The scriptures are clear concerning the man who is pastor, shepherd, elder, bishop, and overseer.  His qualifications, role, responsibility, and limitation are plainly stated.  In my book, “The Weeping Church; Confronting the Crisis of Church Polity”, all of this is carefully outlined.  The book has been in constant publication since 1985.

I am amazed at how often people take the liberty of ignoring or rewriting the Bible text, particularly on this subject.  Almost every local church problem goes back to this issue.  Of course, the roots of those problems are sin and pride; but God blesses only what He orders.  If a church is organized in such a way as to create and feed conflict, one should not be surprised when it breaks out.  Everything man touches is flawed, but the closer we can stay to the plain, clear statements of the Word, the more likely we are to have peace.

Right now in our country we are living out the tragedy of this kind of ignorance.  Creditable historians know that this country is a republic, not a democracy.  Democracies always end in tragedy, and there are clear historical reasons as to why that is true.  A republic has the rule of law, and people are meant to be treated in that way.  So I have often asked, “Where did the concept of democracy in a local church come from?”  If you found it in the text, it is only because you inserted it there.

BEGININNG AT THE BEGINNING

God always makes things simple for us; we are the ones who make them complicated.  We often do that on purpose in order to confuse people so that we can get away with making the Bible agree with us.  This is the problem with the average concept of the pastor in our churches.  Pastors are often installed in local churches as errand boys or merely someone to fill the pulpit.  A local church is a flock, and it needs a qualified under-shepherd.  Christ is the Chief Shepherd, and He is the one who appoints these under-shepherds.  The prayerful task of the local church is to find out who Christ has appointed for them.  The church should be seeking the will of God rather than the will of the people or a flawed majority.  Churches languish because, in the flesh, they think they have a better idea.

The selection process of a congregation often follows the pattern of the nation of Israel in its choice of King Saul.  They thought they needed a man who was tall, dark, and handsome.  Who cares about the heart of the man, let alone what is in his mind?  That is why people are so easily fooled – you don’t always get exactly what you see.  Sad to say, candidates are not always truthful.  More than one prospect has hidden his questionable theology; then, when his error comes to the surface, he is so firmly settled in that the people are not willing to stand up and be counted.  On the other hand, they would fight over the color of the carpet at the drop of a hat!  What percentage of local churches has leaders with enough knowledge of the scripture to ask the kinds of questions that would smoke out a theological “wolf in sheep’s clothing”?  That’s the problem: they only think they do.

We would have to add to this mix the intention of a candidate to change the flavor and format of church function.  All these changes may not actually be a biblical question, but hiding the intent to do so is.  If the prospect had been honest and had outlined his prospective changes that would scatter the sheep, the door would have closed – and he knows that.  Christ is fully aware of, and has not forgotten, these questionable and sinful assaults on the local church.

NON-ANSWERS TO THE PROBLEM

On the other hand, the local church often practices bad habits in order to control conflict and protect itself.  The clear answers to unrest in church polity are clearly stated in God’s Word, and they are the only way a church can solve difficulty in its fellowship.  Some have chosen simply to do away with the real shepherd of the sheep.  If you don’t have a pastor, then fifty percent of your problem is gone – right?  They forget this: But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36)

A flock without a true shepherd will falter and eventually be destroyed.  The function of a shepherd cannot be fulfilled by a false shepherd or a hireling. (John 10:12)  Only the qualified (I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-10), a Christ-appointed shepherd (I Peter 5:1-4), can fully carry out that ministry of the pastor, elder, and bishop.  The Chief Shepherd appoints, qualifies, empowers, and approves true shepherds.

Be careful with your human response to this, but if a man does some shepherding, it does not mean he is a shepherd.  This is a simple concept.  When my wife was in the hospital, I had to do some mothering; but that didn’t make me a mother.  Humans can put any title they wish on a man, but only Christ can designate one of His under-shepherds.  Then there is the “Hagar Syndrome”.  They think they can solve the problem by multiplying the number of men they choose as pastor, elder.  The text clearly states that churches had, and have, multiple pastors; and that is true if they are appointed by the Chief Shepherd. Often this is used as a smoke screen to build an oligarchy.  This concept is in direct conflict with nature and the Bible standard.  Leadership and headship are always singular.

GOD’S PLAN OF ORDER

So why are churches so quick to join theological bandwagons when they know that the wheels are coming off?  Basically, it has to do with the humanly devised hermeneutic that is raging in the new church culture.  Intellectuals have provided a plan whereby churches can “have it their way”.  Churches follow unbiblical polity because there is so little knowledge of the Bible.  They know about the Bible, but have found a way to “fill in the blanks” in order to get their own way.  This is often done by means of the abuse of language, the ignoring of context, or the twisting of historical information.

Theological smart-alecks may have lot of information, but they are short on wisdom.  Intellectualism draws young novices because it is important for them to “run with the big boys”.  They fall into error willingly, but seldom find their way out of the theological slime pit.

The wise man will let the text speak for itself.  The strong man will be willing to stand up for truth even where error has been practiced for generations.  A holy God will bless what He orders, and that is how we protect the biblical pastorate

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