15 April 2009

Establish Elders [4]

by Frank Turk

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
OK -- after a coupla weeks speaking my mind about apologetics, in God's providence, I got sucked back into the world of CARM and I will regret it, I promise you. But that said, rather than spin out something pithy about the theologically-undead which inhabit the message boards and troll the interwebs looking to literally eat your brains out, let's get back to what Paul was talking about here.

See: so far in this series I have been on about what Paul wants the men he is instructing here to be -- but a final critical issue in this phrase (yes: next week we move the underline) is that Paul did want these guys there.

You know: there is a perpetual merciless beating against pastors on the internet -- and I admit that some of them need it. But one of the things, dear pastor reader, that you must take to heart is that God really did intend that the local church have local pastors. That is, pastors and not vigilante theological or political brawlers. Or, if I may say it without stepping on too many toes, a face on a jumbotron. Men who are, well, like the next part of this passage who are frankly charged with the well-being of Christ's people for the sake of teaching them who Christ is, who He has made them, and what that means in their daily life.

Paul wanted Titus to establish elders. That was the plan. God says it's a good idea, and you should agree with him.






34 comments:

Boerseuntjie said...

Excellent point!

That Elders and the lay Members of the Body should edify, exhort, correct, instruct and rebuke LOCALLY.

I just read another article (Rightly) rebuking and seeking to correct a well know ("Superstar" teacher); and having read what you just highlighted i immediately was focused on the LOCAL ministry of the Elders and Members of the Body.

IF we did not have the newsmedia and modes of Communication that we have in this modern day... We would(And perhaps SHOULD) rather be focussed on LOCAL Church ministries and matters.

If an Elder steps out of line Internationaly... Is it not because SOMEBODY at "home" failed to discerned them, bring the Authority of the Scriptures Alone to bear on their heart and conscience, to correct and instruct them?

And this leads on to the Biblical pattern of RAISING UP ELDERS as the FIRST priority of the Church, for mutual Accountability, correction, instruction, and IF need be rebuke AMONGST Elders from Scripture ALONE.

Sad to say that the "mission" of "missions" is to add numerically "anybody" to Church attendance or religious activities; but that Spiritual maturity and qualification of Elders and Deacons seems to be the very last thing to be addressed IF EVEN at all. (I speak as one whom has lived in areas designated "mission fields", where "missionaries" come and go and never truly see the Body grow spiritually - the danger being religiousity rather than Spiritual maturity being fostered.)

It is sad to say that Satan has immunised the Body from it's most vital purpose, Spiritual Growth - which starts with speaking truth in love - by trusting the Spirit to convict according with the Law and the Scriptures. Of course this starts at Salvation and then should increase in Sanctification (And we all know it); but does this truly occur, when we avoid using the Scripture as the "scalpel" that should remove the cancers of sin (In our own and then in other believer's) hearts, that inhibit our Spiritual growth - which directly affects our pratically living out our Faith in Works of obedience?
2 Timothy 3:15-17: Note the use of "EVERY GOOD WORK".

Rick Frueh said...

"You know: there is a perpetual merciless beating against pastors on the internet -- and I admit that some of them need it"

Agreed. But usually the verbal chastening serves more as a strengthening of Biblical pastors than a conduit for the correction of others. But the phenomenon of personal invectives, demeaning hyperbole, mockery, and just a general ambiance of disdain for pastors, even pastors that have strayed considerably, has, in my opinion, made that kind of rhetoric acceptable.

We should not use unbiblical methods to address Biblical issues as it pertains to pastors. This does not usually occur here, but it is gaining widespread acceptance elsewhere.

stratagem said...

Loved the Jumbotron comment. I would never attend a big-screen church with a big-ego pastor. I wonder how we ever degenerated to the point that we see church as a celebrity, speaking to a large number of relative strangers.

Stan said...

I'm afraid I just have a question, not a comment. I've seen that it is common to equate "elder" with "pastor", but I can't figure out why. Can anyone tell me the biblical correspondence between the two? (And, if "pastor" = "elder", doesn't that mean that all those churches with elders and pastors are dead wrong?)

pastorharold said...

A lot more could be said here about pastors and their desire for a larger audience. The hardest thing to do sometimes is to get comfortable, committed and confident about working where the Lord has placed you.
Thanks Frank, for reminding us.

The Squirrel said...

I've seen that it is common to equate "elder" with "pastor", but I can't figure out why.Stan:

Two words are used interchangeable to describe the leadership of the local church: episkopos (overseer, as in 1 Timothy 3) (Strong’s # G1985), and presbuteros (elder, as in Titus 1) (Strong’s# G4245). Pastor comes from 1 Peter 5:1-3, were Peter tells the elders (presbuteros) to shepherd the flock (pastor and shepherd are synonymous). I find it significant that the words “elder” and “overseer” are always used in the plural, referring to a group of men.

The pastors are the elders are the overseers. I don’t think a Biblical case can be made for any other form of church government.

Does that help?

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Anybody know why I lose my line breaks after closing italics? It's been happening to me for a couple of days, now...

Strong Tower said...

"Anybody know why I lose my line breaks after closing italics?"

It's the bushy tail.

The Squirrel said...

OK, that made me smile.

Stan said...

"Does that help?"

That helps ... but it would seem to demand that churches have a plurality of pastors (since references to elders are always in a plural sense) instead of the very common "single pastor" concept. Also, it would make "elder boards" as they exist in so many places incorrect. Am I understanding correctly?

Stefan said...

Stan:

Yes, in the sense that elders are called to "shepherd the flock" in 1 Peter 5:1-3, as Squirrel said. In that sense, a plurality of elders is ipso facto also a plurality of pastors.

In terms of the task of preaching and teaching, Paul makes the implicit distinction that while all pastors may be elders, not all elders are necessarily preaching and teaching pastors:

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17)

So in practice, you may have some elders who are pastors, and other elders who do not have "Pastor" in their job title, but minister in other ways.

At the very least, if the senior pastor is not himself an elder in his church, this would seem to contradict what Peter and Paul were getting at.

~Mark said...

Stan,

in churches that take the time to flesh this out the pastor who teaches most (if not every) Sunday is referred to as the "teaching Elder" or "primary teaching Elder".

This shows those who ask them that the pastor is indeed one of the Elders.

I am a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and with us the teaching Elder (usually the Senior Pastor) cannot make major decisions for the Church without approval by the rest of that churches board of Elders.

johnMark said...

This

I got sucked back into the world of CARM and I will regret itis where I stopped reading.

I'm disappointed. Maybe I'll come back later...

Mark

ezekiel said...

chirp, chirp

Kevin D. Johnson said...

What?!? We agree twice in one day? Wow.

I agree, local pastors with local congregants. Jettison the Jumbotrons.

And no problem with elders so long as they don't micromanage as some are wont to do and remember that they serve as presiding officers of the covenant community as much as they are there to exhibit divine leadership for and on behalf of Christ.

Darrin said...

Important thoughts, Frank.

Also appreciated the handling by commenters about the questions of elders/pastors, plurality of leadership, etc.

Mark Dever has good material on the leadership model at 9marks (.org) under Mark#9, and also in a piece called "Baptists and Elders".

greglong said...

Stephan wrote:

In terms of the task of preaching and teaching, Paul makes the implicit distinction that while all pastors may be elders, not all elders are necessarily preaching and teaching pastors:

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17)
Stephan, all elders are to be "able to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2), so there is no such thing in Scripture as a "non-teaching elder."

The emphasis in 1 Tim. 5:17 is that those who rule well and labor in preaching and teaching are worthy of double honor.

greglong said...

Seriously, what is up with Blogger and line breaks after italics tags??!!!

DJP said...

I'm going to experiment. I'll just press Enter twice at the end of this line.

Now I'll italicize the end and press Enter twice.Then do a sentence and press Enter twice.

Then I'll italicize the end and put < p > after the < /i > (without the spaces).Oh, except comments won't accept < p >. So, so much for that theory.

DJP said...

I think I've figured it out. It removes the paragraph if you end the sentence in italics, press Enter twice, then do more typing.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

What is CARM?

Jude said...

"That is, pastors and not vigilante theological or political brawlers. Or, if I may say it without stepping on too many toes, a face on a jumbotron."

So, because elders/pastors are to be established in every town, jumbotrons are not an acceptable in the use of preaching? (Hyperbole)

I don't think having a mega church with a massive population keeps Church leadership from doing their job correctly.If you can teach the word, fellowship with the saints, preach the gospel, disciple Christians, and discipline wayward church members does it matter how large your church is?

If you can use your influence from your church to do good in the political realm without compromising your other duties, is that wrong?

Does having a TV or radio program broadcast from your church to a wider area mean that I (if I were a pastor) am failing my job of ministering locally? If I am commenting on the errors of theology outside of my particular locality, am I overstepping my bounds?

What about circuit riders? I think that's still a relevant issue considering the growth of Christianity in Africa and Asia. Is it wrong to go from town to town in a circuit due to a lack of strong, Christian leadership instead of settling in only one location?

Perhaps I totally missed Frank's point (which isn't unheard of) and misinterpreted what's going on in the comments, but I don't think the establishment of a local church authority prohibits political clout, jumbotron/mega churches, or theological vigilantism. Once again, maybe I'm missing something and I apologize if that's the case. And sorry if I'm stirring up too much trouble. I just think the wrong conclusion is being reached.

Sharon said...

Herding:

CARM: www.carm.org

A Musician by Grace

Stefan said...

Greg:

Yes, they are all to be "able to teach": I agree.

And in the sense of their broad ministry as shepherds/pastors/elders, they will all teach in a formal or informal capacity, whether they are formal, vocational capital-p Pastors or not: I agree there, too.

(In fact, at our church, all elders are required to lead home Bible studies, and one criterion for new elders is that they must have demonstrated shepherding ability by already leading a home Bible study.)

But it seemed that Stan's question was whether all elders are to oversee a formal pastoral ministry: in other words, whether all elders are to be vocational (or bivocational) capital-P Pastors.

I may have misread (or read too much) into his question.

Stefan said...

Oh yeah, I read and replied to Stan's second comment in that manner, because his first comment asked:

"...if 'pastor' = 'elder,' doesn't that mean that all those churches with elders and pastors are dead wrong?"

So my reply was that, in the sense that there are some pastors who oversee specific, formally defined pastoral ministries and have "Pastor" in the title of their office, then in a given church, while all pastors might be elders, not all elders might necessarily be capital-P Pastors, though they would still be lower-p Petrine Pastors.

Certainly, at the very least, in a church with a plurality of elders, we would not expect every elder to be a preaching pastor, though they are all required to be able to teach.

Stefan said...

...And will be called upon to teach, reprove, correct, etc. in degrees of varying formality and informality, in accordance with Scripture and as circumstances demand.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

Okay, it's not very user-friendly, but two < br > tags in a row (< br >< br >, without the spaces) seem to do the trick.

So here's some italicized text,

followed by two < br > tags (without the spaces).

[And it looks like this in raw HTML:

< i >So here's some italicized text,< /i >< br >< br >followed by two < br > tags (without the spaces).]

Burrito34 said...

What, specifically, if anything, is wrong with CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)?

I know I haven't been around here much but I would like more explanation for the cryptic comment about CARM. I have gotten some very useful(and orthodox) information from their website.

stratagem said...

Hey Jude

I don't think having a mega church with a massive population keeps Church leadership from doing their job correctly.If you can teach the word, fellowship with the saints, preach the gospel, disciple Christians, and discipline wayward church members does it matter how large your church is? True; the problem is that in practice, there are probably 100 jumbotron churches that are personality cults, for every one that isn't.

LeeC said...

One question for Jude.

Are you fulfilling your role as a shepherd if there are people in your flock that do not personally know or are known by a pastor?

I posit that if there are too many people in the flock for the shepherds to personally know 9not all perhaps, but at least one) then the shepherds are failing thier flock.

I know that is not a popular view right now, but I cannot see the Scriptural call any other way.

Jude said...

stratagem: Agreed. However, that fact doesn't make it wrong. I could also argue that there are 100 small churches that are micromanaged and ruled legalistically, for every one that's not. My point is just because a method/style is abused doesn't make it wrong.

LeeC: Isn't that why we have elders instead of an elder? I think the problem is when church leadership isn't willing to do its job. e.g., If there's a church member that needs to be disciplined in a church of 5000 people, the problem would not be whether or not the pastor(s) know him, but whether the pastor(s) are willing and capable of disciplining him.

Stefan said...

Large or small, it's a question of whether the shepherds are doing what Scripture calls them to do, and shepherding.

There are ways for large churches to function biblically, just as there are ways for small churches to function non-biblically.

That said, of course, the Adversary may well try to exploit structural issues and temptations to grandeur in a large chuch that simply may not be issues in small churches. (Though small churches must be susceptible to their own unique vices.)

The larger the church, the more direly necessary it becomes for Christ's vice-shepherds to do everything from a position of humble prayerfulness and servanthood.

How many members and attendees do Bethlehem Baptist Church or Grace Community Church have? And how many came to hear Spurgeon preach each Sunday? (Something like 10,000, wasn't it?)

I suspect that if the Holy Spirit is drawing large numbers of people to a church in order to hear the Gospel faithfully preached, then God will grant the grace necessary for that church to cope with their entrustment.

On the other hand, if the chruch grows through deliberate church growth strategies, seeker friendliness, and easy-believism, then a whole raft of issues may come into play, and bear bitter fruit.