The Work of the Shepherds (Part Three)
Job Requirements for Elders/Overseers/Pastors:
© C. O. Bishop 8/10/16; THCF 8/14/16
Titus 1:5-9; 1st Peter 5:1-4
Last time we had to stop short, because I had prepared too much information to be properly addressed in the time allotted, so we will begin with the qualifications of Elders, as we had begun two weeks ago. In 1st Timothy 3:1-7; we saw 17 individual qualifications listed, in that short passage. In the remaining two passages left to study (just nine more verses in all), we will find 16 additional requirements, some of which overlap those in 1st Timothy, somewhat, but we will not even cover the ones that are simply a repeat of the ones we discussed earlier.
I do want to preface all these verses with a comment that Paul sent to Timothy, in 2nd Timothy 2:2—He said that Timothy was to find men to teach…to raise up as teachers and leaders, but that he was to spend his energy teaching a specific kind of individual: He said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Timothy had to look for reliable individuals. Was he not to feed the whole flock as well? Certainly. But the ones he was to train as leaders had to fit this mold.
Another passage, in 1st Corinthians 4:2, says “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” We will see today that the elders are made “stewards of God.” As such, it is imperative that they be faithful to the flock and to God…reliable overseers.
Titus 1:5-9 (Speaking about Elders)
5For 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:
6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7 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;
8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9 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.
- Plurality of elders (as we have seen in every case) is taught here, in verse 5.
- Having believing children, not accused of riot or unruly. Verse 6 reiterates some of the qualifications listed in 1st Timothy, but expands upon the issue of children: This is where we get the idea that an elder’s children must not be “out of control”. There are people who take this to mean that “if he has no children, he is not qualified.” I believe if he does have children, and they are out of control, then perhaps he needs to deal with that, rather than further burdening himself with something bigger. Again, I think this is a case where “track-record demonstrates character”: one may have a reputation for having well-behaved children, and later those same children may choose to rebel and walk away from God. (Billy Graham’s son walked away for years, but finally returned.) If a man has children at home, are they in good control? That is the issue.
- The overseer (bishop, elder) is the Steward of God. He has been entrusted with the care of God’s flock, and he has to be faithful to feed the flock, and tend to its needs, as laid out in Ezekiel 34. There can be no laxity in one’s attitude toward the task. (See 2nd Timothy 2:2 Reliability is the issue. Can the flock count on him…always?)
- Not self-willed. The Man of God has to be in submission to God. This is not a popularity contest, or a personality cult, so there is no place for a big ego. This is a place to emulate Christ, in saying “not my will, but Thine be done!” This is a place to take a step back, and put other people’s desires and plans ahead of his own.
- Not Soon Angry. Patience and long-suffering should preclude a “short fuse”, or a bad temper. It should be really difficult to get a man angry, who is truly submitted to God.
- A lover of good Men. Who does he hang around with? This is the old “birds of a feather flock together” idea. If you can see that the people with whom he is most comfortable are those who are distinctly secular, or even ungodly, then maybe there is a hidden problem.
- Fair, in his dealings with others. Having a right walk with God, and demonstrating it, in his dealings with others. He treats others fairly.
- Separated to God’s service. He is no longer his own man. He belongs to Jesus.
- In good control in all areas of life. His sin nature is not in control…God is.
- Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught. Able to understand and remember sound doctrine—teaching—to the extent of being willing and able to stand for truth, and back it up accurately from the Bible. Paul goes on to say that there are some people whose mouths need to be closed by sound teaching, to keep them from engaging in false teaching. That is part of the elder’s job, in defending the flock from predators.
1st Peter 5:1-4 (Speaking to Elders)
1The 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:
2 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;
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Most of this passage is “task-oriented,” as to “how the job is to be carried out” but we can glean a few more job-requirement ideas, too, in terms of Motivation (Why do you do the job?), Attitude (How do you see yourself and the flock?), Behavior (How do you live, in keeping with your responsibility?) and Expectation (What should you expect, as an elder?)
- Not by Constraint. The task is to be done willingly, not “because you have to”. If you are unwilling, then don’t take the job. It is one thing to see the task as something that “needs to be done”, but entirely another to feel that you are being “forced” to do it. If you end up resenting the “burden” it will show in your relationships with the flock.
- Not for Filthy Lucre. The elder is not to be motivated by a hope for gainful employment. That is not what this is about. Virtually every good pastor I have known could have earned better money elsewhere, in a secular job, with less stress. I know of a few exceptions, but the issue here, is that money is not to be what drives a man to serve.
- Of a Ready Mind. The elder is both a “draftee” and a volunteer. He is called to this work, possibly reluctantly (consider Jeremiah 1:4-7), but he is also a volunteer (consider Isaiah 6:1-8.) Yes, you have been “called,” but you still have to say, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” You have to answer that call willingly.
- Not as Lords over God’s Heritage. You are not the “Big Cheese”. If you want this job so people will honor you, you really should find something else to do—be a politician, maybe, or an entertainer. This is not about power, or position, or personal glory; it is about service, and submission to God.
- Examples to the Flock. You have to take this one seriously. You are a role model, whether you like it or not. You are supposed to be leading by example. It is not acceptable to not “practice what you preach.” You must lead by example.
This includes every aspect of a leader’s life…not just when he is at church, or “on display” in any other way. This is part of what it means to be “blameless”…above reproach. Does it require sinless perfection? No, it requires a consistent, reliable walk with God, consistently, reliably caring for the flock and your own family, not living for self.
- Finally: Expect your reward from Jesus. He is our master, and the one to whom we look for reward. If you get confused about that, so that being an elder or pastor is just a job; a way to earn an income, then you have forgotten whom you serve, and should just go get a secular job somewhere. If Jesus is really the One whom you serve, then all the frustrations of the job will just be part of dealing with Sheep, and you are actually joining the True Shepherd in His work, and you will also join him in his joy and His reward.
There is another side to the “rewards” issue. Hebrews 13:17 is actually talking to the flock, admonishing them to respond well to the leaders God has given them. But it includes something the leaders would do well to take to heart: It says “…for they (the elders) watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief, for that unprofitable for you.”
The Work of the Shepherds
“Tending the flock” (shepherding the flock) involves watching over the spiritual well-being of the local church; this is what it means to “watch for their souls.” This is the specific task of elders, regardless of the title. Shepherds (elders, pastors, overseers…) have to “give account” to God for the well-being of the believers in the flock they serve. We are held accountable for what “happens on our watch.” From the perspective of the shepherds, we want to be able to give account with joy and not with grief. From the flock’s point of view, it is good if we can do the job of shepherding “with joy and not with grief.”
“Feeding the flock” involves faithfully teaching and preaching God’s Word. It requires that the elders invest in prayer, study, and time spent dwelling on, and digesting the Word. The scripture uses the word “meditation”, which means “dwelling on the Word in active thought, pondering and considering the meaning of scripture.” The false religions of the world use the word “meditation” to mean nearly the opposite: They mean the emptying of one’s mind of all thought, and opening one’s self to whatever comes to mind; drifting aimlessly, mentally “in neutral”, so to speak. “Meditation”, as a scriptural concept means dwelling on a particular concept, or passage, actively seeking to understand it. It is coupled with active study, reading the rest of scripture to see if further light is available elsewhere in the Word.
A well-fed church should be doctrinally sound, and spiritually encouraged; not confused, fearful and defeated. The flock is to be strengthened by means of the teachings of the Word of God, and the examples of the leaders, not weakened, or discouraged by lack of good teaching or the misbehavior of their leaders. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers (1st Corinthians 11:1) “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” He was leading by example. I would hesitate to say such a thing, but that is what we are supposed to be doing; leading by example.
The Care of the Shepherds
This particular local church has been mostly good to its shepherds, for the last 16 or more years. But I have been in churches that were quite dismissive, or even antagonistic toward their leaders. It was a grief to those men, to serve. That was not profitable for the church as a whole, nor for the individuals within the flock.
The Church cannot control how an elder must give account, that is to say, for his own actions, but they can maintain a good relationship with the leaders, so that the whole experience is mutually profitable.
One of the areas a church can address is in caring for the physical needs of their shepherds. I have known churches where it was taken to an extreme, where the pastor (singular) was living like a wealthy man. I have also seen the opposite, where the pastor (again, singular) literally did not have money to buy shoes for his children. Both extremes are unreasonable, unless that is simply reflecting the overall wealth or poverty of the local church. If elders are serving full-time, and serving well, they should be supported at a level at least matching the average for the flock. Shepherds have not taken an “oath of poverty.” One of the missionaries we support, Bob Nyberg, has a degree in mechanical engineering; do you suppose he could have had a better income as an engineer? He has served faithfully and sacrificially for 35 years or more, usually at a very low level of support, because churches look at his work and say “well, you’re not a ‘real missionary’.” In reality, his work has sent hundreds of “real” missionaries into their chosen fields of service, well-equipped to serve. He trains missionaries to learn languages, and to dissect those languages, so as to be able to make accurate translations of the New Testament. He taught Lori Morley, and she became an expert in that field. Isn’t he worthy of respect and support?
Caring for elders may take other forms: Some of the tribal churches work the gardens of the elders so that the elders can use their time for ministry. ALL of them depend on the gardens for food—if the elders can’t take care of their own gardens, they literally would have no food. Perhaps there are physical burdens that can be lightened, as an encouragement to the leaders. Things that would ordinarily take time from shepherding, in order to maintain a home or a vehicle: Firewood to be brought in, or other things that could help.
For the time being, this church is blessed with self-supporting elders… we are each supported in other ways, so as not to place a burden on the flock…but there may come a time when the elders will have to serve full time, in order to meet the increasing needs of the growing church. (That is a good problem!) We continue to financially support Pat James, in recognition of the faithful years he served the church. That is a good thing, too, and entirely proper.
1st Timothy 5:17, 18 (please write these down) makes some very clear statements regarding the support of Church leaders, while verses 22, 24 and 25 give solemn warning against being in too great a hurry to appoint leaders. You have to know them first; you don’t want any surprises, later on. I will leave those verses with you to study on your own.
This has been a summary, an overview of what the scriptures say regarding the job of the Shepherds, and the qualification of Elders or overseers, as well as their care. We can review the scripture as needed, and, if you have been taking notes, I would hope that you will study these passages out on your own. They are important concepts to really understand.
I hope that we can take this teaching seriously, and apply it to our lives as a Church. When we look for leaders, we need to look for them the way God says to look, not the way the World looks. When we care for those leaders, we need to follow His word as well.
Lord Jesus, turn our eyes upon you, the Great Shepherd, and let us see your perfect example. Raise up men to oversee your flock. The Harvest is plenteous, as you have said, but the laborers are few. Make us your laborers, and raise us up into your service.