If something has 2 heads, it is indeed a monster–Lester Roloff
I feel that it is my duty to address an issue that has become my “hobby horse.” As Bible believers we all have our hang up issues, and at this point in my life, the one I am about to address is mine. Even though I have been in church my entire life, I have not been made fully aware of this issue until the last few years. I credit this ignorance to incredible pastor that I had for the last 13 years of my life(before that I never paid attention, but I am sure it was an issue then as well). The last few years though, I have began to notice something out of order. Let me try to explain this best I can.
I begin by saying that I believe that there are, what are know by some as, the Universal Church and the Local Church. I know that there are some folks that only believe in one or the other, but in fact you have to believe in both, because they are indeed the same.
Let me explain. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that he would build a church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.(Also said he would establish it on himself, not Peter. Look at the grammar. Jesus is the only one I read about referred to as a rock in the NT…. 1 Corinthians 10:4…. Anyways) The church that Jesus is speaking of here is the church that every man, woman, boy, or girl becomes a part of when they are born again. Ephesians 5:25 ….even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.
So, we understand that there is a “Universal Church,” but there are clear-cut instructions given to the church that could not be carried out if we were to stop there. Examples…..1 Corinthians speaks of the church coming together(vs 18) and eating a supper to which they were having issues. In verse 34, Paul then tells them that they should eat at HOME. So this shows me that there indeed is a group of folks who are meeting together. This is impossible if it is only a reference to saved Christians all over the globe, it has to be a group of believers living in the same or similar geographical location. Other verses to look up on your spare time to further prove the point are, Hebrews10:25, 1 Corinthians 14:34,35, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3. So we see how you must have both.
But the question that lies before us today is the matter of who is the Head of said church/churches. Some of my brethren would answer and say that Jesus is Head of the Universal Church and the Pastor is the Head of the Local church. I have heard the term “under-shepherd” used to define pastors many times in light of Jesus being the Chief Shepherd. I have a very small issue with this statement. Let me explain briefly why.
I have read my Bible through a few times, and I have yet to find the term under-shepherd once(But I can’t find the word “rapture” either so I am willing to let this slide). The real problem I have with this is simple. When you receive Christ as your Saviour, you become one of his “sheep” John 10:11-18. When you are newly growing as a Christian, you are a sheep. When you become involved a church ministry, you are a sheep. When you become a deacon, Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, etc, you are a sheep. But somehow, when you become a Pastor, you magically become a Shepherd? How does that work? Do you get to leave the fold and hang out in the farmer’s house with him while the rest of the dirty farm animals wait outside? No, you are made a sheep and will continue to be one and nothing more. Unfortunately, many Pastors believe themselves to be somehow greater than the “church folks.” They have established a sort of clergy/laity system in our Baptist churches. They expect themselves to be the final authority in the church and all the sheep must do his bidding. I am very scared for a man who takes such a Pope-ish attitude. Brethren, if you are telling God’s people that they are to obey you without question, delay, or even an explanation as to your reasoning, you had better be very careful, you are beginning to sound a little bit like the fellow over in Rome. You do the same thing when you take titles that have been designated for God and God only and make them your own. Like Shepherd(John 10:11), Reverend(Psalm 111:9), and Head of the Church(Ephesians 5:23) I am simply saying be careful.
I know many folks disagree with my reasoning so lets go to the Bible. 1 Peter 5:1-4
1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The Bible says here is verses 1 and 2 that the elders here are AMONG the flock, not in control of them. They are part of this flock, not a separate species. Also it is God’s flock and God’s Heritage, NOT YOURS. Verse 3 says not as lords but ENSAMPLES. What does that mean that I am to do as a Pastor? It means, I am to understand that the chief Shepherd is Jesus, but in order to help the rest of the flock that I am apart of, I follow the Shepherd properly, openly, immediately, so that the other sheep will see my example and follow as well. I cannot force anyone to serve the Lord or the church, or me as the Pastor(not by constraint). But as another sheep, I can lead a good example so that others will see me and follow my shepherd. Sir, sorry to say this, but there is only one shepherd and it ain’t you. The only Head the church has ever had is Jesus Christ, not any sinful man.
How about the verses that say that there are people who rule over the church? (Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17, etc) Well let’s quickly look at one of these verses. 1 Timothy 3:5 says “(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) The definition of how to rule is to essentially care for it. When a man rules his house, his main duty is to take care of his home(1 Timothy 5:8). This requires the man to be a proper example for the rest of the household that he is among. He may have to sometimes provide a warning, or a maybe even a criticism. At times he will have to give a rebuke or a correction. But at the end of the day he is doing it because he cares for it, not because he thinks that he is better than all the rest of the members of the family. He desires to provide for their needs best that he can without expecting any praise, recognition, or glory. So should be the duty of a good pastor/bishop
Let me close with this. Many will read this and assume that I am “anti-authority.” Nothing could be further from the truth. God has indeed set up an order to his church. He has established offices to be filled in the church by men(1 Timothy 3), in order to help maintain the order God has already established. I am in no way trying to undermine the job or duties of a pastor in the church. I am simply saying that we need to be extremely careful to not claim a title, position, or duty of Jesus Christ our Lord. I love my pastor, and respect him very much so,and would do anything that man would ask of me, because I know that he loves the flock that he is AMONG. My pastor knows that the sheep he is dealing with are the Lord’s. Brethren if we keep that in mind, I think we will be OK.