A worthy pursuit
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task” (I Timothy 3:1). The role of overseeing the Church that was purchased by the sacrificial death of the Son of God is a noble pursuit. Jesus said, “I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). He is the head of the Church which is His body (Ephesians 5:25-31). He is the Chief Shepherd of the Church (I Peter 5:4). Yet He has chosen to mediate His leadership through under-shepherds. What a noble work it is to be an under-shepherd to the Chief shepherd! To oversee the Church of God is a worthy pursuit!
Not under constraint
It is notable that the apostle spoke of “aspiring to be an overseer.” If anyone (ὀρέγεται) stretches toward or reaches for, seeks to attain to leadership. When one sets his heart toward leadership, the first thing he must know is that it is a noble (good, honorable) thing he seeks. Interestingly there is no mention of being called to the work. One must desire it. This is contrary to those who talk of going into the ministry kicking and screaming against it. All notions of becoming a Church leader under constraint contradict the first point: desire. The apostle Peter wrote: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be” (I Peter 5:2). But, of course, desire is not the final measurement, only a starting point. This is why the apostle followed with a list of “must be/must not be” qualifications for spiritual leadership in I Timothy 3:2-7 (cf. Titus 1:5-9).
More than desire
Before pursuing such a noble work, one should examine the nature of it. Gratefully, Scripture outlines this for us in the New Testament. Taking time to look more closely at the nature of the work will provide objective considerations for guiding one’s desire. Please consider this brief overview a starting point for deeper reflection and discussion.
God’s design for local Church leadership is for each assembly to be led by a group of men designated as elders.
Elder is the title for the leadership position, whereas overseer and pastor are terms used for the work of the elders. Evidence would indicate that the terms elder, overseer and pastor all refer to the same person/leader (Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-2; Titus 1:5,7; Ephesians 4:11). The fact that the title elder is primarily used in the plural form in the NT (e.g. Acts 14:5; Titus 1:5; James 5:14) indicates that the ruling body in each local church was a plurality of godly leaders identified as elders. Although women will minister in many ways related to the ministry of elders, Scripture forbids them from holding the office of elder in the local Church (I Timothy 2:11-13; 3:1-2, 4).
How can you know if God has called you to this honorable work?
7 points for measuring calling
- Desire to serve as an overseer (I Timothy 3:1)
- Qualification for eldership (I Timothy 3:1-6;Titus 1:5ff)
- Life experience in leadership (I Timothy 3:4-5)
- Demonstration of a shepherd’s heart and behavior (I Peter 5:1-4)
- Spiritual giftedness (I Timothy 4:14;Romans 12:3ff.)
- Capable of being a team member (Implied by plural leadership– Acts 14:23; 20:17,28; I Tim.3:1ff; 5:17; Eph. 4:11; I Pet.5:1-4)
- Formal testing and recognition by leaders (Titus 1:5,9;Acts 14:23)
Note: The qualifications for eldership in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 (along with the objective considerations above) must be given authority over feelings, experiences and giftedness. On this account, it’s possible to disqualify oneself from fulfilling a feeling of being called.
The role of pastor/elders
- Training and appointing leaders (II Tim. 2:2; Titus.1:5; Acts. 14:23)
- Leadership, admonishment (I Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17)
- Ministering the Word (Titus 1:9; I Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7)
- Representation (Acts 20:17)
- Spiritual oversight (Hebrews 13:17)
- Governing (I Timothy 5:17)
- Equipping (Ephesians 4:11-12)
- Spiritual restoration (Galatians 6:1-2)
- Refuting false doctrine (Titus 1:9)
- Guarding (Acts 20:17, 28-31)