Sunday, April 29, 2007


Christ appointed leaders to serve the church. There's a list of these in Ephesians 4. Apostles, prophets and evangelists were generally 'itinerant' - they moved around among several churches. 'Pastor- teachers' were (and are) shepherds - feeding Christ's flock and caring for it. Their task: to equip all the members so that they will become spiritually mature.

Most Baptist churches have one pastor (although many are now appointing two or more). From the earliest Baptists (eg. John Smyth) the pastor/s were deemed to be subject to the congregation. He or she is generally considered the leader, although neither the pastor/s nor any other person has the final word in the church's affairs: that's the prerogative of the congregation - determined in members' meetings (in smaller churches) or special groups to whom authority is delegated by the members (in larger congregations). Sometimes the pastor is said to be 'the first among equals'. But the basic Baptist principle is that 'ministry' - in all its senses - is ministry by the church, not the ministry of an individual. (So you can't - or shouldn't - use the word 'minister' in the singular). But note that while pastors are servants of the church, the church is not their master - Christ is.

The pastors' priorities: Bible study, prayer, and training others for ministry. They're a sort of 'player-coach' encouraging others to serve, witness and visit. Church members are not helpers of the pastor, so that the pastor can do their job; pastors are helpers of the whole people of God, so that they all can be the church (to paraphrase Hans Ruedi Weber). Pastors must be encouraged to keep themselves 'in training for a godly life', so the congregation will allow them time for study and reflection. Remember that your pastors are human: they, too, have doubts, fears, and frustrations. Please don't add to them! Francis Schaeffer said pastors often unwittingly break the tenth commandment - they are covetous of the successes or gifts of other pastors. Remedy? Affirm your pastor, so they know they're loved! If you appreciate them, tell them so!


Discuss: Paul says (Galatians 3:28) that Jesus has healed divisions between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free-people, males and females. The early church was ahead of its time in granting 'personhood' to women, and many fulfilled public ministries. American Baptists (from 100 years ago) and Southern Baptists (from 40 years ago) in the U.S. have occasionally ordained women for pastoral ministry, as have Baptists in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Leon Morris, an Anglican Evangelical scholar, says women in the early church did more than 'keep silence when it was a question of expounding the Christian faith'. Some Baptists have emphasised the 'submission' and 'keeping quiet' passages. Others say that the principle of Galatians 3:28 is to be applied appropriately within each culture. What do you think?

Rowland Croucher

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