There is a wide need of a Scriptural understanding of the sacred relationship between pastor and people in the churches today. This understanding would do much to bring about increased and needed blessings. Hardly a day passes that we do not hear of the misunderstanding and heartaches of pastors. There should be a searching of the Bible on this subject with an open mind and heart to obey its commands. Some day we must face it at the Judgment Seat of Christ. How solemn the thought! We write these words in love for God's people, both pastors and people. We speak from God's Word - we speak from experience. The New Testament plainly states that the office of the pastor is ordained of God: "and he gave some . . . pastors" (Ephesians 4:11). Note that it is Christ who gives these pastors. To whom does He give them? Evidently to local churches.
Now, let us ask some questions and then answer them according to Scripture.
I. How Can A Church Know How To Select A Pastor?
1. Surely NOT by some board of bishops nor by some ecclesiastical machine. All such organizations are man-made and unscriptural. These organizations grew up in the early centuries of the Christian era and without God's approval.
2. A church should let the Holy Ghost lead it in the selection of a pastor, because a pastor should be placed in charge of a church by the Holy Ghost.
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you over-seers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28).
One may ask, How does the Holy Ghost do this?
First, a church should seek by prayer to learn the mind of God concerning the man that He has for it. We are told to pray concerning all things. Paul instructs us in Philippians 4:6:
"Be careful for nothing but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Surely no spiritually-minded church would think of trying to select a pastor before going to God in earnest prayer for His leadership.
Second, God gives the qualifications of a pastor in His Word (I Timothy 3:1-7). A church should look for these qualifications when seeking a pastor. (More will be said about this later.)
Then, we believe that there should be an earnest and frank understanding between the prospective pastor and the seeking church. The writer has known of instances when a church would like to keep from a prospective pastor some existing conditions. He has also known of cases where churches have given a pastor the impression that he was coming before it with a view to a call when as a matter of fact the mind of the church was already made up. Some times churches do not want to commit themselves to a prospective pastor by giving him any definite assurance as to what he may expect on their part. We may also state that many times prospective pastors have been guilty of the very same things. Surely a church or a prospective pastor cannot expect the leadership of the Holy Ghost when deception is being practiced. This is what we mean when we say that there should be an honest and frank understanding between a prospective pastor and a seeking church.
II. How Can A Church Know Whom To Select As Its Pastor
And What Should Be His Qualifications?
1. A church should NOT use the standards of men. Here are some of them:
(1) He must be a good mixer. Some churches are more concerned that their pastor be able to talk to men than to God.
(2) He must be popular with the young people. The writer loves young people and has many in the church of which he is pastor, but he does not believe young people, or old people for that matter, are to be given special preference. God pity the pastor, and church too, when the pastor caters to any class or 'clique.' Some churches would rather their pastor know how to conduct a wiener roast than to know how to give the strong meat of the Word.
(3) Some worldly-minded churches set an age limit. One church in looking for a pastor agreed that its new pastor must be under forty and have a Ph.D. degree.
(4) One church we know, in seeking a pastor, demanded that the new pastor must be more than six feet tall. They called one which met their requirements, but before the Lord delivered them, they felt as did the man who married a young lady. He said before he married her he loved her so well he could have eaten her but after he lived with her awhile he wished he had.
There are many other "qualifications" for a pastor which have been set by man, but the above will suffice to demonstrate our point. We wonder if Christ would have ever been able to pastor a church if these man-made requirements were demanded by all churches. Spurgeon and Moody would have been left out entirely. Churches deserve to be "stung" when they measure prospective pastors by the world's yardstick instead of by God's infallible Word.
2. A church should use God's standards as set forth in His Word. No church can go wrong who demands these qualifications.
"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work.
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity: (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
"Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (I Timothy 3:1-7).
Also listen to the qualifications given in Titus 1:5-9:
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city as I had appointed thee:
"If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
"For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."
III. What Should Be The Attitude Of A New Testament Church Toward Its Pastor?
1. The church should OBEY its pastor. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves" (Hebrews 13:17). The context clearly proves that this means the pastor.
A pastor by virtue of his office is a leader. If the people do not follow their pastor they have no leader. In Acts 20: 28, we are told that the Holy Ghost made those elders "overseers." What did Paul mean when in I Timothy 3:4 he said, "How shall he take care of the church of God?" Was Peter just talking for fun when he said "taking the oversight thereof" (I Peter 5:2)? Again, in I Timothy 5:17 Paul speaks of the "elders that RULE well?."
The writer surely does not believe that a pastor should be a dictator. In fact, a dictator will not last long in any church. People, whether in nations or churches, have a way of getting rid of dictators, but a pastor should be a LEADER. That infers that he should be followed. Where a pastor and people love each other, they will feel toward each other as a husband and wife should feel toward each other - when a husband loves his wife it is a joy for the wife to reverence her husband. There MUST be some human leadership in a church, and if it is not vested in the pastor, we do not know where it is to be found.
2. The church should REMEMBER its pastor. "Remember them which have the rule over you" (Hebrews 13:7).
(1) The pastor should be REMEMBERED in prayer. It is a duty and a delight to pray for the pastor. He always needs the prayers of the people - even of the weakest members of the church. If your pastor's message the past Sunday did not help you and you feel he might have done better, if he has some mannerism that you do not like, if he does not part his hair on the right side or wear the kind of clothes he should, don't criticize him even in your mind - but TAKE IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER. You might be surprised at the results if you have never tried this! If you pray in dead earnest, God will either change the pastor or He will change you, depending upon who needs straightening.
(2) He should be REMEMBERED by respecting him. No member of the church should listen to talk about the pastor except in the presence of two or more witnesses. Suppose Brother A should say to Brother B, "Say have you heard what they are telling about our pastor? Bzzz! Bzzz! Bzzz!" Should Brother B listen to it? Never! He should say, "Well Brother" A, I am sorry that there is any talk going around about our pastor. I cannot believe anything wrong about him. If you have an honest accusation against him, I am willing to listen to it providing you call over Brother C and tell me in his presence. Maybe we ought to have one or two of the other brethren present too. Then if our pastor is wrong, let us go to him in the spirit of Christ and perhaps we can help him." That is what Paul meant when he wrote by divine inspiration:
"Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses" (I Timothy 5:19).
If this Scripture were taken seriously by the churches of Christ, many a catastrophe could be avoided and many a pastor and church could be saved from ruin. Remember, I Timothy 5:19 is just as much the Word of God as John 3:16. If you reject the one, you must reject the other. See also the following passages:
"Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation" (Philippians 2:29).
"And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).
(3) The pastor should be REMEMBERED by supporting him financially. Look at these passages of Scripture:
"Who goeth a warfare at any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
"Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
"For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care of oxen?
"Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? for our sakes, no doubt, that is written that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
"If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
"If others be partarkers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
"Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
"Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the Gospel." (I Corinthians 9:7-14).
Sometimes people forget that Galatians 6:6 is in the Bible:
"Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."
They read 6:7, never realizing that verse 7 is the penalty attached for disobeying verse 6. The writer has witnessed the fulfillment of the threat of verse 7. He has seen enemies of the pastor try to starve the servant of God by withholding support and in turn he has seen the hand of God laid on the offender. God says He reproved kings, saying: "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:14-15). It is extremely dangerous to attack a true preacher of Jesus Christ.
3. Christians should SPEAK to their pastors. "Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints" (Hebrews 13:24). One might say, Why everyone would do that. Are you sure! Just recently a godly pastor told us how one of his parishioners tried to avoid him on the street. Another might say, "Well, the pastor should speak to us FIRST." We believe that most pastors are glad to do so, but God does not command it. But He does command YOU to do so. Are you going to argue with Him about it? If so, the very fact that you deny God's Word is evidence that YOU are wrong.
In closing, we should like to add a personal testimony. Years ago, misunderstandings arose in the church of which the writer has been pastor for over twenty-five years. He went to the Bible and asked God to show him two things:
First, what did God require of a New Testament pastor? When God showed him, he asked God to help him meet these requirements.
Second, he asked God to show him what He expected of the church in relation to its pastor, and then to give him grace to fearlessly, but tenderly, tell them. He did that. Things changed, and so did the pastor, and so did the people. To God's glory we testify that for almost twenty-seven years the writer has experienced a love for his people that he never before imagined. Modesty forbids speaking for our beloved people, but they have shown great grace in loving their unworthy pastor. This relationship is as it should be, and is possible for any church and pastor to attain if the Word of God is believed and followed.
Calvary Baptist Church,
D. B. Eastep, Pastor
(Sixth Printing, no date)
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