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: 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; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. ( I Peter 5:1-4)
I am a Pastor. By that I mean, my life’s calling has been to ‘feed the flock of God’, by disseminating the Word of God. I am constantly amazed at my good fortune in being able to do so, I would never have been able to imagine my life.
From the time of my conversion, I knew to prepare myself for ministry, and submerged myself in the Word of God. My wife and I particularly baptized ourself in the teachings of 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus in the early years of our marriage. We didn’t know what the LORD had for us, we just followed our interest and for the first two years of our marriage, our interest was the biblical make-up of the Church.
We had always had Bible Studies, which were blessed and successful. One day our Pastor asked us to go and serve in a country church 30 miles away, until they found a full time Pastor. We did so with joy, holding Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon services at the little church on the edge of Anamosa, Iowa.
When the idea came to us to start a church in our home, we consulted our Pastor who verified the calling, he only asked us to be careful not to be a schismatic, avoiding splitting the church he pastored, to which we carefully agreed.
I believe that the Bible teaches various principles of church Government, such as “Presbyterian” (elder ruled), “Episcopalian”, (rule by Overseers) and an argument can even be made for ‘congregational style’ rule, of which the title makes obvious the meaning. The Scriptures do not spell it out, as to which one is the proper form, they give only general principles to apply.*
Peter tells us that He was an Elder, among Elders, to whom He addresses in his Epistle.
Our local church, Believers In Grace Fellowship, has always functioned on a combination of Episcopalian and Presbyterian leadership.** By that I mean we have a group of Elders, tested men who meet the qualifications and share the burden for the flock of God, and the protection of that flock from wolves without and schismatics or heretics within.
I am an Elder within the circle of Elders, however I am also an overseer, or ‘Bishop’ as described in scripture. I have certain executive powers. There are very few times where such powers are ever exercised, and my inspiration in the use of such power is Paul who said that He used his Powers for the use of edifying and not tearing down.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: (2 Corinthians 10:8)
All true Authority is just the flip side of responsibility. I was used to pioneer the church,,(A lot of people helped of course, and prayed and sweated), I will one day answer for the church. If there is anything that comes along to hurt the church, or to disrupt the peace and fellowship of the church, or to distort the teaching of the church, I have never hesitated to use my authority as a Shepherd of God’s flock to guard it.
The reason I have been thinking about these subjects is because Schismatics have launched an attack on the legitimacy of our church’s polity (Government), and particularly my leadership . For more than thirty years there was no problem with our Presbyterian/Episcopalian oversight.
Virtually everything we do , we have done in counsel with the board of Elders, but it has always been understood, that we work best with an Executive function. For example I don’t want to hold a vote on whether we buy office supplies. On some occasions there was a need for an instant action, rebuking a heretic, stopping someone we didnt know ‘t a service from praying for people, asking someone to step down from a position for excessive anger and unforgiveness.
When Jesus addressed the seven churches in Revelation, He addressed them via one person. To the Angel of the church in Ephesus, Laodicea etc… . He made on man responsible and answerable for what was going on in each church. The man represented the church, but He was addressed singularly and called out or commended for what was happening there. I have no doubt each church had Elders and deacons, but it was to the Angel of the church, that Jesus made his remarks.
We believe we are all accountable to the Word of God, myself, the Elders and the whole congregation.
I am not autocratic, I have accountability to elders, I answer to the Word of God, and have to explain myself and my actions as anyone else does.
One good thing about schismatics is that they force you to examine things you normally take for granted, such as church government. I am open to any thoughts on the subject…
- Francis Schaeffer helped me much in His book, THE CHURCH AT THE END OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, When he outlined what He thought to be the 7 essential norms of church, the form so to speak.
1)Local congregations are to exist and should be made up of Christians. .
2) Congregations ought to meet in a special way on the first day of the week.
3) The church should have elders who have a responsibility to shepherd the flock of God.
4) There should be deacons responsible for the community of the church in the area of material things.
5) These elders and deacons should be qualified in accordance with the Pauline standards set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.
6) The church must engage in church discipline.
7) a vital mark of the church is the administration of two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
** Not to be confused with the denominations of the same name. Presbyterian comes from the Greek Word, “Presbuteros” which means “Elder”.
Episcopaliam comes from the Greek Compound Word, Epi- Scopas, “Over- Seer”.