About Jesus Steve Sweetman
An Appeal To Elders
of you will disagree with what I'm about to say and that's fine.
Just know that my position on this issue isn't a result of any
negative experiences, but from my understanding of the New Testament.
Greek word "presbyteros" is translated as "elder" in
most of our English Bibles. "Presbyteros"
means an "older man". The
Greek word "poimain" is translated as "shepherd" or
"pastor" in our English Bibles. "Poimain" means
"to care for as a shepherd cares for his sheep grazing in the
field". The Greek word
"episkopos" is translated as "overseer" or
"bishop" in our English Bibles.
"Episkopos" means "to watch over or to
1 Peter 5:1 the apostle Peter makes an appeal to the elders
(presbyteros). In verse 2 he
tells these elders to be shepherds (poimain) of God's flock and to serve
as overseers (episkopos). Note
that all three of these Greek words refer to the same ministry.
If you take into consideration Acts 20:17 - 18 and Titus 1:5 - 7,
you'll also note that all five of the above English words translated
from these three Greek words refer to the same ministry.
They're not separate and distinct ministries.
Peter's day a body of men called elders (presbyteros) served Jesus by
caring for (poimain) and watching over (episkopos) His people.
As we've just seen, these men could have been called, shepherds,
pastors, bishops, or overseers, because all five words are in reference
to the same ministry.
I see here in 1Peter 5 and elsewhere in the New Testament looks very
little like what I see in that which we call church today.
For example, a bishop in most denominations is someone in charge
of a number of churches in a geographical area.
A bishop in New Testament terms was just one equal member in a
local body of elders. Generally
speaking, pastoring today is a one man ministry in a local congregation.
In Peter's day pastoring was carried out by a body of equal
elders. The term
"senior pastor" was unknown back then.
In today's ecclesiastical world a pastor and an elder are
traditionally two different and distinct ministries; not so in Peter's
I ask. "Should we
pattern church after New Testament thinking or are we free to pattern
church in a way we think best fits our time and culture"?
I think this is an important, but little asked question. I
believe we should pattern church, and every other aspect of our lives,
after what we read in the Bible. That's
one reason why we have the Bible.
we see in 1 Peter 5 is commonly called "plurality of elders".
This means that a body of elders, leads, cares for, guards, and
serves, the local community of God's people.
One man, a pastor as we call him, along with a hierarchical
ecclesiasticalism, isn't the New Testament pattern.
know the argument against what I'm saying.
Times have changed since Peter's day and church needs to change
with the times. I also know
the argument against plurality of elders. I
understand that many believe the book of Acts "seems to imply"
that James "might have been" a one man leader in the Jerusalem
church. I also understand
that the apostle John, some thirty years after Peter wrote his first
letter, "might have been" a lead elder in
know our ecclesiastical structures do lots of good.
I understand that pragmatic argument, but it's important to
understand that Christian practice shouldn't be based on pragmatism.
That is to say, just because something works doesn't make it
right. Christians aren't
pragmatic. We're Biblical.
see a day coming when our church structures will experience
unprecedented pressure from an anti-Christ culture.
Congregations will be forced to pay property taxes.
They will lose their charitable tax status and will be unable to
issue tax receipts for donations. Reading
Romans 1:24 - 28 from a pulpit will be considered a hate crime.
Failing to perform same sex weddings will incur expensive legal
costs. Some of us have
already incurred financial loss for our stand on same sex marriage.
brings me to the reason why Peter appealed to the local elders.
Christians were suffering under oppressive persecution.
They needed all the help, care, oversight, support, and
direction, from an older and wiser body of men.
The western church hasn't experienced anything like this, but
eventually we will. When
that day comes, we'll have to choose between an anti-Christ state
sponsored church, or, as we've seen elsewhere, "go
underground". When we
go underground, Peter's understanding of church will have to be ours.
won't fully grasp what I'm saying. We're
so entrenched in what we've been used to that we fail to understand what
the Bible says. Our western
church is heading towards the same cultural conflict that has been
normal Christianity in places like China. It's better to think of
these things now before we get entangled in the conflict.
I suggest we take Peter seriously when he tells us to
"prepare our minds for action". (1 Peter 1:13)
We've got some heavy duty action coming our way, but be
encouraged, for as painful as it might be, the revival and purification
of the saints we see in places like China will be seen in and among us.
History has proven that to be true.