Back in February 2007, I wrote a blog post called “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers“. The post was prompted by a conversation that I had about the role of the Holy Spirit in appointing elders. It generated a good discussion then, and I hope it will do the same this time.
The Holy Spirit has made you overseers
We are currently attempting to recognize additional elders among the church. We believe that a pastor, an elder, and an overseer are the same. In other words, an elder is a pastor is an overseer.
Recently, someone brought this verse to our attention:
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)
As we discussed this verse, and how we should apply it, we noticed the phrase “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” This brought up a very interesting question: At what point does a person become a pastor/elder/overseer?
According to Acts 20:28 (above), it is the Holy Spirit who makes someone a pastor. Does the Holy Spirit do this as a response to the actions of a church? I don’t think so. Instead, I believe that the Holy Spirit makes someone an overseer regardless of the actions or lack of actions of the church itself.
In other words, the Holy Spirit places someone in a group of believers and subsequently gives that person the responsibility of “caring for” (that is, being an overseer for) that group of believers. The church is then supposed to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit and to recognize that individual as an overseer.
If the church does not recognize that person as an overseer, the church’s action does not remove the responsibility from that person, because the responsibility was given by the Holy Spirit not the church. If the church recognizes different people as overseers, the church’s action does not remove the responsibility from the first person, because the responsibility was given by the Holy Spirit not the church.
Now, this is not the way that we normally think of pastors/elders/overseers. However, it does seem to align with what Scripture says about the work of the Holy Spirit among a group of believers (especially Acts 20:28 above). How does a church ensure that the people the church recognizes as overseers are the same people that the Holy Spirit has made overseers?