This article was first published in the Baptist Bulletin (September/October 2008) and appears here unedited. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Years ago a minister was called “the parson,” meaning “the person.” He was a VIP. He was honored as the preacher of the gospel, a molder of public opinion, and the conscience of the community. Not so today. A recently published survey revealed the most respected people in the average American community. Ministers ranked far down on the list, behind doctors, judges, psychologists, civic leaders, and police officers. Why?
No doubt the widespread sexual and financial scandals among members of the clergy have seriously affected the public opinion of them. Unfortunately, many pastors are mere puppets, moved by the whims of their parishioners. Some are controlled by a few strong laypeople, and others are “religious politicians” instead of prophets of God. Fortunate is the congregation whose pastor speaks “the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11, NIV) and diligently leads the church.
We believe that the Bible words “elder” and “bishop” refer to and include the pastor (or pastors) of a local church. Each of these titles reveals a facet of his divine calling. As an elder, he is to provide mature, responsible leadership. As the bishop, he is to be the general manager, providing careful oversight of the Lord’s work. And as the pastor, he is charged with caring for and feeding the flock of God (Acts 20:28).
Such divinely commissioned leaders are important individuals in God’s sight—and should be in the eyes of every Christian as well. Our Lord places great importance upon the pastor-parishioner relationship. In fact, He expects every believer to voluntarily be under the leadership and teaching of a godly pastor. The Bible allows no exceptions.
Recently a pastor introduced some new members at the close of a morning service by saying, “We welcome you to all the privileges and responsibilities of church membership.” Responsibilities? What did he mean? While the pastor did not explain, the Bible does. According to the Word of God, every Christian is under divine obligation in at least three areas: intercession, remuneration, and submission.