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Understanding the Church – Part 2

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Understanding the Church – Part 2
Posted on September 6, 2020  - By Dr. Scott Shiffer

In our last post, we discussed the tasks of the church and the power of the church. We now turn our attention to the leadership roles in the church.

The Bible mentions several leadership positions, namely: pastor/teacher, bishop, presbyter, elders, and deacons.

Today, our churches are more organised and as such, there are more positions, such as: senior pastor, teaching pastor, college pastor, youth pastor, discipleship minister, worship minister, women’s pastor, children’s pastor/minister, pastor of administration, missions pastor etc.

For the purpose of this post, let us focus on the two key leadership roles mentioned in the Bible.

The role of the elder

The term pastor means ‘to shepherd’. The New Testament refers to pastors as elders (1 Peter 5:1-5) and as bishops (1 Timothy 3:1). 1 Timothy 3:1-7 states that a pastor should (1) be above reproach (a respectable person in the community who has integrity), (2) prudent, (3) not be addicted to alcohol, (4) not be known for getting into fights with other people, (5) gentle and kind to others, (6) not be known for having a bad temper, (7) not be driven by money, (8) not be a new believer, and (9) have a good reputation outside the church.

Titus 1:5-9 outlines the qualifications even further. According to this text, a pastor should (1) respectable in everyday life, (2) hospitable toward others, (3) able to teach the Word of God, (4) avoid unhelpful disputes, (5) lead his household well, (6) not consumed by self-interest, (7) love what is good, (8) live an ethical lifestyle by doing what is morally right, (9) live a devout life not being characterised by the sinful practices of the culture around him, (10) be self-controlled in his spiritual life, and (11) be doctrinally sound (meaning that he must hold the proper essential beliefs about the faith).

The job of the pastor is to provide spiritual guidance to his congregation in teaching and through his life example. He is to equip his congregation to do the work of ministry in their community, and he is to provide spiritual leadership with regards to the needs of the church. A pastor should help his congregation to maintain proper Christian beliefs and he should help foster relationships between the members of the church.

A pastor is accountable to the church for his teachings and his actions. Likewise, members of the church are also accountable for their behaviour and beliefs. A pastor should regularly pray for his church members and his community. There should be a plurality of pastors for congregations (Acts 20:27, Timothy 4:14, Titus 1:5).

A pastor is accountable to the church for his teachings and his actions. Likewise, members of the church are also accountable for their behaviour and beliefs

The role of the deacon

A deacon is someone who is to serve the church in various ways. The qualifications for deacons are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-12. Deacons should (1) be people of dignity (respectable and honourable in their actions), (2) not be gossips, known for talking poorly about others or being dishonest in their words, (3) not be addicted to alcohol, (4) not be involved in dishonest financial schemes, and (5) be found blameless (morally upright) when tested.

Their spouses (wives specifically) should also be dignified, not gossips, self-controlled, and faithful in their responsibilities concerning family, church, and personal life.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:12 that deacons must have only one spouse (meaning that they are not to be polygamous). The passage further adds that deacons are to be able to lead their houses well. Some have argued that this means that single people cannot be deacons. Others have argued that anyone who has been divorced is automatically disqualified. Those ideas, however, are not what Paul had in mind when he wrote the letter to Timothy. Single people can often be more focused on ministry. Being divorced should not disqualify someone from doing ministry either ― unless the person has been recently divorced and for a reason that brings disrepute on his character.

The job of the deacon is to help the church and to help meet the needs of certain members — specifically widows and orphans. Deacons help members of the church so that the pastors are not overworked or are unable to focus on their main tasks.

Today, many deacons help visit the shut-ins. They check on church members who are sick or in the hospital; they help lead committees at church, help take up the offerings, and help distribute the Lord’s Supper. Churches would be much less equipped for ministry if there were no deacons.

In the next post, we will be looking at how the church should be governed and how it should function as an organisation.

Dr. Scott Shiffer

About Dr. Scott Shiffer

Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Faith and Culture Now, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations, including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for many years. Scott is married and has four children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges every day.



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