Shepherd in Early Christian Church: Pastor, Elder Research Paper

Pages: 12 (4125 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Brief consideration of the Book of Acts and the Book of Luke illustrates a parallel telling of the continuation of history that began in the Gospels. Two facets of the same story are told in the Luke-Acts writings. Of this two-part composition, Constable wrote, "Whereas Luke's Gospel focuses on the vertical universalization of the gospel (up and down the social scale). Acts focuses on its horizontal universalization (from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the world)."[footnoteRef:28],[footnoteRef:29] In reference to the same dynamics, the terms elder and overseer appear connected the vertical growth of the Jesus Christ's Church, which was manifested in part through a co-optation of the traditional religious roles that existed before the establishment of His Church. In the same manner, the roles of pastor and shepherd align with the horizontal growth of the Church that did not emphasize the authority structure of the Church, but did emphasize spreading The Word, baptism, and conversion. [28: Constable, T.L. (2010). Notes on Acts. Plano, TX: Sonic Light. Retrieved / ] [29: Elliott, John Hall. "Elders as leaders in 1 Peter and the early church." Currents In Theology And Mission 28, no. 6 (December 1, 2001): 549-559.]

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There are many passages in the literature of the early Church where terms for church leaders are used interchangeably:[footnoteRef:30] The following passage from Titus is a good example: [30: Mileant, Bishop Alexander (Ed.). (2001). The Structure and Worship of the Early Church [Missionary Leaflet # E43d]. [Web]. La Canada, CA Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission. In Clark Carlton, The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press. Retrieved]

Research Paper on Shepherd in Early Christian Church: Pastor, Elder, Overseer Assignment

"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders [lit. presbyters] in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre" (Titus 1:5-7).

As in the New Testament example above, the terms bishop and presbyter are used interchangeably. Other versions of the Bible show similar translations.[footnoteRef:31] For instance, in most English translations of the New Testament the term presbyter is rendered as elder. The King James Version (KJV) and the Revised Standard Version (RSV) usually translate bishop as bishop.[footnoteRef:32] However, one exception is found in the KJV where bishop is translated overseer once (Acts 20:28).[footnoteRef:33] The New International Version (NIV) translates bishop as overseer exclusively and, in this way, is able to avoid using a term that would be considered objectionable to most Evangelicals.[footnoteRef:34] [31: Ibid.] [32: Ibid.] [33: Ibid.] [34: Ibid.]

The Human Overseer.

Although the core of human issues and problems has not changed markedly over thousands of years, there are some aspects of contemporary life that present cultural, philosophical, and social differences with respect to applying the gospel in the world in this day.[footnoteRef:35] One of the questions that churches must make an effort to address today is: "What is the role of ordained ministry in the contemporary world culture?"[footnoteRef:36] Individuals in positions of responsibility and authority have never been strangers to ethical dilemmas and eventual moral failure.[footnoteRef:37] Communications technology permits instantaneous transmissions about the conduct of people in authority, exposing them to limelight that may be tremendously favorable or devastatingly unfavorable. This level of transparency is doubtless good at one level, but it has also served to undermine the faith and confidence that people have had in their church elders and officials.[footnoteRef:38] [35: Zehr, Paul M. 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 2010] [36: Ibid.] [37: Ibid.] [38: Ibid.]

The letters to Timothy and Titus refer to the pastor or overseer as a person -- a human individual who is charged with striving for impeccable conduct.[footnoteRef:39] These epistles serve as reminders that the manner in which an elder or overseer lives their life as an example of their Christian faith.[footnoteRef:40] Indeed, an elder or overseer can substantively influence his own proclamation of the gospel, diminishing its effect or enhancing it through the manner of his quotidian living.[footnoteRef:41] This is precisely the tenant that Paul underscores in the letters he sends to Timothy and Titus, in which he notes that both right belief and right living are important -- orthodoxy and orthopraxy.[footnoteRef:42] Paul admonishes Timothy to "Set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim 4:12) -- a path that is relevant in any time.[footnoteRef:43] [39: Ibid.] [40: Ibid.] [41: Ibid.] [42: Ibid.] [43: Ibid.]

Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus are relevant to elders, overseers, pastors and shepherds alike in that they provide a framework for clarifying one's own theology and applying it to daily life -- and to one's spiritual duties and Christian ministry.[footnoteRef:44] In a very critical way, one's theology informs the way spiritual duties are accomplished and the way elders, overseers, pastors, and shepherds practice their ministry.[footnoteRef:45] Paul emphasizes the importance of right (sound, healthy) doctrine, teaching, and living.[footnoteRef:46] As a matter of course, the way to a healthy church is through right teaching and preaching.[footnoteRef:47] Whether an individual is an elder, an overseer, a pastor, or a shepherd, their spiritual duties must align with the apostolic teaching -- that conducted by the earliest of Jesus Christ's witnesses.[footnoteRef:48] Regardless of the title given to a role -- elder, overseer, pastor, or shepherd -- right living and right theology (teaching and preaching about Jesus Christ is inextricably linked to Christ-like living.[footnoteRef:49] Moreover, it is essential that the theology of contemporary spiritual leaders of the church addresses the cultural, social, and political practices and concerns of members of the church -- and that they link to the philosophy and religion practiced within the church.[footnoteRef:50] Finally, right living and right theology serve to invite others to Christ for salvation and for their lives.[footnoteRef:51] [44: Ibid.] [45: Ibid.] [46: Ibid.] [47: Ibid.] [48: Ibid.] [49: Ibid.] [50: Ibid.] [51: Ibid.]

As Paul Zehr set about studying 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, he formulated three major questions related to the practice of being a church pastor. Categorically, these were questions of being, of knowledge, and of skills needed for the pastoral ministry. His thoughts were: "What kind of person should the pastor be? What should the pastor know? And what must the pastor do?" As Zehr set about answering these questions for himself, he concludes that growth was both possible and necessary in these areas of ministry. Zehr's confirmation of this path came from the words of Paul to Timothy: "Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress" (1 Tim 4:15).

There are two ways in which a man can become a pastor or an elder in a church: Divine appointment and human appointment.[footnoteRef:52] The argument for the divine appointment is signaled throughout the Scriptures. Paul relates his being in the ministry as Divine placement (Ephesians 3: 7-8: [52: Zaspel, F.F. (1988). The Placement of Spiritual Rulers In The Local Church

or How does a man become an elder? Pottsville, PA: Word of Life Baptist Church. Retrieved]

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ."

And also in I Timothy 1:12):12

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service."

The apostles themselves were "set apart for the Gospel of God" (Romans 1:1).[footnoteRef:53] Peter (I Peter 5:1-2) and Paul tell the elders of the church of Ephesus that the "Holy Spirit has made you bishops" (Acts 20:28). [footnoteRef:54] [53: Ibid.] [54: Ibid.]

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood."

John Newton is known to have asserted, "None but He who made the world can make a minister of the Gospel."[footnoteRef:55] Unquestionably, God creates the desire within a person to serve God in a particular way and, in so doing, appoints those men to be elders in the church.[footnoteRef:56] Moreover, if God calls a man to be an elder, he also equips him with the capabilities needed to perform the duties of teaching, leading, and pastoring.[footnoteRef:57] [55: Ibid.] [56: Ibid.] [57: Ibid.]

Fitness to Lead.

In 1 Timothy 3:1-13, the qualifications of Church leaders are discussed. Interestingly, very little mention is made about the duties of leadership. Central to the narrative is a discussion about the fitness of Church leaders as measured by attributes such as being "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2) or being… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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