(Message given in Ethiopia, June 2, 2012.)
[For a printable version click here.]
Praise the Lord. It is good to see you here today. It is very good to be here. The other day we just started to talk about ministry. By the way, let me say that the message of the kingdom of God has much more word than just the ministry, but since so many of you here are interested in or involved in ministry I believe the Lord would have us to talk about ministry. Now I want to tell you what is in the Word of God. Let me say some things I said the other day that I may say them over again.
When Jesus established the church He set down the principles and the foundation of the way He wanted it to operate. He was the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20). The apostles that walked with Jesus, including Paul, also laid foundation in their teaching. But if you begin to study the history of what happened to the church, before John was dead there was already Nicolatianism in the church. It was in Ephesus and it was in Pergamos and there were other things going on in the churches that were not pleasing to the Lord. We had hardly gone another generation or two from the time of Jesus and these things were happening. When you get to the year about 200 or 230 the church already had established what we call Monarchical Bishops. I heard you say monarchy, do you understand that a monarch is a king. Bishops were ruling over the church as kings. By the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the year 325, the formation of the Roman Catholic Church was officially laid down. So that began the institutionalization of a complete different set of traditions in the church order than what Jesus Christ laid down as His pattern.
So I hear some pastors speak about: “Well should we have a New Testament Church or should we have a ModernChurch?”
I am only interested in the Word of God.
I am only interested in what God said.
Because some day at the end of my days I am going to stand before Him and I am going to answer to Him on the basis of what He said in His Word. I will not have an excuse before Him to say, “Well this is what everybody else was doing.” So if you want to be a scholar of truth let’s look into the Word and see what the Spirit laid down in the Word of Jesus and the apostles for the oversight of the church.
Now remember, if you heard me the other day, you found out that I didn’t really like the word pastor and I’ll tell you why I didn’t like it. But I am not against leadership in the church. God is not against church leadership. God does not have any problem using human men as leaders in His church BUT Jesus Christ wants to be the Head and He doesn’t need any other heads. He needs willing servants. Amen. He needs people of responsibility. He needs fit men of integrity. He needs faithful men. But He doesn’t need any more heads or monarchs.
So let me turn to 1 Peter. I put some words up here on the board, let me first explain the meaning of these words and then we are going to go through the Bible and I will show you where these words appear in several passages. Okay, so we have the Bible, the New Testament translated from Greek. For me the Bible was translated from Greek into English. For you it should go from Greek to Amharic. Now at the time that the King James Bible was translated in the early 1600’s there were certain Latin words that came into the English translation. So you might ask the question:
“Why are Latin words being put into an English translation from Greek when we have proper English words?”
You see, King James had a lot of political pressure from these committees that were translating the Bible and of course there was a lot of conflict in England at that time between the Roman Catholic and the breakaway Episcopal Church of England. So instead of the Greek word “episkopos” (G1985) which in English means overseer; one who takes oversight over the church. Now this word is in no way implying that he becomes the boss. It means that he takes responsibility, it is kind of a job description. But you see, the Latin word “bishop” implies that the man has a title and he has an office. Not just any title, but a title in which he is superior to others.
Many times Jesus used this word “diakonos”. Many times the apostles referred to themselves as the “diakonos” of Christ. We read Matthew Chapter 20 the other day which said, “If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, you have to become a “diakonos” (Mt 20:26). Now the meaning of “diakonos” is a servant. The servant is the one who does the menial tasks. He brings the food out; he sets it on the table. He cleans up the table when we finished eating. You have men here in Ethiopia who open the gate when you blow the horn of the Taxi and they take care of the yard and they clean the car. I think this would be a “diakonos”.
There is only one place that the Latin word “pastor” was put into the New Testament and that was in Ephesians Chapter 4. There were five ministry gifts that God gave to the church, the shepherd ministry of the five and the Greek word here is “poimen”, which in English is correctly translated as “shepherd”.
One of the questions somebody brought written to me the other day was, “What is the difference between pastor and shepherd?”
Many times we have talked to brethren and they will say, “Well I will change my title from Pastor to Shepherd, but I will continue to do business as I always have.”
But that will not change the problem of what is out of order in the church. The problem of what is out of order with pastor is that he is the head. In the church system I have never seen where the man who holds the title of Pastor is not the head man of the whole church.
So some of the Pastor’s that I have known said, “Well I want to have a New Testament Church, so I am going to appoint Deacons that will serve me.”
It doesn’t matter what title these deacons are given, they call them: Assistant Pastors; Associate Pastors; Pastor of Education; Pastor of Marriage; Pastor of Children; you know. They are still deacons (servants) for the man (pastor) who is the head, not for Jesus Christ (the true head).
When I first came down into the city where I live now, there was a man who was the Pastor of the biggest church in the area. He had 12 Assistant Pastors. The problem is that the man fell into sin, so his church broke into 12 different pieces. Each one of these Assistant Pastors became a Pastor of his own church. One of them became very successful and now he has the biggest church in the area and a number of assistants serving him.
Okay, so the definition of these words is also a problem. The definition of this Latin word (pastor) means that he is a herdsman. Herdsman is one who keeps herds of cattle, all kinds of cattle. It mainly refers to cows, but it can include: goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs or camels. Amen. Do you understand what I am saying? Now the word shepherd only means sheep. The shepherd has only sheep that he keeps. Now in the Old Testament Jacob was not only a shepherd, but he was also a herdsman. He had other kinds of animals. He had camels and goats and this type of thing as well.
Now for the first 18 years of my life I was a farm boy. My father had dairy cows, milk cows. We had many of them and I learned how to take care of cows. You drive cows. You make them go where you want them to go. You can get a stick and you can hit them. You can put a rope on them. If he is a bull you can put a ring in his nose and they are a little bit stubborn, but you can make them do what you want them to do. You can train them to behave the way you want them to behave. One day after I was grown and had my own house somebody gave me a little ewe lamb, a female lamb.
I thought, “Well she acts like a cow, we will just treat her like a cow.”
But I found out that it didn’t work. The sheep, the little female sheep ran away one day to find a male sheep. I found her at my neighbor’s and I took the rope that I would use on a cow and put it around her neck.
I said, “I will just walk and take her home.”
But she wouldn’t go.
I said, “Oh yes you will go,” pulling her on the rope.
I pulled harder and finally she laid down. I pulled and pulled.
I said, “I don’t know how to deal with this sheep.”
I take the rope off and say, “Come on now. Come with me.”
Now she walked with me. So you see the problem with church business today is that Pastors have to drive their people like cows. God’s order is that the leaders should walk before the sheep as an example.
You don’t have to be a scholar to understand these Greek words here. You don’t have to know very much about Greek. I don’t know very much about Greek. If I ever met a Greek man I wouldn’t have any idea what he is talking about. But I am going to learn enough to understand what God meant to say in the Bible.
So “poimen” is shepherd. “Poimne” is flock of sheep. “Poimaino” is the business of tending sheep. When Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16). He said to Peter, “…poimaino (feed) mou (my) probaton (sheep).” So He was telling Peter the apostle, that he had the responsibility of being a poimen or shepherd.
Okay, now let’s look at some things that Peter wrote to the church. In the 5th Chapter of 1 Peter —- there is one more word I forgot to mention here. The Greek word presbuterosand the English definition of course is elder, and elder means an older one. So some of the Pastors I have known, instead of appointing Deacons, they appointed and called them Elders, but it functions in the same way. So the Pastor in that situation is the boss and the Elders do not really function as men of equal, but as servants to the pastor. But in God’s order the elders are always spoken of as a plurality in the local church and these men are equal. It doesn’t mean that they will all have the same gift as another. Sometimes one elder is a little stronger ministry gift than some of the others. Sometimes one elder is more apt to have the gift of teaching the Word. But all the elders are watchmen, they are all watching over the flock.
By the way, I should mention in passing here. The word elder is a gender word and it means men who are older. So the responsibility of leadership and oversight of the church is to men. And Paul said, “the elder must be the husband of one wife,” (1 Ti 3:2). So even as Adam was incomplete without Eve, the elder is incomplete in his leadership and his ministry without his wife. So they are one. She is not his servant. She is equal to him before God, but she has a different job. Amen.
I should have mentioned also, there is one other word. I didn’t put it up here. It is the Greek word doulos. The word doulosis used in the epistles. I will give you two places. 1) In Mt 20:27, where Jesus said, “If you want to be great you be diakonos. But if you really want to be the chief you will be the doulos,” and the doulos is a slave. Now I haven’t seen any slaves here in Ethiopia. A slave is owned by another man. A slave has no rights whatsoever. If you want another place where the word is used in the New Testament, in the book of Philippians, the 1st Chapter, the 1st verse it says:
Php 1:1 “Paul and Timotheus, the servants (doulos|slaves) of Jesus Christ…”
So Paul you might say, “He was the greatest apostle. He should have been at the top of the pyramid.” But Paul’s attitude was, “NO, I am only the slave.”
Who is the master of the slave? Jesus Christ. So you see, the more of your soul, the more of your life that you give Jesus Christ, you go from servant (diakonos) to slave (doulos). But in God’s kingdom you come higher – but other men do not recognize you with higher titles and you don’t have offices. So He says here:
Php 1:1 “Paul and Timotheus, the servants (doulos|slaves) of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops (episkopos|overseers) and deacons (diakonos |servants):”
Now in our “church” way of understanding, how could one little city have all of these bishops? What he is really saying is, “to the overseers and servants”. I can’t imagine why they would put that word bishop in here.
All right, now back to 1 Peter and we will see what Peter is writing to the church. Peter says:
1Pe 5:1 “The elders which are among you I exhort…”
Does your Bible say elders?
Okay. We understand that as elders. He doesn’t say Pastors or anything else like that.
1Pe 5:1 “The elders (presbuteros) which are among you I exhort…”
So Peter is writing to the men in the church who are mature men, men who are walking uprightly before God, men who have a wife and children, men who have their house is in order and they have met the qualifications of what an elder should be. You remember what he said? An elder should not be greedy, not given to drinking; he is not a fighter or a quarreler, (1Ti 3:3). These are characteristics of an elder in a church. Then Peter says:
Vs 1 “…(I) who am also an elder…:”
So you see, the apostles are calling themselves all of these things. The apostle is a servant. The apostle is a slave. The apostle is an elder. Amen. He is all of these things, he is the shepherd as well. Peter was told, “Shepherd My sheep.” So these are not titles and these are not offices. These are the descriptions of the job and the responsibility that Jesus has given them.
All right, then Peter says of himself:
Vs 1 “… who am also…a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:”
Do you hear what Peter believes? He believes the same thing that Paul put in Romans Chapter 8 where Paul is talking about the sons of God becoming manifest at some time and the glory that shall be manifest in us. Do you see that? The glory of God is going to be manifest in His sons. Isn’t that much better than having a title? Isn’t it much better to be recognized by Jesus than by men? Hallelujah. Amen.
Now he goes on. He is talking to the elders now remember. He says:
Vs 2 “Feed the flock of God…”
(Poimaino) “feed the flock” (poimnion) “of God (theos)…” So if you are to (poimaino) the (poimnion) of God, then you must be a (poimen). It takes a shepherd to shepherd the sheep. So this is what Peter is saying to the elders of the church. Okay.
Vs 2 “..which is among you, taking the oversight thereof…”
“taking the oversight (episkopeo) thereof”. Now if the translator were consistent with these words, Peter would have said, “Taking the bishopric thereof”. If the translators were consistent throughout the King James Bible, if they had done everything the same way in their translation all the way through, they would have put the word bishop here which of course would be the wrong word. But this is the correct word translated in the English as taking the oversight. Is that in your Bible too? Oversight? Is that the word you have – oversight?
Okay, we go on. Peter then says:
Vs 2 “…not by constraint, (not by force) but willingly; not for filthy lucre (which is money)…”
You don’t do it for money. In other words, you don’t have a prosperity motive; you don’t have a profit motive. We know that Paul did not have a money motive in his ministry, did he? The people I believe offered to help Paul with their finances.
But Paul said, “No. I can make tents. I will not be a burden to you. I am a good tent maker and I will support myself.”
For many years I worked in a job in the hospital. I was a Hospital Administrator. One day the Lord began to bring my job to an end and I wanted to go and find another hospital. The Lord made it very clear to me that I was not to go to another city to find employment. A few days later, I started to work as a consultant, self-employed.
A few days later the Lord spoke to me in my car again and He said, “I have commanded a widow to sustain you.”
I didn’t like it at all. I said, “No Lord. Please, please, I can make a good income on my own. Lord, widows are in terrible shape. How can a widow give anything?”
Do you know what the Lord said? He was silent. In other words, “I said what I meant, that is the way it is going to be for you son.”
Okay, so Peter says that we are not motivated by money:
Vs 2 “…but of a ready mind;”
Vs 3 “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage,…”
“Neither as being lords”, that is another word, katakurieuowhich means to lord, to control, to subjugate, to exercise dominion over or to overcome. In other words, he is saying to the elders: you are not to control the sheep; you are not to bring them under you to subjugate them to you; you are not to exercise dominion over them; and you are not to overcome them. I am giving you the meaning of words, because we have to understand what God is saying.
When I came down to the city 25 years ago and I associated with other young pastors – one of the brethren came over to me and he said: “Mark, you’ve got to rule over the sheep. You have got to be strong over them.”
I just smiled, but I didn’t know this word here. But something in me was reluctant to rule over God’s sheep. I was a Hospital Administrator, I didn’t mind ruling over my employees. I would hire them; fire them; discipline them; but I didn’t feel right about doing this in the church. Something in me was saying, “No, not here.”
Okay. So Peter says:
Vs 3 “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples (examples) to the flock.”
Vs 4 “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear…”
This is also the word for Chief Shepherd, archipoimen, so you see there is only one archipoimen. The archipoimen, the Chief Shepherd is Jesus Christ. Amen. Every one of us as a shepherd, we have only one Boss, the Chief Shepherd.
Vs 4 “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
We will go next to Acts Chapter 20, as we running out of time. We can finish that in part 2.