the weblog of Alan Knox

What does a bishop oversee?

Posted by on Mar 29, 2007 in elders, office, scripture | 33 comments

The noun translated “bishop” or “overseer” in the New Testament is επίσκοπος (episkopos). There is also a feminine form επισκοπή (episkope), usually translated in the abstract. The verbal form is επισκοπέω (episkopeo). The English terms “Episcopal” and “Episcopacy” come from these Greek terms.

The Ante-Nicene Father – those writers who came between the time of the writing of the New Testament and the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD – often taught that the “bishop” was a hierarchical position above the level of “elder” or “presbuteros“, and often in charge of multiple churches in a large city or region.

Today, while arguing that the idea of a “bishop” is not scriptural, many continue to hold to the concept of a “bishop” of a congregation while using a different title. For example, in his book Who Rules the Church?, Gerald Cowen states, “As pastor (bishop) he is the chief officer in the church. Overseeing implies that he has administrative responsibility for the entire operation of the church.” Similarly, John S. Hammett suggests that the term “overseer” refers to an “officer [who] gives overall administrative oversight and leadership to the church” in his book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches.

In these two descriptions of the elder as “bishop”, the oversight described by the word “bishop/overseer” is related to an organization. Thus, the elder becomes one who steers an organization, who makes decisions that will aid the organization, who directs the future of the organization. But, is this the biblical use of the word “bishop/overseer”?

Consider two passages that use the noun form (“overseer”) and the verb form (“exercising oversight?”) respectively to describe the function of the elder: Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2 –

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. (Acts 20:28 ESV)

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: 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… (1 Peter 5:1-2 ESV)

In each case, “oversight” is related to caring for the people of God, not to taking care of an organization. Thus, in Acts 20, the elders of Ephesus – whom the Holy Spirit had made overseers – were to shepherd the flock of God, specifically by watching out for those who teach contrary to the Gospel (Acts 20:29-31) and by working hard with their hands, following Paul’s example, so that they would be an example to other believers and so that they would be able to share with others in need (Acts 20:32-35).

Also, in 1 Peter 5, each instruction for those elders who are “overseeing” deals with how to care for people. Perhaps a better translation than “overseeing” would be “look after” or “be concerned about”, both well within the semantic range of the verb επισκοπέω (episkopeo).

But, what difference does it make? Why does it matter whether our pastors/elders “oversee” an organization or “are concerned about” the people of God. Well, for me, it makes all the difference in the world. As an elder, I want to know what God requires of me. Does God require me to run the church like a well-oiled machine? Or does He expect me to “look after” and “be concerned about” those believers around me? I believer God’s focus is people… and so, our focus should be people as well. If my focus is on people, I will respond differently than if my focus was on an organization. My priorities will be different if my focus is on people instead of an organization. My time, resources, and effort will be spent differently if my focus is on people instead of an organization.

What does a bishop oversee? I mean, what should a bishop be concerned about? People… or organizations. I choose people.


33 Comments

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  1. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    Interesting post. I agree that the concept of “bishop” or “overseer” is generally in reference to PEOPLE and not an organization. However, I do believe that sometimes, one type of “overseer” (in this case an apostle and not a pastor/elder) could oversee a pastor and his congregation. A biblical example of this would be Paul’s relation to Timothy at Ephesus, or Paul’s relation to Titus and his (Titus’s) local congregation. In either case, Paul can be considered an “apostolic overseer” to these congregations.

    But, the “senior pastor” or “head elder” or “head officer” or “bishop” of a local church IS responsible to oversee the flock, and not necessarily the organization. In fact, there are Scriptures (surprised you did not mention these) that relate to this. Primarily, Heb. 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” This concept of being the “bishop of a soul” is also found in 1 Pet. 2:25.

    However, I believe “watch over” and “guarding” and “protecting,” are better ways to articulate “oversee” in this concept. I would not use “look after” or “be concerned about,” because these concepts omit the guardian-protection concept that is necessary to being an overseer.

    Now — what about this choice between people and the organization. People comprise the organization of a local congregation. So, if you are overseeing people’s souls, you need to be overseeing the very organization in which these same people are investing. In other words, I believe, based on some other Scripture verses, that being an overseer (or senior pastor/elder) is about people AND the local congregation — not one or the other. People AND the local congregation go HAND IN HAND.

    A major reason why I believe this is because of Paul’s use of “kubernesis,” to describe the gift of administration/governments in 1 Cor. 12:28. I believe that it is pastoral ministry that has this gift, so that the members of a church can be placed in their appropriate ministry within the local church. It is the role of pastoral ministry, for example, to facilitate moving people into ushering/greeting, music ministry, children’s ministry, etc. But, in order to do this — and exercise the gift of kubernesis, you need to care about the people, and how these people are gifted/talented, but also the other people who will RECEIVE from those doing ministry. Thus, the organization and the people go hand-in-hand.

    So — I do not agree with your construct of “either/or” that it is people OR the organization. Rather, I believe that people and the local church that they serve in, give to, and receive ministry from, go hand-in-hand. In other words, people and the local church are two sides of the same coin, not one or the other.

    What are your thoughts about that?

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  2. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    My son is a foreman. His employment consists of working with others who are his equals. His responsibility is to work alongside his co-workers, exhorting them to diligence, ensuring blueprints are followed, encouraging, assisting those who need help. Some of those who work with him are more experienced, by virtue of years, than he is, and he learns from them. The boss is pleased when the task they are engaged in is completed according to the instructions in the blueprint.

    The boss wouldn’t be happy if the foreman decided to “improve” the blueprint, or one of the team added a part here and there. It is the foreman’s task to see these things don’t happen.

    Hmmm! Seems to me, by changing a few words, what I’ve written would describe an overseer.

    May the Lord bless.

  3. 3-29-2007

    I like what Aussie John has to say :)

    While reading this I was reminded of something in the book I am currently reading … when the focus is the organization or the institution, then the overseer will, unfortunately, do what he can to preserve the organization, even at the expense of people.

    You’re right – God’s all about people, as we should be as well. Many times the organization itself distracts the overseer (and others) from people and relationships.

    The organization is not eternal – people are. Therefore I believe the overseer is to care for people, even if it is at the expense of the organization. Unfortunately too often it is the other way around.

  4. 3-29-2007

    Great post Alan. It is amazing the way traditions and structures have been read and interpreted into scriptures rather than having the scriptures interpret our forms.

    I agree that it matters whether we view the role of overseer as to an organization or to people. I would also add that the role of the people is to one another and to the world, not to the organization.

  5. 3-29-2007

    Jonathan,

    I thought we would probably disagree on this post. Just a question for you: of the Scripture that you mentioned, how many refer to an elder, bishop, overseer, or pastor? I think you’ll find that none of them do. Do we really want to pull descriptions of bishops/elders from passages that do not refer to bishops/elders?

    By the way, it is very possible to focus on an organization – even “grow” an organization – without focusing on people.

    Aussie John,

    I think that is a good analogy. It is especially good for elders to remember that there is a boss, and it’s not them.

    Heather,

    You are right. Organizations can be distracting. It is easy to focus on an organization, not as easy to focus on people.

    Grace,

    You said: “I would also add that the role of the people is to one another and to the world, not to the organization.” Yes, all believers should focus on people… or as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    -Alan

  6. 3-29-2007

    Oh well, here goes … for what it’s worth…

    Firstly, the words bishop/pastor/elder/oversee are all synonymous terms, and are used interchangeably to describe the same function … NOT a titular office. That is a modern contrivance, which stems from around the time of Constantine. There is NO biblical justification for the modern ‘office’ of Senior Pastor! You’ll never find it in the Word!

    Secondly, those who function in one of the so-called ‘ascension gifts’, or ‘APEPT’ as is in vogue today are fellow elders who serve together relationally NOT hierarchically. The idea that Paul was senior in rank/status/title etc, to Timothy or Titus or anyone else; would have been abhorrent to him and would no doubt have occasioned a rebuke from the same one who declared himself to be the chief of all sinners!

    Didn’t Jesus say not to ‘Lord it over’ … as the Gentiles do … but rather demonstrated that those gifted with some form of leadership are to serve?

    Now as for the organisation which you seem to equate with the local congregation; Church is/was always meant to be, a living, breathing, growing … organism. That is not to say that the Church doesn’t need organisation; every ‘organism’ needs and exhibits a natural organisation that which is intrinsic to its essence but not that which is forced upon it unnaturally.

    When the Church gathers together, such order that arises, does so by virtue of the Holy Spirit expressing Himself through the various Charismata. The Church is not lead by any one individual; Scripture likens the Holy Spirit to the wind … ever tried controlling the wind?

    The eldership in the local Church, function more like older, wiser parent-figures; watching but not interfering or directing; Jesus is the head of his Church and the Holy Spirit is the executive arm through which Jesus guides and grows his people – the living stones.

    As for obeying your leaders … well it’s easy to ‘agree with’, ‘respond to’, ‘rely on’, ‘have confidence in’ (that’s what the Greek word rendered ‘obey’ means in Heb 13:17) a leader who has only your best interests at heart AND is an example of Christ-like servanthood! However, that is not to say that we should follow any leader who doesn’t consistently exhibit such traits!!

    As far as facilitating people ‘into’ or ‘out of’ (for that matter) their place of ministry goes … an elders role is to recognise what the Holy Spirit is already doing in a persons life and cooperate with Him … NOT direct. When WE begin to take on this role we ‘organise’ the Holy Spirit out of His role and create an organisation which inevitably begins to devour all of the resources … constantly demanding more and more and more!

    John

  7. 3-29-2007

    John Purcell,

    I agree with your comment. As I commented on your blog, I believe you have a very balanced view of leadership. I enjoy reading people who attempt to maintain the tension that I think we find in Scripture.

    As to Hebrews 13:17, I just commented on this verse in this comment on my post called “Answers to qestions…” I agree with your translation.

    For me, Christian leadership must begin with service to people, and must never cross the line of authority.

    -Alan

  8. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    The concept of an “overseer” of one’s soul is implicit in Heb. 13:17. Sure, there is no express term used, but by the phrase “watch over” the concept of an “overseer” is implied. The word “bishop” is used towards Christ in 1 Pet. 2:25. I believe other translations use “overseer” towards Christ in that regard. The point is that the senior pastor (or elder) of the church is to oversee the souls who are members of that local congregation.

    And Alan, I absolutely agree that it is possible to focus or “grow” an organization, and NOT focus on the people — and that’s not God’s way. I think that if we focus on people (both those who are there already and those who are to come), then our church(es) WILL grow, because that is God’s way. Amen?

    John Purcell,

    I think I completely agree with what you said here, again, well done.

    And about that last paragraph, I agree that recognizing what the Holy Spirit is doing, and cooperating (but not directing) is basically how I would define the loose word of “facilitate.” However, I would also add that a person might need guidance in terms of HOW to get involved in a certain ministry (I’m speaking of logistics and things of that nature, here). And that’s what I mean by “facilitate,” that the church leader (or dept. head or whatever) is to guide like a shepherd the person into whatever the Holy Spirit is calling that person to do — to recognize, and to cooperate, and to help lead that person to fulfill God’s call. Amen?

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  9. 3-29-2007

    Ditto what John Purcell said :)

  10. 3-29-2007

    Jonathan,

    Heb. 13:17 says “leaders”. Does this include elders/bishops/pastors? I certainly hope so. But, I don’t think the word “leaders” is limited to those functions. Again, though, the idea of watching over souls requires the leader to be concerned with people, not an organization. This is the point of my post.

    -Alan

  11. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    I know you won’t be surprised to find that I agree largely with Johnathan (except maybe for the gift of administration = appointment to programs aspect). I just wanted to point out an inconsistency in your responses to him: you said

    “Just a question for you: of the Scripture that you mentioned, how many refer to an elder, bishop, overseer, or pastor? I think you’ll find that none of them do. Do we really want to pull descriptions of bishops/elders from passages that do not refer to bishops/elders?”

    This seems to imply that you think he is using Heb 13:7 & 17 out of context (“pull descriptions”), that they have nothing to do with overseers (“do not refer”). But then in a later post you say:

    “Heb. 13:17 says ‘leaders’. Does this include elders/bishops/pastors? I certainly hope so. But, I don’t think the word “leaders” is limited to those functions.”

    Which if I read rightly, seems to say that the passage does have to do with overseers, as well as other (spiritual) leaders. If that’s what you’re saying, let me add my amen.

    You also seem to take objection to the idea of obeying, particularly by focusing on the one word Πείθεσθε, which is, I agree, perfectly well translated “follow”. I think the choice to translate it “obey” is not tied up in that one word alone though. When you add the idea of “submission” 5 words later (ὑπείκετε) it seems to justify the more particular translation “obey”. What is obeying other than following in submission?

    Finally, John Purcell said: “The eldership in the local Church, function more like older, wiser parent-figures; watching but not interfering or directing…” Parents who don’t interfere or direct are exceedingly poor parents. A wiser older man who doesn’t at least try to keep a child’s hand off the stove is no overseer but a sadist. I can’t image what you meant by this, but I am sure it was not what I took.

    As for the individual/organization dichotomy, I tend to think of the church as a body, and the members as limbs or organs. I think the overseer’s commitment is to the household of God, to the whole body. If a member is aching, obviously that member will receive the attention of the whole body, including the overseer. But his chief end must be the health of the whole body. So as I see it, it’s a both/and, not an either/or.

  12. 3-29-2007

    Shannon,

    Welcome back, and thank you for commenting again.

    The purpose of this blog post was to examine Scripture that relate the function of the elder and bishop. I said in the original post: “Consider two passages that use the noun form (‘overseer’) and the verb form (‘exercising oversight?’) respectively to describe the function of the elder”. There are plenty of passages that apply to the elder/pastor/bishop… from passages that apply to all believers, to passages that apply to teachers, to passages that apply to leaders. But, I was trying to examine passages that specifically apply to elder using the “episkopos” word group. I should have been more clear about this.

    As to Heb 13:17, could it also be that “follow” and “submit” are two separate commands? Thus, we are to “follow” our leaders as well as to “submit” to them? This would be one of many commands for us to “submit”… to leaders, to governmental authorities, to one another. So, this would fit well with these commands.

    I will let John Purcell answer your question, but it seems that you may be pressing his analogy farther than he intended to take it. I think he explains what he means in the last paragraph of his comment.

    Finally, in your last paragraph, it looks like you are equating the body with the organization. That is not the connection that I was making. I believe the “overseer” cares for individuals as well as the body… that is, people. People have gifts, talents, needs, hurts, fears, hopes, etc. Organizations do not have these. Organizations have structure, agendas, bank accounts, etc. This is the distinction that I am making: people vs. organization, not individual vs. the body.

    -Alan

  13. 3-29-2007

    Jonathan,

    I understand that church tradition says that Timothy eventually became the “bishop” or “pastor” of the church at Ephesus. However, from what I read in Scripture, I never see either Timothy or Titus functioning in the role of “bishop,” “pastor,” or “elder.” I see them more as members of Paul’s apostolic team, who shared in the responsibility of appointing “bishops,” “pastors” and “elders” in Ephesus and in Crete.

  14. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    I agree that a “bishop” should focus more on “overseeing” people than an organization. However, I think we would be hard-pressed to find those who would say no, they should neglect people, and focus more on the organization. I wonder, therefore, how we define “organizaton.” I think I tend to go along with Jonathan when he says that organizations are comprised of people, and at times, it is hard to truly separate in between “overseeing” people and “overseeing” people’s organizations.

    Perhaps, there are leaders who are more naturally “task-oriented” and others who are more naturally “relationship-oriented.” While I would agree that Christianity is all about relationships, I also think there is room within the Body, at times, for a more “task-oriented” style of leadership.

  15. 3-29-2007

    I think I might finally have a chance to jump into an active conversation! I’ve been so behind on reading these conversations that you all move too quickly past the points I want to talk about! ;)

    Anyway, a couple of things I would like to jump in on:

    David Rogers wrote: I understand that church tradition says….However…Scripture….

    This is a great point, David. I think one of the tasks that is so critical for all of us who are “rethinking” things is to learn to distinguish between what tradition says and what we actually have revealed in Scripture. Many times, the chasm between the two is quite wide!

    With that in mind, Jonathan, I think a lot of what you have been arguing for in the last few threads that I’ve read is traditional interpretations being imposed back onto the biblical text. We should always start with what the text says first, before we begin explaining away what it says, or adding to what it says. Even things like determining which terms in Scripture are synonymous (like elder/bishop/pastor/leader) create assumptions that we then build on, but possibly in error.

    Additionally, I think that we must recognize the different types of teaching in Scripture, and the sources of the same. By that, I mean that I believe, since Jesus is the head of the Church, His teaching should help us understand the teaching of Paul, etc.

    Jesus is very clear about what leadership is not, and what the body of Christ is not. Leadership is not ruling over someone. Therefore, when the author of Hebrews (Barnabas, was it? hehe) says something about our relationship to leaders, “those who rule over you” cannot be a correct translation. It just can’t be. Because that would be teaching something directly contrary to what Jesus taught.

    Finally, David, back to you again. You wrote: However, I think we would be hard-pressed to find those who would say no, they should neglect people, and focus more on the organization.

    The unfortunate reality is that, while they may not say it with their mouths, their actions and attitudes scream it to any who are listening for it.

    Sometimes it’s as subtle as making the emphasis on the people we are trying to reach. In doing so, everyone who actually becomes part of the organization suddenly becomes worthless in every aspect other than how they can be used to reach others.

    It’s a greedy and insatiable desire to always be reaching someone else that leads to a neglect of the very ones that you have already been given responsibility to shepherd.

    I’ve seen this time and time again in churches here in the States.

  16. 3-29-2007

    Shan you said:

    Finally, John Purcell said: “The eldership in the local Church, function more like older, wiser parent-figures; watching but not interfering or directing…” Parents who don’t interfere or direct are exceedingly poor parents. A wiser older man who doesn’t at least try to keep a child’s hand off the stove is no overseer but a sadist. I can’t image what you meant by this, but I am sure it was not what I took.

    Hi Shan,

    As Alan stated you have taken my comment beyond it’s intended meaning. And for the record I didn’t say wiser older MAN; I said ‘parent-figures’. And surely it follows that a parent has the best interests of the child in view, but tends to allow them to explore even if it means making some mistakes! The mistake authority figures often make is to stifle creativity etc by intervening too soon! If God’s not intervening, or asking us to, why do we do it? And it should reasonably follow that a WISE parent would naturally intervene when danger is involved – that’s where wisdom is practically applied!

    I’ll nail my colours to the mast here for the sake of transparency; I resigned from a a very large denomination run by ‘mega churches’ because, as a Senior Pastor for two decades in such a system I witnessed far too much abuse in the ‘institutionalised version’ of ‘organised religion’. But that’s another story.

    I whole-heartedly agree with Steve Sensenig:

    “Sometimes it’s as subtle as making the emphasis on the people we are trying to reach. In doing so, everyone who actually becomes part of the organization suddenly becomes worthless in every aspect other than how they can be used to reach others.

    It’s a greedy and insatiable desire to always be reaching someone else that leads to a neglect of the very ones that you have already been given responsibility to shepherd.

    I’ve seen this time and time again in churches here in the States”.

    I too have seen far to much of this in Australia and can’t keep silent about it!

    John

  17. 3-29-2007

    Steve said:

    The unfortunate reality is that, while they may not say it with their mouths, their actions and attitudes scream it to any who are listening for it.

    Sometimes it’s as subtle as making the emphasis on the people we are trying to reach. In doing so, everyone who actually becomes part of the organization suddenly becomes worthless in every aspect other than how they can be used to reach others.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself … it happens … sad, but true.

  18. 3-29-2007

    Everyone,

    I have appreciated the discussion here very much. There have been very good comments, and all presented in an air of humility and gentleness. Thank you all.

    In my post, I did not intend to imply that all “organizing” is wrong and evil. Instead, my point was that the pastors/elders/bishops should not focus on the organization, but instead should focus on the people.

    Unfortunately, this is not a moot point. Many today are teaching how to grow the organization even at the expense of people.

    I am working on a post now to further explain what I am talking about. It should be ready in a couple of hours.

    I am not putting a stop to this conversation. Please continue!

    -Alan

  19. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    I think we somewhat agree on this — what I disagree with is that it shouldn’t be people VS. the organization, but rather two sides of the same coin. Perhaps I’ll comment further on this in your new post.

    David,

    I think, again, this is a both/and deal — Timothy and Titus were BOTH members of Paul’s apostolic teams, AND they were pastors/elders of their respective local congregations. They were also spiritual sons of Paul.

    Steve,

    Two things. First, I don’t think I am doing eisegesis. So, I’m hesitant to say anything further about that.

    Second, regarding Heb. 13:17, the concept of “rule over” is not in it. The NAS renders this verse, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” I believe this is more of a shepherding, guarding, and protecting role, then a lording over role. I think that is what it means to oversee someone’s soul — it is more guarding and protecting than micro-managing styled accountability.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  20. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan,

    Regarding Timothy and Titus being pastors/elders of their respective congregations, what evidence, from Scripture or otherwise, do you have to back this up?

    This is not just a “how many angels can dance on the point of a pin” question for me, as here, on the “foreign mission field” with our “organization” (the IMB), we have moved to a position that says the missionary church planter should never occupy the position of pastor/elder. Missiologically, I believe that is best left to locals.

  21. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan,

    From your comment on my post “The Church or the Organization”, I do not think we agree on this point. There is a difference between the organization and the church.

    David,

    I have heard several pastoral seminars taught from the perspective that Timothy and Titus were senior pastors. No one has been able to show me this in Scripture.

    -Alan

  22. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    By the “church” I mean the local congregation, which is an organization of believers. I’ll develop that further over on the other post.

    David,

    I believe, from my study of Bible history, that Paul set Timothy as the elder at Ephesus, and Titus as the elder at his local congregation. As you have suggested, I agree that they were members of Paul’s apostolic team, and specifically, their role was to be the pastor/elder of where they were “assigned” (for lack of a better term). For example, Timothy was “assigned” to the local congregation at Ephesus, and was the pastor/elder of that specific congregation. Likewise, the same for Titus. I know this is more church history than Bible, but that’s how why I believe it.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  23. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan,

    I’m assuming by “Bible history” that you mean history. History has handed down many things to us. How do we decide which ones to believe?

    -Alan

  24. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    I’m not an avid student of the history of biblical times. There are “facts” that have been presented to me, and I’ve accepted these “facts” as the truth. For instance, I’ve been taught that according to the history of Christianity, Paul set Timothy in place as the elder at Ephesus. I do not think anyone would dispute that, but someone might. However, I am not aware of any first-hand references to point someone to. If you look in a Bible Encyclopedia, you would read this fact as true.

    How else would you like me to respond to your question? You ask how we should decide which things to believe in history. That’s a strange question — one that I really have no answer for.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  25. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan, you responded to me by saying: I don’t think I am doing eisegesis. So, I’m hesitant to say anything further about that.

    I realize that you don’t think you are. However, here is something to consider: We all practice eisegesis to one extent or another, in my opinion. It’s very difficult to approach a text without some preconceived notions that cause us to misread the passage or add/subtract meaning to/from it.

    The important thing is to be open to identifying that eisegesis when it is brought to our attention.

    I’m going to speak quite frankly here, brother, and I pray that I don’t overstep my welcome on Alan’s blog here by speaking in this manner.

    Your comments on these threads come across to me (I will not speak for anyone else) as lacking a humility when dealing with differences in interpretation.

    Several times you have been cautioned about talking about “what the Holy Spirit taught” you, and you have seemed to dismiss those concerns without realizing the implication of them.

    Then, you have repeatedly stated things that are your own opinion (such as what words are synonyms, what things are part of a pastor’s responsibility, etc. etc. etc.) that are nowhere in the biblical text. However, you then build on them with the certainty that can only come from what is actually exegeted from the text.

    When I expressed concern about this above, you simply respond with “I’m not doing eisegesis.”

    With respect, my brother, you are, and the sooner you can acknowledge that, put it in its proper place, and come to the text (and these discussions) with a greater sense of humility, the better it will be for those of us trying to dialogue with you.

    I’m very concerned, Jonathan, with the things you have been stating, and the way in which you are applying them.

    This business of Timothy being “the elder” of the church is a great case in point. You have been told, or read somewhere, that this was the case, yet you acknowledge you don’t have sources to back it up.

    Yet, you are building your ecclesiology on “facts” such as that.

    If you are not, by your own admission, an avid student of history, then I don’t think you can make bold claims of an extra-biblical nature without expecting to have to back them up with sources.

    Please, brother, please, reconsider the way in which you are handling this stuff. Literally, the lives and souls of people are at stake, and I’m concerned that you are buying into the very mindset that wounds those people in the process of building an organization.

    I don’t believe that’s your intent, but you are taking information from others that is part and parcel to that eventually.

    I pray that you will seriously consider my words to you, and the words of others in these threads, before so casually dismissing them.

  26. 3-30-2007

    Steve,

    Thank you for your response.

    First of all, its very hard in a written discussion format, such as this, to determine whether whom you are “speaking” with is being humble or not. I don’t fight for being “right” here — I respond to what Alan says, and what others say, and we have an honest discussion and interchange about our beliefs, where we agree, and where we disagree. I’m learning a lot from these discussions, and I don’t see anyone NOT being humble, and that includes myself. Its very difficult in this kind of written format to discern whether someone is humble or not. We do not have body language, nor tone of voice. So, its difficult for me to respond to that part of your post, Steve.

    When I read the Bible on a daily basis, either for purposes of discussing the topics that Alan presents, or for my own private study, the Holy Spirit is always showing and revealing things to me. As they are relevant to these discussions, I share those things. If I am aware that what I believe might be controversial, I may preface what I say in HUMILITY that this is what I believe the Holy Spirit has revealed to me. I do not think there is anything wrong with that, and I believe it is humble to do that, Steve, esp. when you are dealing with a somewhat controversial area.

    A lot of what I say is also based on looking at a Greek text. If I say words are synonyms, or are NOT synonyms, I’m looking at the Greek. That is a valid form of learning from the biblical text, is understanding the Greek meanings of various words, such as “kubernesis.” As regards to responsibilities of pastors, I look to biblical qualifications, and other Scripture passages that indicate such. Never in this blog have I ever posted these things as merely or simply my own opinion.

    Steve, I admit that you and I probably have different definitions of what is exegesis, and what is eisegesis, and what is the difference between the two. That really is a discussion for another day, but I think we need to admit that.

    Perhaps I need to do more time on some biblical historical research into Timothy and Titus, and what their role actually was. What is interesting to me is that most people I know admit Timothy was the pastor/elder for the local congregation at Ephesus, and that is accepted as a fact without question — basically “common knowledge.” I am surprised that is being questioned here, to be honest. However, if I bring up resources that state Timothy was the elder at Ephesus, that brings up another issue: which resources are valid, and which are not. And that would open further debate, would it not – ???

    The statement that I build my ecclesiology on “facts” is a complete overstatement. It simply isn’t true. I base my ecclesiology based on various Scripture passages that address it, and on the pattern I see in Scripture (how Paul and Timothy RELATE to one another, for example). For me, the fact that Timothy and Titus were “spiritual sons” (that’s the actual Bible language if you don’t believe me) to the Apostle Paul REALLY is important, and we cannot deny that.

    Lastly, you stated, “I’m concerned that you are buying into the very mindset that wounds those people in the process of building an organization.” On what basis can you say this? What proof do you have of this? What mindset are you speaking of, and how do you KNOW such mindset wounds people??? I am rather skeptical of this claim.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  27. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan, I am going to respectfully decline to attempt to clarify with you in these areas.

    It seems rather apparent that you believe what you are saying and doing is correct and in line with Scripture. And every challenge I have raised to you has been met with just your assertion that it is not so. That leaves little room for discussion, as far as I can see.

    Honestly, it’s a bit wearying for me (and probably for you, as well!), and I don’t see it as edifying for it to continue, so I will respectfully withdraw.

    May God bless you as you seek Him and endeavor to serve His kingdom.

  28. 3-30-2007

    Steve,

    Alright, that’s fine with me.

    God’s blessings,
    Jonathan

  29. 3-30-2007

    Steve and Jonathan,

    I appreciate the tone of your comments, even though you disagree. We can all learn from this type of conversation.

    -Alan

  30. 3-31-2007

    David Rogers, I like what you write noting the fact that many are gifted as more task-oriented versus being people-oriented; however, I do think that Alan’s post makes a great point (and is another great post) in that we must be more focused on people than on organizations (and even tasks). Having come from the corporate world, and having represented a corporation, there is a HUGE difference between working for an organization and working for people. One can talk all day long about how important the people are to the organization, but if the primary focus is the organization it will definitely impact how the people in the organization are treated. And, given the fact that many American churches seem more interested in imitating a corporate mentality than they are biblical kingdom principles, it should be of great concern to us all.

  31. 3-31-2007

    Bryan,

    I agree that God can use both task-oriented and relationship-oriented people. I think that those of us who are task-oriented (and, yes, I am one) have to be very careful that we do not let the task become more important than the people.

    -Alan

  32. 3-31-2007

    I just was thinking it is interesting to note, too, that the Church is the bride.. a person. So, even the “organization” that is the church is more an organism, a Person, than it is a lifeless entity.

  33. 3-31-2007

    Bryan,

    Shouldn’t you spell that “organisation” now?

    -Alan