ), of God ( 2 Cor 6:4 ), of the gospel ( Eph 3:7 ; Col 1:23 ), and of the church ( Col 1:25 ).

The institution of the technical office seems to be found in Acts 6. Although the noun "deacon" (diakonos) does not occur, both diakoneo and diakonia are used, with emphasis resting more on the character of the men than any specific function. In this instance they cared for the needs of the Hellenistic widows and guaranteed fairness in the distribution of food. Their election was made jointly by the apostles and the congregation. It was determined that they must be men "full of the Spirit and wisdom" (v. 3). As one scans the Book of Acts, "fullness of the Spirit" almost always entails bold witnessing for the gospel of Christ (cf. Acts 1:8 ). That these men served in a manner transcending the traditional notion of deacon is clearly seen in the prophetic teaching activity of Stephen (Acts 6-7) and the evangelistic ministry of Philip ( Acts 8 ).

First Timothy 3:8-13 is the most complete account in Scripture addressing the office of deacon. (In Php 1:1 ; it is only mentioned as being an office along with that of the bishops. ) As in Acts 6, the emphasis is again on character qualifications rather than function. In fact, the qualities necessary for eligibility run in close parallel to those for bishops. Emphasis is placed upon the necessity of an exemplary life. Thus deacons must be worthy of respect, sincere (lit. "not double-tongued"), not indulging excessively in wine, not pursuing dishonest gain, holding the mystery (proved and approved), being found blameless, husband of one wife (a one-woman kind of man publicly and privately), and a good manager of children and household. The reward for such service found in verse 13 is having both an "excellent standing" and "great assurance" in the faith (before both God and people). Because teaching and leadership are not mentioned, the servant role of this office is made clear. These men are to be helpers in the practical areas of ministry, eligible to serve because of the unquestioned integrity of their lives.

It is possible, although not certain, that women served as deaconesses in the early church. In Romans 16:1 Phoebe of Cenchrea is commended as a sister of us, being also a diakonon. Whether the word is to be understood in a general or technical sense is open to debate. Of further significance for this issue is 1 Timothy 3:11; 5:3-16, and Titus 2:3-5. In 1 Timothy 3:11, there appears the phrase gynaikas hosautos, translated "likewise the women." "The women" has been variously interpreted to mean the wives of the deacons, female assistants to the deacons, deaconesses, or women in general. In favor of view 1 is the fact that gunaikos occurs also in verses 2 and 12, where it clearly means wife. Second, to return to qualifications for deacons in verses 12-13, and to address the children in verse 12, argues for wives being in view in verse 11.

In favor of views 2 and 3 is the use of the word "likewise." The same word also occurs in verse 8 and is used to introduce a distinct but related subject (deacons versus overseers). Second, the absence of the word "their" would seem to imply that the women in view are not the wives of deacons but rather women who serve in the same capacity as the men. Third, the list of qualifications for the women, although abbreviated (only one verse), is similar to those for the deacons. Fourth, the silence concerning any qualifications for the bishop's wife ( 3:1-7 ) argues against this being understood as referring to deacons' wives. When 1 Timothy 5:3-16 and Titus 2:3-5 are taken into consideration, it appears quite probably that there was a servant-oriented group of women in the early church. These women may have been wives of deacons. That such women would have ministered to other women, especially those in need of physical assistance and spiritual instruction, seems most likely. Practical considerations such as baptisms and intimate personal counseling and care would indeed have necessitated such a ministry of women to women.

by Daniel L. Akin


Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don't do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else. They pile heavy burdens on people's shoulders and won't lift a finger to help. Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers. But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. Don't call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.

Galatians 1:9 I have said it before, and I will say it again. I hope God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from what you have already believed.

Colossians 1:24-29 I am glad that I can suffer for you. I am pleased also that in my own body I can continue the suffering of Christ for his body, the church. God's plan was to make me a servant of his church and to send me to preach his complete message to you. For ages and ages this message was kept secret from everyone, but now it has been explained to God's people. God did this because he wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you, and he is your hope of sharing in God's glory. We announce the message about Christ, and we use all our wisdom to warn and teach everyone, so that all of Christ's followers will grow and become mature. That's why I work so hard and use the mighty power he gives me.

Also, notice that in many of the Apostles letters they begin by identifying themselves as "servants of Jesus Christ". (Romans 1:1, James 1:1, Titus 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1, Revelation 1:1)

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