Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Pastors

Short Thoughts on Pastor Worship

One of the reasons that Calvinism has become popular in our day probably has a lot to do with pastor worship above Bible study.  I am convinced that many of the “new” Calvinists (the so-called “young, restless, and Reformed”) are convinced of Calvinism not because they actually read Calvin or Arminius and not because they actually took the time to seriously consider Arminianism but because of pastor worship.  Calvinism has a bunch of “cool” pastors and this has caught the eye of the young.

The names of the pastors that Calvinists worship can be long.  John MacArthur.  John Piper.  RC Sproul.  James White.  Matt Chandler.  Mark Driscoll.  Tim Keller.  CJ Mahaney.  Joshua Harris.  Sam Storms.  Wayne Grudem.  Many of these men are godly men indeed and I am not attacking them.  I am attacking the worship of these men.  I often get asked to name top Arminian preachers and top Arminian theologians and we have had our John Wesley’s, our EM Bound’s, our Leonard Ravenhill’s, our Francis Asbury’s.  We have had our pastors that we elevated and we Arminians have been guilty of lifting up men as well.  Yet modern Arminianism doesn’t have the superstars that Calvinism currently has.  Perhaps that will change but for now, I am grateful that we don’t have superstar pastors.

Scripture does teach us to acknowledge godly men (see 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7). Biblical leaders are to be servants (Matthew 20:26-27; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  Biblical leaders are not to be superstars.

In Acts 3 Peter the Apostle could have focused the attention on himself after the Lord used him to do a great healing.  Yet Peter cries out in Acts 3:12-16:

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

The focus was clearly to be on the Lord Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Paul the Apostle wrote:

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Who is Apollos?  Who is Paul?  In our day, they would be superstars.  Yet Paul clearly wants the focus to be on God alone.  After all, it is God alone who saves!

I could name many godly men who have spoken into my life.  Some of them are godly Calvinists.  Some of them are godly Arminians.  Yet in the end my focus must be on the Lord.  Flesh will let you down (Jeremiah 17:5).  The closer I have got over the years to other godly men the more I realize that we all need Christ.  Not one of us have arrived.  We all still struggle to be like Christ.  Some of us are further up the road than others and we should rejoice in that but our focus must be on Christ.  Christ must be our gospel.  Pastors and church leaders will never save one soul.  All of them are just like us: sinners redeemed by grace.

If Arminianism does see a future growth, I pray that it will be because we proclaim Christ.  In fact, I don’t even want to make Arminians.  I want to make disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19).  Arminius needed Jesus just as Calvin did.  Our faith is in Jesus and not in the doctrines of Arminius.  It is saving faith in Jesus that saves (Romans 5:1) and not faith in Arminius.

For my Calvinist friends, I pray that same for you.  I pray that your faith is not in Calvin or Spurgeon or MacArthur but in Jesus alone.  Jesus saves sinners and not Calvinists or Arminians (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus redeems those who call upon His name (Romans 10:13) and not merely those who use the term Calvinist.

Our faith must not be in men for they will fail.  Our faith must be in Christ alone.  He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Christ alone is the one who is praying for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25) and not Arminius.  When I die, it will not be the names of great church leaders who will rescue me from the wrath to come but the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  It is the name of Jesus that alone saves (Acts 4:12).

Let us all pray, both Arminians and Calvinists, for the name of Jesus and His gospel to be proclaimed.  Let us declare that Jesus alone and not Arminius or Calvin or Wesley or Augustine is our Savior.  In the end, every knee will bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:1; Philippians 2:5-11).  I will bow my knee now.

“God Called Me To Be A Pastor”

When I was in my last year of high school, I was right where most high school seniors are in terms of their future.  I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to go to college but even that was not easy.  My sister had attended a Lutheran university that was very liberal and a very sinful campus but I thought I wanted to attend there and perhaps try out for the baseball team.  The other part of me wanted to attend a Bible college in Florida.  In the end, because of money and time, I ended up at a local Bible college in my area (a fact I am still paying on years later!).  I graduated four years later with a BA in Bible with a minor in youth ministries.

Prior to all this, I thought the youth pastor life was excellent.  I mean you get to serve God in a local church, work with teenagers, play goofy games, go to concerts, youth retreats, camps, etc. all for the glory of the King. My youth pastor made it look fun and easy so I begin to pray about being “called into ministry.”  In my mind, I thought a light would shine around me and I would hear the voice of God telling me He needed me in His service.  I prayed and prayed for God to show me His will and to reveal to me His calling into the ministry.  And finally that day came.  No lights.  No smoke.  No glory.  No voice.  Just me reading 1 Timothy 1:12 and deciding that the Lord was indeed calling me into the “ministry.”  When the high school year books came out, I would write some message and always sign my name with 1 Timothy 1:12 under it.  This was my calling into the ministry.

They say that you must be called to preach.  I have been in youth meetings where the evangelist would say that this many got saved and this many were called to preach.  I am not sure how “called to preach” works other than people go by subjective experience to determine if they are called to preach.  Even cessationists that I know believe that God called them to preach.  When you ask them how, they typically reply in experiential terms such “Well, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but serving God in full-time ministry.”  Most evangelical pastors will give you their testimony of their “calling to preach” and many can name the date and time when God called them to preach.

A couple of things about this.  First, there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God calls men to preach.  In fact, the Bible calls all disciples to preach (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).  The Bible says that we all have been given this ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  1 Timothy 1:12, that I used back when I believed in this subjective experience, is Paul the Apostle’s own testimony to His calling.  Paul’s calling was unique (Acts 22:21).  Not one person in the New Testament can be shown to having been “called to preach” unless you twist the experiences of Paul the Apostle to make them fit your own.

Secondly, as a person who now works in the “secular” workforce, I find it offensive that I am not called to preach the gospel while a full-time, professional clergy is.  In fact, I would argue that people in the “secular” workplace preach more often than clergy.  I get to be around lost people all the time.  I get to share the gospel all the time.  When I was in full-time ministry, I could go days without talking to a lost person and had no real relationships with lost souls.  When I was in full-time ministry, my focus was always on Christians.  Now that I am no longer called (in terms of the clergy calling), I serve God more now with lost sinners than before.  The Bible is clear that we are all called (1 Peter 2:9-10).  Romans 8:29 tells us that all disciples are called.

The calling to leadership is a different story in the New Testament.  In fact, the leaders just lead.  In Acts 14:23 we read that the Apostles appointed elders.  My question is how did they know who the elders were?  Notice also that they appointed elders after leaving the saints and then coming back.  They didn’t preach the gospel, baptize disciples and then appoint elders all at the same time.  They allowed the Spirit of God to work in the lives of the disciples and the Spirit raised up the elders.  The apostles merely appointed whom the Spirit had already chosen (Titus 1:5).  In other words, leaders in the New Testament Church were already doing the work of the minister without official appointment.  They were serving already (1 Peter 5:1-4).

In our day, a person must have a subjective call to the ministry.  They go to Bible college or seminary and then come back to serve in a church.  None of this is found in the New Testament.

I don’t doubt that godly men love the Lord and want to serve Him.  I just question the “call” to ministry.  It seems very shaky to me, lacks biblical support, and hinders the other saints who serve God in “secular” jobs by making them feel they are not called to preach when in fact they are.  Instead of disciples going out and making disciples, people falsely believe that the pastor is to build the church and we bring people to our churches for the pastor to convert them, teach them, train them, etc.  This is not based on the Scriptures.  Disciples serving God in every area of life is better by far (1 Peter 4:10-11).

One final point about this.  I am not seeking to demean those who truly want to serve God as a pastor (shepherd).  I don’t doubt that many do take serious their passion for God, for His Church, for His Word.  I don’t doubt that godly men have served God faithfully in the local church.  I am simply trying to help us to see that the priesthood of the saints is a vital doctrine.  All of us, because of Christ, are called to serve Him and can approach the throne of God through Him (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire church can serve God and should serve God (1 Corinthians 12:7).  Christ is head of His Church (Colossians 1:18) and all of us who are His disciples can serve Him for His glory.  I fear that this is lost when we place emphasis on “Christian ministry” calling versus “secular job” calling.  All of us are to serve God where we are because all of us who are true disciples of Jesus are His temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/19/2014 at 12:00 PM

Biblical Leadership

In my previous post I wrote on the amazing lack of leadership we see in the New Testament Church.  I pointed out that the church at Corinth was full of problems yet Paul dealt with the entire church rather than writing to a single pastor (“lead pastor” in our day) or even a group or board.  He wrote  to the entire church (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Out of twenty-seven New Testament books, only Philippians opens with a reference to leaders and that only after Paul greets the saints first (Philippians 1:1).  Not one book in the New Testament is addressed to one leader other than Timothy and Titus who were not singular pastors but apostles.

My point in all this is not to deny that there are leaders in the Church.  Ephesians 4:11-16 is clear that there are gifted saints given to the Church to help her.  1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are clear about elders and deacons in the Church.  In Acts 20:17 Paul called the leaders of the church at Ephesus to himself.  Hebrews 13:7, 17 mention leaders.  1 Peter 5:1-4 mentions elders.  It is obvious that leaders are there in the Church but they simply don’t play the prominent role that they do in the modern institutional church.  In the modern church, the pastors are the leaders and they play the most prominent roles.  Who’s name is on the marquee?  It is not the janitor.  It is not the prayer leaders.  It is the senior pastor.  The senior pastor casts the vision, gets the most money from the church, sets up the budgets, visits the sick, prays, preaches, etc.

By the way, in passing, the pastorate also has the single highest burnout rate.  Consider the following stats:

13% of active pastors are divorced.
23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
70% don’t have any close friends.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
90% work more than 50 hours a week.
94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

That is pretty telling.  And why do pastors feel this way?  Why the struggles?  Some would argue because Satan opposes them.  I would concur but I would also argue that they are doing something God has not given them to do in His Word.  Again, the modern pastorate is missing from the New Testament.

Biblical leadership is very different.  Consider the Lord Jesus who set the example of leadership.  Jesus said that He came to serve (Mark 10:45) and Jesus told His own disciples not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles leaders do (Matthew 20:20-28).  Jesus’ example was service (John 13:1-17).  Peter the Apostle tells us that elders are to be examples to the flock under the control of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:3).  Notice also that Peter tells the elders to shepherd the flock among you (1 Peter 5:2) and not under them.  The elders themselves were part of the sheep.  This was not a clergy-laity division.

I believe that we have lost the understanding that the Holy Spirit is in control of His Church.  We tend to think that we need a pastor to lead us.  We have a pastor in Jesus (John 10:14) and we can hear His voice (John 10:27).  Jesus leads His Church by His Word that everyone can hear Him speak from (John 8:47).  God is still speaking to His people (Hebrews 12:25).  He speaks to all of us by His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I do agree that we need godly teachers to teach us His Word (Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1), all of God’s saints have equal right to come to the Word of God and feed off it.  We don’t need to wait for the Bible teacher for the Spirit to teach us.  Further, the elders are our examples (Hebrews 13:7) and not as lords over us.

How radically different the church would look if elders led the saints by their examples and the entire church worked together for the kingdom of God!  Imagine 1 Corinthians 14:26 being worked out in your local church.  Could it be done or would the professional pastors halt it?  The New Testament has 52 “one another” passages.  Can your church obey those?  Or is your church’s traditions (professional pastors for example) robbing the word of God of its power (Mark 7:1-13)?

My prayer is that God will raise up godly leaders who serve among us.  The Lord is going great things through His Church all over the world and I rejoice in that!  I rejoice that souls are being saved and the Lord is opening eyes to the truth that He can faithfully lead His bride.  I pray that many godly pastors will search the Scriptures and will transition from the Catholic model of leadership to the biblical model of leadership.

For more information on biblical leadership, I recommend the website: New Testament Reformation Foundation.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2014 at 10:50 AM

If I Pastored A Calvinist Church, I Would Resign

Dr. Roger Olsen recently wrote on what he called “stealth Calvinism” where pastors have been taking church positions (mainly in Baptist churches but others as well) but not telling the church that they were Reformed only later to introduce Calvinism through both the pulpit and by leadership.  I have witnessed this myself at two Baptist churches.  Both of them were Southern Baptist and both elected pastors whom did not tell their congregations that they were Reformed Baptists.  They simply affirmed the SBC statement of faith and moved on.  Later, however, they begin to teach classes on theology in which they introduced and indoctrinated the church into Calvinism.  They appointed various pastors (such as youth pastor and music leader) who likewise were trained at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville which is a Calvinist seminary.  The church slowly but surely became a Reformed Baptist church though never leaving the SBC.

Some Calvinists I know don’t have a problem with this.  After all, the SBC embraces both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (though they are truly Arminians but refuse to be labeled Arminians over fear of rejection) and many evangelical denominations such as the Assemblies of God are seeing a rise in Calvinistic pastors and leaders.  One Calvinist brother pointed out that Dr. John MacArthur took over Grace Community Church in 1969 and it was largely a Methodist leaning church with strong Arminian ties.  MacArthur broke those ties and today Grace Community Church is a bastion of Calvinism.

What I don’t appreciate about all this is that it seems to me to be lying.  If I were pastoring a Calvinist church, I would resign because I am not a Calvinist and don’t agree with Calvinism.  It is unfair and lying to try to pretend that I am Reformed in my theology.  I am not even close to being a Calvinist.  Could I preach the gospel in a Calvinist church?  Certainly.  But could I openly try to be a leader in a Calvinist church?  I could not and I would not.  I will not hide who I am nor will I hide my Arminianism.  It is part of me and comes out in my teaching all the time.

Honesty is the best policy.  If you are honest, tell the church you are attending your theological views.  Tell them that you are not in agreement with them on this issue or that.  Don’t hide who you are.  I once had a friend who would not get ordained in a church because he rejected a core doctrine of that church.  He was told to just agree to the doctrinal statement on paper but preach what you like.  He could not do this and feel he was being honest before God.

If the church I was going to pastor was clearly a Calvinistic church or even leaned toward Calvinism, I would inform them that I was an Arminian and go with that.  If they still wanted me to come, that is another issue.  I once had a large Baptist church call me about being their youth pastor (this was when I was younger and was in full-time youth ministry).  I talked to the pastor for a few minutes but informed him that I was not a Baptist, was an Arminian, and could not come to his church and hold to some of his doctrines (particularly the doctrine of eternal security).  He was gracious toward me and we parted ways though I prayed with him before he ended the call, that God would lead the church to the man they needed. (Ironically they selected a charismatic Baptist who didn’t tell them he was charismatic and led the youth group into the charismatic movement).

We need honesty from leaders.  After all, Hebrews 13:7 says that we are to “consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  Could I ask someone to imitate my faith if in fact I was not being honest about my faith?  Leaders are to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2) and lying is not above reproach.  Not fully revealing who you are is not “above reproach.”  Telling people what they want to hear just so you get a job and then introducing what you truly believe later on is not “above reproach.”

I don’t doubt that some pastors feel they cannot resign.  Where can they go?  I still say that honesty and a pure heart before God is more important than your position.  Where is your faith in God?  Where is your faith that if you are honest before the Lord and honest before people that He may not bless you?  Faithfulness to God is more important that a paycheck that you are lying to collect.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/11/2014 at 12:48 AM

Jesus is Lord over His Church

This post will seem like a rant against traditional pastors but that is not the case.  I want to make that clear before I dive into my thoughts.  I know some will feel that I am maligning pastors but this is not the case.  I believe in biblical pastors (Ephesians 4:11) and I believe that God has given godly elders to lead His people (Titus 1:5).

However, have you ever driven by a traditional church and wondered why the pastor alone is the on the church marquee?  Why does his name appear and his only?  Why not include a Sunday school teacher’s name or the little old man who faithfully prays in the prayer room each and every week?  Why not put up a deacon’s name?  Why do traditional churches only put the name of one gifted person’s name on the church sign?

I believe that it is because we have created a culture of pastor worship.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy hearing godly Bible teachers proclaim His Word and I love to hear a brother who fears God stand up and teach the Word but why do we exalt men?  Why do we take just the pastors (or better shepherds as translated by the ESV in Ephesians 4:11) and elevate them?  This mentality has more in line with the Roman Catholic Church and their exaltation of the Pope then with the New Testament Church.  The Catholics not only exalt the Pope but they exalt the various saints despite the fact that the Bible calls all disciples of Jesus “saints” (see Romans 1:7 or 1 Corinthians 1:2 for examples).  If we are in Christ Jesus, we are saints by virtue of His grace toward us.  We are sanctified in Him (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  I am a saint in Christ.  If you are a true disciple of Jesus, you too are a saint of God.

At times the Protestant Church has traded one pope for a thousand popes.  Each church now has their own pope over them and they heed his voice, do his biding, and he receives money from them.  We have traded in the priesthood of the saints (1 Peter 2:5) in favor of one priest doing our bidding.  This is nothing more than Catholicism on another level.

What is the solution?  The simple answer is to teach that Jesus is Lord over His Church and not any flesh.  Colossians 1:15-20 makes it clear that Jesus is the head over His Church.  Ephesians 5:23 says that Jesus is both the head and the Savior of His Church.  He is in the process of sanctifying His Church by His Word (Ephesians 5:26) so that the Church might be holy bride (Ephesians 5:27).  We need more emphasis on Jesus and less on flesh.  We need Jesus to be on the marquee (if you will) and not the name of one person.

Secondly, we need to emphasize that the Bible never teaches one man to lead the Church.  Peter was not the first pope nor are any others in charge of God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit leads the Church (Acts 13:1-5).  The Bible teaches that elders are to lead but they lead by examples (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Hebrews 13:7, 17).  Elders did not cast visions for the early Church.  We find nothing in the book of Acts to suggest that elders did any thing other than shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:17-35).  The Lord saved sinners, He added them to His Church (Acts 2:47) and He gave gifted men to lead the Church (Ephesians 4:11) but these gifted folks had a focus and that was to mature the saints that the saints might do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16) and not one person or a group of people.

Lastly, I believe that it takes humility to serve Christ in truth.  I know many pastors would not want their names on the marquees.  They know that this is done because of tradition and not because they are proud and want people to know their names.  However, some pastors are prideful and they find satisfaction not in Jesus but in power and praise of people.  They love the praise of men.  They love for people to almost worship them.  This is of course not true for all but I do know some pastors who are very prideful.  I remember meeting this one man and when I was introduced to him, he corrected the man who introduced us because he had said, “This is brother James” and the man said, “That would be Dr. James to you fellows.”  Okay.  In some churches (and again not all), the pastor is the king, the man with the plan, the main focus, the reason people attend, God’s anointed servant, nearly like Christ.  I say again, we have traded one pope for a thousand popes.

Notice this from Vatican I:

“But since in this very age, in which the salutary efficacy of the apostolic duty is especially required, not a few are found who disparage its authority, We deem it most necessary to assert solemnly the prerogative which the Only-begotten Son of God deigned to enjoin with the highest pastoral office. And so We, adhering faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God, our Savior, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, possesses that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff of themselves, and not from the consensus of the Church, are irreformable. But if anyone presumes to contradict this definition of Ours, which may God forbid: let him be anathema.” (Vatican Council I, 1870 A.D.)

I know many Protestant pastors like this, men who define doctrine regarding faith or morals.

The answer for us is a desire to place Jesus back as Lord of His Church.  The true Church of God is led by Jesus Christ and not by men.  We need no prophet to speak for God.  We need no pastor to speak for God.  We need His Word alone (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  No doubt godly men (and women) can teach us much from the Word of God through exhortation to the Church as Ephesians 4:11-16 establishes but let us not exalt one person above others.  Let us seek to exalt Christ alone.  He alone is our Savior and Lord and He alone shed His blood so that we could be forgiven in Him.  Our peace with God comes only in Christ and not in a person or an institution (Romans 5:1).  Do bless godly leaders (1 Peter 5:1-4) but always place Jesus as Lord of our lives and over His Church.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/30/2012 at 4:25 PM

Brief Thoughts on Titus 1:5

Busy week in my world so I wanted to briefly blog on Titus 1:5.  This week I heard a teacher teaching from Titus 1:5 and he went so far as to teach that Titus was the pastor of a church in Crete and that what Paul is telling Titus in Titus 1:5 when he says that Titus is to put what remained in order and appoint elders in every town as he directed him was to fulfill the office of the pastor and lead the Baptist church in Crete and appoint elders who will help him serve under his pastoral leadership the laity in the church.

Let me briefly give a house church reply to this man’s views.

First, the Bible never says that Titus is a pastor.  No person in all of the New Testament is called a pastor.  Ephesians 4:11 is correctly translated in the ESV as “shepherds.”  Other English translations such as the NASB or the NIV both follow the traditional translation of the word poimen and translate the Greek word into English as “pastors.”  But of the 18 New Testament uses of the word poimen, only in Ephesians 4:11 do most English translations translate poimen as “pastors.”  They do this not because it is based on the Greek word but again, traditions of the Church.  Like the word baptism, poimen is translated out of tradition and not exegesis of the Greek text.  The word poimen is translated “shepherd” or “shepherds” in all NT references save the one in Ephesians 4:11.  The ESV then is correct to translate the word as “shepherds.”  No person is every called “Shepherd” in the NT other than Jesus Christ as a title (John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).

So the thought that Titus was a pastor is incorrect.  Titus was in fact, like Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.  He too planted churches like Paul.  We don’t know much about Titus but we do know that he traveled with Paul (Galatians 2:1) and was a Gentile disciple (Galatians 2:3).  We know that Titus went to Corinth to deliver news from Paul to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:6).  In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul says that Titus has gone to region of Dalmatia.  We assume to preach the gospel.

What we don’t find is Titus ever called a pastor.  He is not called an apostle either but based on his relationship to Paul, it seems best that he was an apostle more so than a pastor.  He was always on the go as Paul was.

Secondly, Titus is told to appoint elders.  The elders would serve the church and “lead” it by their example of faith (Titus 1:6-9).  Leaders in the New Testament Church were leaders by example than by title.  Their form flowed from their function.  They were shepherding the church and thus are called to be shepherds in Acts 20:28 (notice that he is addressing the overseers or elders based on verse 17).  The elders pastored or shepherd the local church (1 Timothy 3:1-7).  Notice also the plurality of elders.  Elders were always plural in the NT.  See Acts 11:30 for the first reference in the New Testament of elders in the Church.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 describes their work among the saints.  Notice that the ESV has “overseers” in 1 Timothy 3:1.  The term is translated as bishops in the New King James Version.  We know that elders are overseers based on Acts 20:28 where elders are said to be called by the Holy Spirit to shepherd the church.  Notice importantly that Acts 20:28 also says that the church is God’s church and not their own.  Jesus is Lord of His Church (Colossians 1:15-20) and He is building His Church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47).

Conclusion

Contrary to this man’s teaching, Titus 1:5 is not instructing a pastor to place the church under his authority and appoint elders who will serve under his ministry.  The NT knows nothing of one person leading the Church.  Jesus alone leads His Church through His Spirit (Acts 13:1-4).  Jesus is Lord over His people who are His sheep (John 10:3) whom He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  Elders serve among the people of God (1 Peter 5:4) but they are not to lord it over those whom God has entrusted to them (1 Peter 5:3).  After all, we have only one true shepherd (John 10:27).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/16/2012 at 5:00 PM

House Churches and Full-Time Elders

Does the New Testament promote the idea of full-time elders (or pastors)?  I know of many of my friends on this blog and outside who not only hold that it does but also they are full-time pastors.  In almost all cases they applied for their pastorate like any other job complete with paperwork and interviews.  In fact, the modern pastorate often resembles a CEO of a company more than taking over a church of God.  In many cases the interviews are full of questions mainly about budgets, organization abilities, and of course, numbers.  Attendance is a big issue for institutional churches since they operate on budgets that must be met.  I know of one large church in my area that sent out their yearly budget that totaled over $7 million dollars.  Less than 3% of that was going to missions.  Most of that $7 million was salaries and their buildings.  Since numbers drive the institutional church, the potential pastor must show that they can produce large results through various ides and organization.  The masses have to be kept happy.

The house church is nothing near that.  First of all, we have no budget.  Each person can give their money to whatever they want.  We don’t want it.  We don’t need it.  Occasionally we might have a family who needs money or a church planter who needs funds but we don’t regularly need your money.  Second, we have no buildings to pay for.  We have no mortgage.  We have no bills.  We offer no work insurance.  We pay no taxes since we own nothing and receive nothing.  Third, we have no staff.  We don’t pay a pastor.  We don’t pay a youth pastor.  We don’t pay a music leader.  We have elders who led us but they are not paid.

So what do we want you to do with the money that God gives you?  We want you to do what He tells you to do with in the New Testament.  First, Jesus said to give to the poor (Matthew 6:2-4; Galatians 2:10).  Secondly, give to hurting Christians (Acts 4:34-35; 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  Third, give to supporting apostles or church planters or missionaries (1 Corinthians 9:8-14; Philippians 4:10-20).  There is no biblical mandate in the New Testament to tithe to a local church to support their paying bills, salaries, etc.  Tithing is biblical but under the theocracy known as Israel.  We are not a theocracy.  Not once in the Epistles do the writers exhort God’s people to tithe.  If failing to tithe brings one under a curse (as some teach from Malachi 3:8-10) then surely the New Testament writers would want to keep us from that curse.  Sadly, those who teach this “cursed” view of Malachi 3:8-10 fail to show it this applies to Galatians 3:13.

Yet does the New Testament teach that there should be full-time elders?  In Acts 20 we have Paul holding a pastors conference (v. 17).  Paul the Apostle teaches these elders various things but one interesting thing that he says is in verse 35.  The words here are ascribed to Jesus although the Gospels do not contain them.  Using the words of Jesus, Paul tells the elders that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Can you imagine hearing a prosperity preacher saying that to his TV audience today?  In fact, the thrust of Acts 20:33-35 is that Paul wants these elders to work and not seek money.  He point to his own example (Acts 18:1-4) as proof that he worked hard so that he could give his money to the weak (ESV).  In essence, Paul wanted these elders not to be full-time but to work so that they could give away their money.  What a radical concept for our time!

The other places we find the issue of money and elders is 1 Corinthians 9.  1 Corinthians 9 is not really about elders however.  In fact, elders are not found at all in 1 or 2 Corinthians.  Given how important the modern pastorate is in most churches, you would think that Paul the Apostle would address the elders to correct the troubles at Corinth.  He never does.  He expects the Spirit of God to lead His Church and for the people of God to obey the Spirit who leads them.  Not once in Corinthians does Paul address any leaders.  In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul deals with missionaries receiving money for preaching the gospel.  In verses 8-14 he makes the clear point that those who preach the gospel should live off the gospel.  Yet then Paul turns around and says that he has not done this despite his right to do so.  He tells the Corinthians that he didn’t want to be a stumbling block to them (vv. 15-18).  Paul could have asked for money but he gave up his right so that he could preach the gospel without hinderance.  In Acts 18:1-4 we find that Paul worked as a tent maker while preaching the gospel in Corinth.  He willfully gave up his rights to being paid so that he could work hard, give away his money, and preach the gospel.  How many modern pastors are doing that?

The final place we find elders and money is in 1 Timothy 5:17-18.  A couple of points are in order.  First, verse 17 does not use the word “money.”  I believe many read into verse 17 way too much about “double honor” as to teach that elders should be paid double what they would earn outside of the church.  The word “honor” here does not denote money.  The word is never used in the New Testament as a substitute for the word money.  Yet I have no trouble with honoring an elder who leads with much grace and ability in teaching the Word of God.  This honor can come in various ways including giving them money.  I don’t think we should isolate this verse and make it teach only money but we can give money to elders who fit this picture of verse 17.  Yet I don’t see in this verse that it teaches that elders should receive a regular salary.  Gifts?  Yes.  Salary?  No.  There is a big difference.

Frankly, I am weary of paying an elder very often since this could lead to one elder being exalted above others and can lead to this elder becoming a typical CEO type pastor only in a house church setting.  The plurality of leaders in the house church (Titus 1:5) helps to offset one elder dominating the others.  It also helps because elders are gifted in various ways other than teaching.  A full-time elder also would have a hard time fulfilling Acts 20:35 if in fact their income comes from the house church.

Lastly, if a house church is large enough to support a full-time elder, they are probably too large.  It’s time to split that house church.  House churches are strong because of personal relationships with one another.  This can’t happen if the house church is too large.  I recommend that house churches be no larger than a living room.  If everyone can comfortably be in a living room to worship God, pray, sing, eat, etc. then that is perfect.  Keep in mind that elders are to be among the people of God and not over them (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Hard work is something that we are scarred of in the West.  We need not be.  How wonderful it is to work hard and then to take our money and give it away to the kingdom of God through the poor, hurting disciples, or missionaries.  We are not to hoard up our funds but to give them away (Matthew 6:19-21).  Our treasure is not this world or money but the Lord Himself.  He is our delight and our reward.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/02/2012 at 10:52 AM

%d bloggers like this: