Titus 1:5: appoint elders in every city
These were Paul’s instructions to Titus: “appoint elders”. This verse shows another serious conflict between the Word of God and the way it is. Paul did not charge Titus to appoint a pastor (or pastors), but “elders” to oversee the local church.
Matthew 22:29: Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures
We assume the way something is done is done because it is the right thing to do. Were it not right we wouldn’t be doing it that way. We do not question, we don’t check it out with “the Scriptures”. We sin the sin of presumption.
In the New Testament the word “pastors” is used but once, whereas the words “elder” and “elders” are used often. However, christians today use the word ‘pastor’ often and “elder” rarely.
Titus 1:6 (NIV): An elder must be blameless,
Elders lead by example, so the example “must be blameless”.
Titus 1:7 (NIV): Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless –
What is “an overseer”? The “overseer” in verse seven is the “elder” in verse six. An overseer is an elder.
What is a “bishop”? Some translations use the word “bishop” instead of the proper word, “overseer”. Why? Perhaps to appease and give unwarranted credibility to the way it is. A supposed “bishop” is an elder, nothing more.
Does one elder/overseer oversee an entire congregation? No, Paul instructed Titus to “appoint elders” (plural) in every city.
James 5:14: Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him,
James 5:14 confirms a plurality of elders (plurality of leadership). Where is the pastor so visible in today’s evangelical circles? Where is this singular authority and leader? He simply cannot be found in the New Testament!
He cannot be found in the gospels, nor in the book of Acts. He is not in the letters of Paul directed to various churches and to individuals. Peter doesn’t mention him. Neither does John or James.
Acts 20:17: From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
Paul didn’t send for the senior pastor, the associate pastor, the assistant pastor or the youth pastor. He sent for “elders”. Was there a chief elder who could legitimize today’s lead pastor? Since Scripture doesn’t speak of such a man, the answer must be an emphatic “No!” The following verse, in which Paul is speaking to the elders of Ephesus, confirms this….
Acts 20:28: take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God
These words are directed to “the elders of the church” and again confirm that an elder is an overseer.
Every elder (we don’t know how many) was responsible “to shepherd the church of God”. Although all were given the same responsibility, they did not necessarily work in unison. They were not a ‘board of elders’; they were just elders. There is no reason to assume they met together for prayer or held leadership meetings. Also, the Bible declares “the Holy Spirit has made [them] overseers”, but does not say the Holy Spirit made one a senior overseer. Each elder was equally responsible “to shepherd the church of God” as the Holy Spirit so directed.
Many think a ‘bishop’ is a person overseeing several local churches, someone higher up an ecclesiastical hierarchy than the pastor. (Some would use the word ‘superintendent’.) But a ‘bishop’ is simply an elder, an overseer. (The KJV, seemingly, uses the word “bishop” to justify the existence of bishops at the time of translation.) Ecclesiastical hierarchies are no more than inventions of the way it is.
This is true church order: “Christ is head of the church” (Eph.5:23), “the body” is all believers. (There is no mediator between Christ and believer.) Elders are used to feed “the body” and are themselves fed by (through) the body of believers.
Acts 15:6: So the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
There was a serious problem in the young church caused by “certain men (who) came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” (Ac.15:1) Now Paul had warned the elders “from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things.” (Ac.20:30) And so “the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”
Today the role of an elder is often limited to affirming the pastor who is the chief decision maker. But that is not the role of the New Testament elder, as Acts 15:6 so strongly confirms.
Acts 20:31: Therefore watch,
An elder is to watch with protective alertness.
Acts 20:29: savage wolves will come in among you,
The “savage wolves” were those who preached another gospel, another word. They drew men unto themselves, away from Christ. The elders had the responsibility to protect the sheep from false teachers (i.e., the circumcisers).
“Savage wolves” did not become an extinct species with the passing centuries. They are still in the nasty business of separating the believer from his/her Christ.
1 Timothy 3:2: able to teach;
Elders must be “able to teach” because teaching is one of their responsibilities. Today, the way it is leaves the teaching to the pastor.
1 Peter 5:1: The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder
Peter was a “fellow elder”. One of the responsibilities of an elder is to “exhort” (persuade, encourage).
1 Peter 5:2: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers,
Again, the Word tells us that elders are overseers. Elders, not pastors, are to “shepherd the flock”.
1 Timothy 3:2-4 (NIV): Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well
There are many qualifications the overseer of the church must possess. There are also some he need not have. He is not required to be ‘ordained’ or to have a certificate. He need not be a graduate of a Bible college. He doesn’t have to wear a suit and tie. He need not be cultured, charismatic or professional.
1 Timothy 3:6 (NIV): He must not be a recent convert,
There is a greater risk the young in the Lord will get puffed up with spiritual pride. But pride is not a danger to young believers only. Pride is a serious enemy and believers must prayerfully watch over each other. The way it is endangers the one (or the few) by placing him on a pedestal of recognition.
1 Timothy 3:1 (NIV): Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
The “recent convert” should mature to the place where he one day qualifies to be an overseer. It should be expected of him. Everyone must have equal opportunity. The way it is does not operate like that; only those graduated from an accredited denominational school are able to oversee a congregation. But what about those refusing to compromise, those refusing to subject themselves to denominational religion? The way it is has no sympathy or tolerance for anyone not in subjection to itself.
The Bible teaches that overseers themselves are to be nurtured by (through) fellow christians. They are not in a class by themselves. Everyone is a member of the body, one not more needed than another. There is to be no schism (the few and the many). Ministry is to be reciprocal.
Acts 14:23: So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
“They” are Paul and Barnabas. Before leaving, “they appointed elders in every church” to oversee the spiritual welfare of the converted. Again, the Bible clearly tells us this task was not assigned to one man, but more than one, probably several.
The Lord insists on a plurality of leadership instead of singular. A solo authority figure promotes reverence for man while multiplicity dissipates reverence for man. Let’s look at examples of hero-worship, keeping in mind this tendency is in all of us to one degree or another.
Acts 14:11: Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
At Lystra Paul, by the power of God, healed a man crippled from birth and this caused a great stir in the populace. Paul, and Barnabas who accompanied him, “could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.” (Ac.14:18)
We know that man has a tendency to make idols out of men…. sport superstars, politicians, religious leaders. Does this man-worship also occur in the church?
Acts 10:25: As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshipped him.
Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God…. who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Ac.10:2) Yes, man-worship occurs in the church.
The church building is constructed like a theatre. All seats point toward the elevated stage at the front. A ribbon of carpet down the centre and side aisles flows dramatically toward the centre of the stage where the pulpit stands, highlighted further by powerful overhead lights. On the pulpit is a microphone with immense power to amplify the speaker’s words. Whoever steps up to the pulpit instantly becomes larger than life. Rarely does the secular world match this scenario of focussing on an individual, award banquets being one exception.
The pulpit is a dangerous thing; if misused it can create little gods. Many must share it. Several should decide who position themselves behind the pulpit, not one assuming that responsibility.
John 2:24,25: He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Jesus knows what is inside us, what motivates us, our limitations. He knows about that ugly thing in us that causes man to adulate man. We must acknowledge it and deny it opportunity to surface.
The fact that people adulate people is half the problem; the other half is that men like to be revered.
3 John 1:9: Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them,
Today, Diotrephes would be called “Pastor Diotrephes”. He loved the attention always showered upon the one at the top. He did not become the pastor because of love for Christ or love for Christ’s sheep, but rather love for Diotrephes.
If elders gave leadership to the local church, instead of one person, there would be less adulation given to man. The assembly would be minus a hero figure to gawk at and fuss over. With no individual to take the glory Jesus would rightfully “have the pre-eminence among them”.
1 Corinthians 3:21: let no one glory in men.
Evangelicals “glory in men”…. in the pastor, in their church, in their denomination, in numbers, in accomplishments, even in doctrines. Since it is the pastor who is in the forefront of the church it is he who receives most of the “glory” (applause, approval, attention, credit). With recognitioncomes power; and power corrupts…. not always, but often.
One motive for becoming a pastor is the love of Christ, but unfortunately it is not the only motive. Many pastors would make it to the top no matter what profession they were in, motivated by a competitive spirit. Some pastors are pastors because they are controllers, driven to the top by a need to control. Others simply like the attention, having a greater need than most to be heard.
Even if one’s motive is lofty, excessive attention is a corruptor most cannot handle. Prominence divided among many loses most of its power and danger.
Matthew 20:16: the last will be first, and the first last.
I believe this will be so evident at the judgement seat of Christ. Many who are “first” in the local assembly will not be first in heaven. They will work harder than most, perhaps to the point of burnout, but they are receiving their reward in this life in the way of honour from men.
The honour men are receiving is honour Jesus is not. The heart honouring man over Jesus is sorrowful and needs revival.
Galatians 6:13: they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh.
The leaders referred to in this verse probably worked very hard, but their motive was self-glorification. Some church leaders glory in their ability to accomplish and motivate others. Shepherding the flock is a very secondary consideration. In a multitude of leaders there would be some having equally inferior motives, but others would compensate for this weakness.
Mark 9:33,34: He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
We must face the fact that there is stuff inside us that is ignoble. The apostles were discipled by Jesus, walked and ate with Him, yet there were still uglies in their hearts, bad fruit of fallen man. One would be particularly naive to think a pastor is immune from the same frailties besetting the rest of us, that his motives are purer, his struggles less severe. The main difference between the few and the many is that the few (the ‘ministerial’) are more practised at hiding their flaws. Transparency would threaten their paycheck.
Philippians 2:3: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
Some pastors are driven by “selfish ambition or conceit”. Their ambition is to be successful in ministry, to have the biggest church in town, to gain approval, to fulfill a vision. For these, pastoring is a means to an end. The congregation is used to fulfill one man’s presumed vision of what a church should be and do.
In a plurality of leadership there would be safety checks and balances to insure that the priority of the assembly would be to “shepherd the flock of God”.
Pastors, like all of us, produce after themselves. A devotional man begets devotional men. A controller begets controllers. Both humility and pride are passed on by example. Because checks and balances are absent in a one-man ministry an entire congregation can adopt his flaws and/or his faulty perspective.
1 Thessalonians 2:6: Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others,
Not everyone is motivated by “glory from men”. Paul glorified Christ. His love for Christ is evident in his letters: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Ph’p.1:21)…. God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Gal.6:14)
But most do not have Paul’s fervour for Christ. Most of us are somewhere between Diotrephes and Paul. Most, myself included, would find excessive prominence difficult to handle.
1 Timothy 1:17: to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever.
Our God does not want His glory falling upon man. A multiplicity of leaders wouldn’t eradicate the problem of man-gazing, but lessen it considerably.
3 John 1:9,10: I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
Diotrephes was a spiritual abuser. His motives were corrupt, his methods cruel. He was a controller and he had much power. Diotrephes culled those who did not submit to him by using dirty tricks perfected through years of usage.
The way it is has within its ranks pastors (what percentage no one knows) of the complexion of Diotrephes. How much mistreatment occurs in evangelicalism? No one knows, but I would suggest it is more extensive than the optimal estimate. Abusers have the remarkable ability to abuse without detection. Many in the ‘ministerial’ know of serious abuse of shepherds against sheep, but they ain’t telling. There is a tendency for pastors to place the welfare of fellow pastors over that of the sheep.
Even some pastors of gentle spirit and integrity will behave injuriously to protect the way it is. From their perspective, a perspective long ago gone afoul by compromising God’s Word, it is their way of serving God.
Without power, Diotrephes could not abuse. A plurality of leadership would lessen abuse in the assembly.
1 Peter 5:4: and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Jesus is “the Chief Shepherd”, the Chief Elder. If the heart of elders is not to serve “the Chief Shepherd” they will make a mess of everything. There will be infighting among themselves and jealousies. They will be a curse upon those they oversee instead of a blessing.
The calibre of the assembly will be affected by the devotion the elders have to Jesus Christ…. which will be evident, in part, in their relationship with each other.
Faithful catholics line up to receive the eucharist at mass. To them, the eucharist is more than a wafer of bread; it is Jesus Christ. Not merely an emblem, but the “body, blood, soul and divinity” of Christ. “Body of Christ” the priest says before giving each catholic the wafer. “Amen” the recipient replies in agreement.
Catholics have been taught for centuries that when Jesus “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ’this is My body, which is given for you’” (Lk.24:19) the bread had been supernaturally transmuted into the fullness of Christ. And likewise the wine had not only become Jesus’ actual blood, but Jesus Himself. When mass is over the leftovers of bread and wine are placed in an ornate box and locked up (so that no one will steal Jesus).
Evangelicals can see the folly of this doctrine. We can look into the book of Mark and see that after the meal Jesus referred to the drink as “the fruit of the vine”, and not His blood. And in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Jesus is quoted as saying, “Do this in remembrance of Me”, and not, “Do this to receive Me.” But faithful catholics lining up to receive really, really believe they are consuming Jesus Himself, and will not be convinced otherwise.
This appendix is neither about communion, nor catholics. It is about the danger of really, really believing amiss.
As you know, something is not true because one really, really believes it to be true, or even if thousands, even millions, really, really believe. One, or many, cannot will truth into being.
Why do catholics blindly believe what they are taught? From childhood they are programmed to believe the catholic church is God’s “one true church” on earth, and its teachings (regarding the christian faith) are infallible. Once convinced of this, their guard is down, and reason (logic, common sense) is no longer their defence.
The common thread of most cults and false religions is the devastating teaching they are God’s authority. That is why a mormon really, really believes that one day he will become “as God is”. And that is why a Jehovah’s witness really, really believes salvation must be earned.
Evangelicals really, really believe with the same intensity as other faiths. They really, really believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and there are many evidences to back this up. But evangelicals also really, really believe stuff that is not Bible. (Many of these are mentioned in this book.) And the reason for this acceptance of non-biblical doctrines is the same as other religions: evangelicals have been influenced to believe their denomination is God’s authority. But is it true? This is a major issue you must reconcile.
One could argue evangelicals are not taught from the pulpit or from written material their denomination is God’s authority, and I would agree…. in part. It’s a subtle thing. While I have never heard a pastor preach from the pulpit that he, or the denomination he represents, is God’s authority, I have never heard a pastor refute it, even though he knows many are of that persuasion.
When someone speaks with an aura of authority and is not challenged, one assumes he indeed has authority. Because the pastor himself believes such to be true, those convictions are passed on non-verbally and indirectly. The proof of this is that you (who have been heavily influenced by various pastors) are unsure at this moment if it is so (that pulpit-people have authority over pew-people).
The problem of illicit authority in evangelicalism is much less than in catholicism. Nonetheless it is a serious problem. When a christian is convinced his pastor, church, or denomination is God’s authority his defence drops, and he will be susceptible to all manner of false teachings, the same as catholics (and whoever).
There is an authority we should submit to. When we go to someone’s home or store or business we obey the rules as we understand them to be. If we belong to a club we obey the policies arrived at by the majority or recognized leadership. So it is in church. We sit when we are supposed to sit, stand when we are told to stand, and generally are agreeable. But outside another’s home and business, or outside the church walls, that authority ceases to exist.
A friend was introduced into the “word-faith” movement, and he got quite excited after listening to a number of cassette tapes. He was attracted to the prosperity message. (Who doesn’t want to be wealthy?) Then someone told him about the “Jesus-died-spiritually” teaching that most teachers in word-faith propagate. There are some variants, but the teaching goes something like this: When Jesus bore our sins on the cross He must have died spiritually because sin causes spiritual death. Jesus was now like the rest of us, spiritually dead. When He went to hell He had no protection, and the demons attacked Him mercilessly. After a period of time, the Father cried out in a loud voice from His throne, “Enough!” Jesus was released, and He ascended to heaven, becoming the first born-again Son of the Father! (I am not fantasizing.) According to this teaching, it was not at the cross that our salvation was attained, but in hell! It is not by the blood we are saved (or at least not fully), but by the torture Jesus experienced in hell by demons!
This friend was understandably appalled and he dropped the “word-faith” movement like a hot potato. I will never forget the words he said (in relief): “I did not give myself over to them.” I knew what he meant. He had not yet become converted to, or attached to, that religion. He had not yet become a disciple of that thought, that persuasion. He still had “ears to hear”.
There was a time that I did give myself over to them.” I was drawn into this religion of getting from God. Using truths of the Bible, they legitimized greed, and I became consumed by the possibilities of what I could get from God by faith, “the God-kind-of-faith”. Jesus was crowded out as the things I was believing for began to fill my heart.
(It is, of course, God’s will for every one of his children to be healthy and prosperous. However, while it is true that intimacy with Christ brings blessings, the seeking of blessings obstructs intimacy. Things should never be an idol. Jesus clearly warned, “Beware of covetousness”. Lk.12:15)
I have told this story of my friend and myself to help you see the danger of giving yourself over to something or someone other than Jesus Christ. I have come to the conclusion that many (most?) evangelicals have given themselves over to That’s just the way it is! and the officers who enforce these traditions.
It is hard to renounce the things we really, really believe even if those things trespass God’s Word. Such is our love for the way it is, the status quo. When Jesus taught it was the foolish man who built his house on sand, this included the christian who builds his life, partly or fully, on That’s just the way it is!, on things we really, really believe that are not Bible.
In the days of the catholic charismatic movement most born-again catholics with whom I was associated refused to exchange the things they really, really believed for God’s Bible. Evangelicals, who have been assured the Bible is God’s infallible Word, often make the same mistake when confronted with discrepancies between Bible and non-Bible.
God said of “the house of Israel”, “they are all estranged from Me by their idols” (Ez.14:5), “idols in his heart”. Is the way it is and its teachers (or any teacher, pastor, minister) an idol in your life? Have you given yourself over to another way? If you have lost that tenderness to Jesus you once had it is a sure sign there is an idol of some type. You must identify it and renounce it and embrace “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” once more.
God bless you!
——————————————————-A TRIBUTE TO JESUS CHRIST
bulls and rams
oxen and goats
lambs and turtledoves
so much blood
so much blood
sprinkling the chosen
soaking the ground
flowing through centuries
so much blood
so little power
the living god
is there a man
a righteous man
to satisfy him
the living god
no not one
no innocent blood
from his throne he came
the living god
to shed his blood
his innocent blood
it is finished
he is appeased
the living god
the curtain is torn
the door open
thank you sir