PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Church Leaders

01/19/14 Church Leaders Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140119_church-leaders.mp3

We have been looking at the church, the assembly of Jesus-followers, the blood-bought possession of our Lord Jesus, those who acknowledge him as King, who proclaim the good news that Jesus was crucified for sinners, those who make disciples, those who gather together to devote themselves to the apostolic teaching, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus through the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

We looked at church members; that every believer is a member who belongs to the body of Christ, a body part intended to be a connected, healthy, functioning part of the body, each uniquely equipped and enabled to function as a vital part of the body of Christ.

Today I would like to look at those parts of the church body who have leadership responsibilities. What is the relationship between leaders and the rest of the body, and what are the responsibilities of the body to their leaders? What does God expect of leaders in his church, and what should we expect of them? We will look at a number of biblical passages to piece together what it should look like to be a leader in the church.

Pay Careful Attention

Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. He prepares them for his absence, and charges them:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Feel the weight of responsibility laid on the leadership of the church. Wolves are coming. Fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. The responsibility of the leaders of the church is that of a shepherd with a flock. It is imperative that they be alert, diligently persevering in watchfulness. Pay careful attention. First, pay careful attention to yourselves, because he says that it is from among your own selves that men will arise distorting and dragging disciples away. I must keep vigilant watch first over my own heart so that I am not veering off course. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Leaders are to watch over the sheep that have been entrusted to their care. Notice the gravity of this responsibility: care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. If God paid the ultimate price for his church, he would expect us to guard his bride with no less passion and commitment. Notice also where this responsibility comes from. This is no man-made authority; there are no self-appointed leaders. The Holy Spirit has made you overseers. This is a responsibility given by God, and recognized by his church. In this verse we see the care of the triune God for his church. The church was purchased with the blood of the Son, the church belongs to the Father, and the Holy Spirit establishes and enables leaders to care for and protect the church.

Feed my Sheep

After his resurrection, Jesus entrusted Peter with responsibility over the sheep.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Notice well, the sheep do not belong to Peter. Jesus claims them as his own. Jesus says they are ‘my sheep, my lambs’. Jesus entrusts Peter with their care; feeding and tending. The leader who loves Jesus first of all will be sure to keep his sheep well fed.

The Priority of Prayer and the Word over Physical Needs

As the early church grew, tension arose between the physical and spiritual needs of the followers of Jesus. Acts 6 records how they addressed some of these issues.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

People began to complain, to grumble, to murmur, and the focus of attention of the leaders was being diverted to address their grievances. Notice, by the way, that it was not the widows themselves who were doing the grumbling. Others complained on their behalf. The apostles said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’ Pure religion, James tells us, is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). But here we see the priority of the spiritual over physical needs. Prayer and the preaching of the word must not be neglected or interrupted. So they appointed deacons to address complaints and meet physical needs, Spirit-filled men, wise men, men of good reputation. This freed the apostles to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teaching is hard work. It is critical work. It must be a priority in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, a passage we will look at later that outlines the necessary character of church leadership, Paul refers to “the church of the living God” as “a pillar and buttress of the truth”. Truth must be defined, defended, and held to tenaciously. The word must be taught.

Equipping the Saints

Look with me at Ephesians 4. God poured out his undeserved grace on each part of his body to fulfill the purpose he designed for each one.

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here he clearly defines the goal of church leaders. The purpose of gifted leadership in the church body is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pay close attention to what this is saying: who is doing the work of the ministry? The saints, the body of Christ, every believer is doing the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is not delegated to a few professionals. The work of the ministry is the work of the body of Christ, functioning together in unity, each member doing its unique part.

By his grace, God has given gifted leadership to his church to equip the saints. The role of leadership is primarily one of equipping. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This word means to mend, to restore, to perfect, to fit or frame together, to prepare, to perfectly join together. Equipping for growth in the body, equipping for unity, equipping to know Jesus better, equipping for maturity, equipping in Christ-likeness, equipping to detect and resist false teaching, equipping for love. Equipping for the work of the ministry. Every saint, every follower of Jesus is a minister, called to do the work of the ministry. You and I are ministers, servants, intended to serve others for the glory of Christ. The main purpose of those gifted to lead is to equip every believer for the work that they as a part of the body of Christ are called and gifted to do. Think of this as the base where you are issued equipment, where you assemble for tactical training, where you receive marching orders, where you are prepared to be sent out on mission. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul lists the gifts, he repeatedly emphasizes that the gifts are given for the building up of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:3 …one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 …one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 … so that the church may be built up. 6 … how will I benefit you …? …12 …strive to excel in building up the church. …17 … but the other person is not being built up. …19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others …26 … Let all things be done for building up. …31 … so that all may learn and all be encouraged, …40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Each part of the body is functioning properly when each part is all about building up the whole body in love.

Selfish Shepherds of Israel

In the Old Testament,God incriminated the selfish leaders of Israel for not doing what they were called to do.

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Notice on what grounds he accuses these greedy shepherds. They do not feed the sheep. They feed only themselves, they eat the sheep, they use the sheep for their own benefit. They fail to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, or seek the lost. They have failed to protect the sheep from predators, becoming predators themselves. They rule with force and harshness. God will judge these shepherds. They will be held accountable.

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God himself will shepherd his people

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out … and gather them… And I will feed them … 14 I will feed them with good pasture,… There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. …19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? …22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. …23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. …

27 …And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 … they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, … 30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God will seek for and rescue, gather and feed, give rest, bind up, strengthen, bring back, deliver, protect.

Servant Leadership

Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything a shepherd was meant to be. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example.

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Leadership in the church is not about position or power or prestige. Leadership in the church is not about being served; leadership in the church is defined by self-sacrificial service for the good of others.

Qualifications for Leaders

That is why we find the character qualifications for leadership in Christ’s church.

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In his instructions to Titus, he adds:

Titus 1:7 … He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Leaders in the church must be men of character, men who have proven themselves responsible, men who are sound in doctrine, men who are selfless, eager to serve. Leadership in the church is not at all about what you can get; rather it is all about what you can give.

Shepherd the Flock

Peter says this to the leadership in the churches.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter tells the leaders to shepherd willingly, eagerly, as examples; not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not in a domineering way.

He tells those who are younger be subject to the elders; and he tells everyone to be clothed with humility toward one another. Church leaders are to shepherd God’s flock as under-shepherds responsible to the chief Shepherd, the one to whom they will ultimately give account.

Obey, Submit to, and Pray for your Leaders

The author of Hebrews gives instruction to the church.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In this passage he points to the responsibility of the leaders to keep watch over your souls, and he reminds that they will have to give an account. In light of this weight of responsibility of leadership, He commands all of us to be continual in worship, to do good, to share, to obey our leaders, to submit to them, and to pray for them; to make their job pleasant and not painful. He reminds us that God is the great shepherd of the sheep; and God is the one who ultimately will equip you with everything good so that you can do his will. By his unmerited grace, he sees fit to equip the saints for the work of the ministry through the instrumentality of church leaders. God himself is the one who through Jesus Christ will work in each one of us that which is pleasing in his sight. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 19, 2014 - Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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