This is the ninth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”
P.S. – This will be a longer blog post. One of the best ways that I process concepts is through writing. Truthfully, this post is probably more for me than anyone else!
We are a few short months from completely transitioning the Garretson Campus into an autonomous church plant. In the past few weeks, I have been spending hours researching church leadership – all while fueled by copious amounts of caffeine! It seems to me that the healthiest form of church government is to have a church led by a team of Elders who are committed to making disciples who make disciples.
The office of Elder is interchangeable with the office of pastor. In other words you can correctly call a pastor either an “elder” or a “pastor.” This means that those who function in the role of Elder should be functioning as pastors – not just business leaders who vote on the church budget!
Jared Wilson explains the terrible weight of this ministry in this way:
With the double honor of 1 Timothy 5:17 is the double responsibility of James 3:1.
As I wrestle with the development of elders/pastors in our church, I want to meditate on these two texts and see what we can learn from them.
1 Timothy 5:17
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
1. It is the elders – not the congregation – who direct the affairs of the church. There are numerous forms of church government and the majority of rural churches practice a congregational form of leadership. In other words, the church holds business meetings and all the members vote on major decisions (hiring/firing staff, nomination of new elders, expansion of a building, etc). Contrary to this, it seems that the Scriptures teach that the healthiest form of church government is for each congregation to have a plurality of elders/pastors who lead the church & shepherd the people.
2. These elders are worthy of double honor. Literally, they are worthy of a double “honorarium.” Paul is speaking about honoring them by holding them in high regard and also honoring them by providing a healthy salary. Unfortunately, we will not be able to pay salaries for our elders since we are a small church but that is the goal we will work towards.
3. Some elders are focused on preaching & teaching. All the Elders in a church have to be able to teach the Bible (2 Timothy 2:24). Nevertheless, there is usually a “Teaching Elder” or “Teaching Pastor” who preaches the majority of the messages and leads from the pulpit. In our new church, I will be the one filling this role.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
1. The majority of people should not teach the Bible on Sunday mornings. All Christians have a responsibility to instruct one another with the Scriptures but very few should stand before a congregation and proclaim the Word of God. Only those that hold to and are able to defend sound doctrine & sound living should teach the people of God corporately. This means that those who are not able to lead their household as their first ministry by shepherding their spouse and kids should never attempt to lead God’s church (1 Timothy 3:5).
2. Everyone who teaches the Bible should be extremely fearful. The Elders/Pastors who regularly teach the Scriptures must consider the terrible burden of representing the limitless God through human speech. We are prone to pride and fits of anger – even in the pulpit. We must plead with God to crush our pride and bring supernatural humility each time we open the Scriptures. Practically, I pray each morning (out loud for the congregation to hear) that if I say anything contrary to the Scriptures I pray my words fall on deaf ears.
3. Elders/Pastors who teach the Bible will be judged with greater strictness than those who do not. Practically, we are judged by those that listen to our messages. Often the first person to be attacked in a church is the pastor because he is the person who represents the congregation. Even more terrifying than being judged by people, we will give an account to God for how we exercised leadership in His church. We will be held accountable for every careless word that we speak.
Do you have other Scriptures in mind that help clarify the role of an elder/pastor? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment!