Opinions on faith and life

Called to the Ministry

2005-09-01

You may have read in the post on Churchianity that what we have come to believe as being the Biblical model for the church is not really very accurate. No issue more clearly illustrates this than in the area of church leadership.

Church tradition has always held that pastors or ministers become such as the result of a subjective “call”, where God allegedly picks someone for the position of elder/pastor by giving them a feeling or hunch of some kind. This individual is then sent to a seminary to acquire a degree, which then qualifies him to lead a church, perform public duties such as weddings and funerals, and obligates him to preach a prepared sermon at least once a week.

Would someone please show me all this in the Bible? (Hint: it ain’t there.)

So what does the Bible say? First, there is nothing about formal schooling, but that omission may be partly due to what first century Jewish society would assume to be the case, where any leader would at least be able to read and have some familiarity with the OT scriptures. Since anyone being considered for a church leadership position was to be tested and held to a high moral standard (1 Timothy 3) and would be responsible for the spiritual oversight of others (Titus 1, James 3:1), it would be most difficult to perform the requirements of that office without some training in proper handling of the scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15).

Second, there is absolutely nothing in the NT about such elders being charged with performing rituals of any kind, other than appointing more elders or perhaps commissioning people for special assignments such as missionary trips. I have no clue why or how anyone gets the idea from scripture that the elder can/must perform weddings and funerals. That’s strictly a social custom. (Actually, they don’t get it from scripture at all, but from ancient Greece and Rome.)

Third, no one is ever appointed an elder because they had a hunch or feeling of being called. In fact, as some of the references above already stated, it seems more a matter of a person’s aspiration (!), and the Bible calls this a “good thing”. So the Bible says that first a person desires to lead, and then they are tested, and finally approved by the other elders. As already mentioned, the elder’s job is to guard and train the church, to concentrate on spiritual truths. It is NOT, as is commonly practiced, to manage a building, to arrange financing or solicit funds, to oversee church committees.

And to emphasize what was said about this in the Churchianity post, the elder is not necessarily a speaker at church meetings, let alone the only speaker. We must not make the mistake of equating positions with spiritual gifts (although a good case can be made for the elder at least having discernment).

Churches today have an enormous amount of baggage to unload if they are to return to the Biblical paradigm. But considering prophecy and the signs of the times, I really don’t expect this to happen. We can only spread the word and live the example, and let everyone else decide which they should do.

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Words of a Fether » Perpetuating Error

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