the weblog of Alan Knox

The Holy Spirit has made you overseers

Posted by on Oct 18, 2008 in elders, office, spirit/holy spirit | 11 comments

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.

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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?


11 Comments

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  1. 10-18-2008

    Alan,

    That is a tough one bro. I guess we somehow have to confirm that the Holy Spirit actually did make this person an Overseer. But the only way that seems to be possible is if people recognize this gifting while simultaneously submitting to the Spirit by submitting to this person.

    I guess my problem is what if we aren’t convinced that the Holy Spirit made this person an overseer though they see themselves as being “called” or what if somone feels called and people confirm it but they really aren’t called (I think this happens more than the others).

    So I guess I am asking a question how do we know that this person is one in the same?

  2. 10-18-2008

    Alan,

    Very briefly: As I see it elders can only be recognised in long term fellowship with the congregation.

    During this period of time he will gradually be seen by his fellow believers as functioning as an elder.

    His character, heart, mind, actions, his love for Christ and the brethren, will clearly be recognized, and those around him will love being with him when he opens the Scriptures.

    He won’t need to be ordained, called, appointed or any such thing, because it will be obvious that the Holy Spirit has already accomplished that.

  3. 10-18-2008

    Good stuff Alan. How much better to be placed in an office by the Holy Spirit than a mere man.

    God is so good.

  4. 10-18-2008

    We are in the process of selecting and adding to our leadership at my church. This is a great question.

    I think it takes a lot of prayer, both by the body and the leadership to try to make sure the church is in alignment with the Spirit.

    Those chosen by the Spirit and placed in leadership should be recognized by the body. If not, you have to wonder how the body fell out of alignment with the Spirit.

    Sounds like in that case the church body needs to kneel down and pray before the divine chiropractor to seek realignment.

  5. 10-18-2008

    Lionel,

    Absolutely! You are recognizing the extremem important of both knowing the person, the community, and the Holy Spirit. Its not as easy as checking references and listening to a person preach a sermon one Sunday.

    Aussie John,

    Very well said! I like the anabaptist belief that ALL Christians are ordained ministers and missionaries. Thus, an elder is not specially ordained, but simply consistently living out the ordination that he shares with all believers.

    Joel,

    Yes. Unfortunately, I think there are many churches who are following man-appointed leaders who are not also Spirit-appointed. Of course, when people appoint these leaders, they rarely know them well enough to tell if God has appointed them as a leader or not.

    Andy,

    “[P]ray before the divine chiropractor to seek realignment.” Since my family visited the chiropracter yesterday, I greatly appreciate this statement!

    -Alan

  6. 10-18-2008

    Dear Alan,
    I read your blog frequently, and appreciate your views. I believe recognition is everything in an assembly. Desire is vital, but many aspire to, or desire an office that the Holy Spirit has not ordained. I have a strong conviction that everyone in the assembly must recognize, without reservation, God’s authority vested in an overseer. And authority is earned through meekness, so that all submit willingly, learning to trust. I think a true elder would never strive for an office, but would be content to do his work “secretly”, without recognition, or even pay, because he can’t help but do anything else, because he loves the church so. So recognition is an organic process that can’t be rushed or coerced- as with any genuine move of God.

  7. 10-18-2008

    Hal,

    Thanks for the comment and for reading my blog. Your comment resonates with me deeply. I serve and love people because of what God has done and is doing within me. That would not change if people did not recognize me as an elder. So, I think I understand what you’re talking about.

    -Alan

  8. 10-20-2008

    It gets even tougher when one considers how many young pastors go to another area and start a church.
    How do you know? Most groups never do much background checking, let alone Holy Spirit checking.Thus, the resume scenario(which is wrong)
    Churches look for the school or affiliations, degree, look and eloquence.That’s why Paul recommended Timothy and others. Of course in today’s “I recommend your book you recommend mine mentality”, that bet is off.

  9. 10-20-2008

    Why does the Church necessarily have to be in the dark as to the Holy Spirit’s workings? What if it is through the Church that the Holy Spirit works? We see this in Scripture (Acts 14:23, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6, Titus 1:5).

    If the Church is the Kingdom Come, why wouldn’t God use the Church as the tool by which He appoints His ministers?

  10. 10-20-2008

    Josh,

    You raise some very important questions. In fact, I would say that the church does not necessarily have to be in the dark as to the Holy Spirit’s working and should not be in the dark.

    Also, I think God often uses the church in his work – primarily uses the church, even.

    However, I think we would all agree that there have been times in the past when the church (even the RCC according to its own apologies) did not follow the Holy Spirit.

    -Alan

  11. 7-19-2010

    I have arrived late to the discussion but have a question.

    If the Holy Spirit, through His work which is evident by the fruit born in their lives, makes them to be overseers, then are we not pointing them out(recognizing their work)rather than appointing them to an “office” KJV. For some years I have believed there are no “positions” in the body of Christ only works to be done. A person is a leader when people follow not when they are called a leader.
    Respectfully,
    Carl A. Harris, D.Min.