An elder was originally an elderly man, a person who was getting on in years.
In the Old Testament, the word "elder" was "zaqen" in the Hebrew.
It meant "old, aged, veteran; of ripe old age; elder, leader, dignitary; can
refer to a formal position as community leader and arbiter."
In the New Testament, the word "elder" was "presbyteros" in the Greek. It meant "older, ancestral; in the Gospels and Acts, usually as an official leader of the Jewish community; in the epistles, "older man" and "older woman", who may or may not be official leaders of the church, depending on the context; elder; older; ancients; old; older man; those who are older".
So you can see that while elders may have been Church leaders, they were first and foremost simply the oldest among them. The oldest of the Jews, the elders, were given the responsibility of training up the younger ones in the faith. Therefore, they were sometimes recognized as official Church leaders.
Paul sent for the older men, the leaders, the elders, of the Church in Ephesus. There was more than just one elderly believer in Ephesus. There were several, perhaps many. All of these men were leaders. There was more than just one recognized official leader.
In the churches of today, the widely-held belief is that there can be only one Pastor per congregation. This makes sense only if the Pastor is viewed as being in charge of the congregation. If this is the case, then obviously it would be very confusing for a church to have several leaders. Imagine the United States of America electing two Presidents. Who would we listen to? It would be chaos.
But in the Churches of the Living God, Pastors are not rulers. They are servants, and there is room for everyone in the Church to be servants. There can be more than one, and indeed, there should be more than one.
Galatians 5:13 - …serve one another in love.
Elders are to be servants of the saints, instructors of righteousness who teach by example, and with love and compassion.
1st Peter 5:1-3 explains that elders are to be shepherds of the flock: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
The elders who are willing, eager servants are to be shepherds of the flock. The elder is not to lord his position over the flock, but to be an example to them. Thus, an elder can be a Pastor.
How many Pastors today lord their position over the congregation? They set themselves up over the sheep, and spiritually rule them. They put themselves first, and the needs of the sheep last.
These are hired hands. Those who desire the position of Pastor because of the title, desiring to lord that title over the flock, are not fit to lead.
Jesus said, in Luke 14:8-11, that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. - "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
So he who seeks the position of Pastor out of a desire to be "in charge", exalts himself and will be humbled on the day of judgement.
Jesus said, in Matthew 25:41-43 - "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
This includes the Pastors, the shepherds who did not take care of His sheep.
Peter said that shepherds were to serve the flock, as servants. They were not to rule over the flock, or lord it over them.
Peter, in fact, was only repeating Jesus' own words on this subject, which He made in Matthew 20:25-28 - Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
How much clearer could Jesus have been? The rulers and high officials of the Gentiles exercise authority over them, but it is not to be this way with His Church. Anyone who aspires to become great in His Kingdom must become a slave to His flock. Anyone who wants to be first in His Kingdom, must be a slave to His Church, watching over them, going after them, and caring for them.
Paul called for the elders, the leaders, the Pastors of Ephesus to meet with him. These were many men, not just one. They were shepherds of the flock, servants of the sheep, slaves of the Body of Christ.
Jesus told Peter three times, in John chapter 21, "Feed my sheep". He stressed the fact that His sheep needed to be cared for, not just taught.
James 2:15,16 - Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
Pastors need to care for the sheep by meeting their needs. If someone is without food, it does no good to tell that person to go out and get a job. A Pastor needs to go out and look for jobs that this person can apply for. A Pastor needs to be a reference for this person, calling places of business and recommending him for employment. A Pastor needs to provide food, clothing, and shelter for him until he finds a job. A Pastor needs to meet his needs.
Those who would say that this is not their responsibility are not Pastors. They are hired hands who run away when the lamb is in need.
Is this the way Pastors operate today? Do they go after those who drop out of sight? Do they call those who have quit meeting together with the Body of Christ, to find out if there is a problem? Do they visit those who are sick? Do they meet the needs of the lambs? Do they care for those who have been hurt by Satan?
Or are they too busy being about the work of teaching and preparing sermons, to minister to the flock? Are they too busy implementing Church Programs, recruiting the flock to work on the Pastor's vision for the Kingdom, rather than equipping the saints for their work of ministry?
The word "Pastor" means "Shepherd". Are they so busy exercising authority over the congregation, that they have no time to be shepherds?
If so, then they are not Pastors. They are hired hands, and they will be humbled by God, taken out of the flock, and cast into Hell.
So we see that elders can be Pastors. Are all elders Pastors?
1st Timothy 5:17 says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching."
Some elders are given the work of preaching and teaching. Some aren't. Just because they are elderly, it doesn't mean that all of them have been given the same spiritual gifts.
Romans 12:4-8 - Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
1st Corinthians 12:14-20 - Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Ephesians 4:11-13 - It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
We all have different places in the Body of Christ. Some are given to be Pastors. Some are not.
But a Pastor is not a ruler, he is a servant. He cares for the sheep. He watches over them, and goes after them when they wander away, bringing them back to the safety of the fold.
A Pastor, by definition, is not in charge of the Church. He does not exercise authority over the Church. He is a servant, even a slave.
We need to get out of our minds the wrong-headed notion that the Pastor's word is the final authority on spiritual matters, and that the Pastor is Lord of his congregation. Christ is the final word. The Bible, God's Word, is the final Word, and Christ is Lord.
The Pastor needs to pursue the lost, bringing them back to the fold through the Word of God.
This kind of thinking, that the Pastor is in charge of the Church, led to many divisions within the early Church, and Paul addressed this strongly, in 1st Corinthians 1:10-13. It was such an issue, that Paul wasted no time in addressing it; it was the first thing he talked about when he wrote to the Corinthians.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
These people had set up authority figures among them, and were lording them over others in the Church.
Some were saying, "Paul says to do this, and he is the final authority on the matter". Others said, "Peter says something else, and we believe Peter has more authority than Paul".
They were exercising authority over others in the Church by allowing someone other than Christ to be their ruler.
Paul sets them straight by reminding them that there is only one Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He points out that Paul was not crucified for the sinners, Jesus was. Believers were not baptized into the name of Paul, they were baptized into the name of Jesus. People are not to be following after other men, but to learn the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him.
Pastors can help us, but they are not who we are to follow.
Paul said, in 1st Corinthians 10:33 - Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Paul again addressed this division of the Body, in 1st Corinthians 3:1-9 - Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
He said he could not talk to the people of Corinth as spiritual brothers, but only as worldy sinners. Why? Because of their jealousy and quarrelling. What were they arguing about? They were fighting over who they should follow - Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Christ.
Paul says to them, that Apollos and himself are only servants. God gave the increase. Men are only fellow workers in Christ, but the Church belongs to God. The Church is God's field, not Paul's. The Church is God's building, not Apollos's.
Paul turned them back to Christ, and instructed them to follow Him.
Today, people say, "I am of Brother So-and-So's Church". Others say, "We belong to Pastor So-and-So's congregation."
This is the same darkness that the Corinthians were in, which shows that for all our modernity, we have not progressed one iota in 2,000 years.
I would reiterate the words of the Bible: Who is Pastor So-and-So? He is only a servant. We were not baptized into the name of Brother So-and-So. We were baptized into the name of Jesus! The Church does not belong to any man. It belongs to Christ. Follow Him!
Pastors are not authority figures. They are our servants, just as we are also servants. They feel the pain when the sheep get hurt. They go after them when they are lost, and bring them back.
There can be many Pastors in your local Body of Believers, and not one of them may be the man behind the pulpit.
The man behind the pulpit today is called a Pastor, but he may actually be an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or an Administrator, or something else completely. He may even be a hired hand, with no business trying to guide the sheep.
A Pastor is not a ruler, he is a shepherd and a servant.
Do you see how this flies in the face of the institutional Church? We have been trained to believe that the Pastor is King of the congregation, and he is to be obeyed unless he violates scripture.
I am here to tell you that a Pastor can be lost himself, and yet not be teaching wrong doctrine.
When a Pastor tells someone to sell their house and move to another city, because the Lord told him that this is His will for their lives, he has overstepped his bounds. This is not scripture. A Pastor needs to be bringing scripture before the saints, not rules and regulations that he has supposedly received from God.
The veil in the tabernacle was torn apart at the death of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 27:50,51 - And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.) There is now no longer any separation between God and Man. We have only one mediator, and that is Jesus Christ. If God has something for you to do, He will tell you! A Pastor who says that God will not speak to a person without first speaking to him, is not speaking scripture, and has more in common with the Popes of the Dark Ages, than with Jesus Christ.
If this seems like heresy, then remember that during the Dark Ages, many were martyred for speaking out about far lesser matters of spiritual truth than this. If many gave their lives for simply resisting the idea that the bread and wine of communion turn into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus as they are consumed, then how can I remain silent concerning such a more weightier matter?
Many people today believe that they are to be subject to a Pastor, as if they were the subject of a King, forgetting that our King is Yahweh God, not any man.
1st Peter 5:5 says to subject ourselves to each other!
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Yes, we are to be submissive to the elders. We are not to disregard their words. We are to listen to them, and learn from them. How else can they bring us back when we are lost, unless we listen to what they have to say?
The Jerusalem Bible says, "…do what the elders tell you…". Is this a blind obedience? Acts 17:11 says that it isn't - Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
1st Peter 5:5 said to do what the elders tell you. In Acts 17:11, not only did the Bereans listen to what they were told, but they received what they were told with great eagerness! They happily received instruction from the elders. But not only that, it was pointed out as a great part of their character, that they did not just accept what they were told, but examined the scriptures every day to see if what they were being told was, in fact, true.
Had they discovered that what they were being told was not true, then they would have had the responsibility and the duty, to disobey. It mattered not that Paul was the one teaching them. If he taught them incorrectly, they were not to listen to him. They were not to put Paul in a position of authority, higher than the scriptures. As long as Paul preached the Word of God, they were to submit to that Word. Otherwise, they were to restore Paul to the fold.
By keeping the Bible as our authority, and not men, we keep ourselves in the faith. Had the Bereans said, "We follow Paul", and if Paul had began teaching something contrary to the Word of the Lord, then they would have eagerly followed him down the path to destruction. But because they did not hold Paul up as a Lord over them, and only followed Jesus Christ, they would not have been deceived, had incorrect doctrine been preached to them.
So we are to obey our Pastors, (remember that your Pastor may not necessarily be the man behind the pulpit), but more importantly, we are to obey the Word of God that the shepherds bring to us.
Notice how Philip didn't have to ask Peter's permission to leave Samaria and go to the Ethiopian Eunuch? When God spoke to him, Philip went. He did not have to clear it first with Peter. Peter did not tell him, "Philip, do not leave Samaria. God did not tell me that you are to leave. Therefore, God did not speak to you."
No, Peter was a servant of Philip, not his ruler. Philip was free to obey the Lord. Sadly, this is not the case today, most of the time.
Acts 8:26-35 - Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth."
34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
The Lord told Philip to go to the desert road. Philip went. The Lord told Philip to go to a certain chariot and stay near it. Philip obeyed the Lord.
Philip never had to ask anyone for permission to obey the Lord. He just did it. We are not to have people who exercise spiritual authority over us. We are to be servants to each other. Christ is our head. Christ is our shepherd.
Pastors are to be teachers, that is true, but they are not our sole source of Biblical truth. No one is to set himself up as the sole authority of the scriptures.
1st John 2:27 says, " As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him."
The Bible says we do not need anyone to teach us in the things of God. We have the Bible, and we have the annointing spirit of God. These things should be enough.
But when we fall, we do need someone of the Body to come after us and bring us back, instructing us in righteousness. Such a person is a Pastor.
How different this is, from the prevalent idea today, that the Pastor is in charge! He is not in charge. He is a servant. Christ is in charge.
One scripture that Pastors love to invoke to show that they have spiritual authority over God's Church, is Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Here, we are again told to do what the elders tell us. We already have learned that this is not a blind obedience. We are to check what we are being told against the Truth of the Word of God.
This scripture says to submit to the authority of our leaders. However, we have already seen that Jesus, (and Peter) said that we are not to have rulers over us. We are not to have people who exercise authority over us.
So what authority do the Pastors have? The authority of the Word of God. We are to submit to the Word of God that the shepherds bring to us. They keep watch over us, as shepherds should. We are to obey the Word of God that they speak to us, for they are there for our benefit, as servants.
The minute they begin to speak with their own voice, teaching things that cannot be found in the Word of God, they become lost, themselves, and have need of other shepherds to come after them, and restore them to the fold. These lost Pastors need to submit to the Word of God that the shepherds bring them, just as they would expect others to submit to the Word spoken by them.
If you call yourself a Pastor, but do not look out for the good of the saints, not going after them when they fall away, or caring for them, then know this: you are a hired hand.
I implore you to become a shepherd, leaving the ninety-nine, and going after the one who is lost. Your job does include teaching, but do not spend so much time teaching and preparing lessons, that you forget the shepherding that you have been called to do.
If you are not a Pastor, then it is your responsibility to submit to the Word of God that the shepherds bring you, realizing that there may be many shepherds in the local body that you meet with, and they may not be the ones behind the pulpit. They are to be recognized as shepherds and respected as your servants, as well as servants of God.
It is your responsibility to learn the voice of the Good Shepherd, and to follow Him, checking the words brought to you by the under-shepherds against the Word of God, to make sure that the things that are being taught to you are, in fact, the Word of God.
If you are a Pastor, it is your job to go after the lost. It is not your job to delegate your job out to other saints.
Don't remain in the lukewarmness of the pulpit and the church building. Get out into the world and restore the lost to Jesus Christ.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. - 1st Peter 5:4
Chad J. McCoy
Dark Savant Ministries
Back to Dark Savant Ministries