The Bible teaches that New Testament Churches such as The Ridge Fellowship are comprised of three basic groups: saints, deacons and pastors.
Philippians 1:1 illustrates this truth, “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.”
The Greek word translated saints is “hagios” and it means “holy.” A New Testament saint is a professing believer in Christ – made “holy” not by their own actions, but by faith in Christ. The word saint is used over 45 times in the New Testament.
The term “saint” represents all believers in the Kingdom of God as well as all believers in a particular church or fellowship. In the most common sense, saints are the members of the church including both overseers and deacons.
The Greek word translated “deacon” Diakonos means “servant.”
Diakonos (servant) is used in two passages in the NIV translation: Philippians 1:1 and in I Timothy 3:8-13…
Philippians 1:1 To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
1 Timothy 3:8-13 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Again this passage indicates that not every saint is qualified to serve as a deacon.
Acts 6:1-7 is generally accepted as the initial scriptural basis for deacons in the church as well as the scriptural basis for the deacon’s role in the church…
Acts 6:1-7 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly…
*This passage also expresses a difference in the role and responsibilities between believers, those who serve as deacons and those who serve as overseers.
*Deacons (servants) are responsible for the physical ministry of the church – they are to meet the practical needs of the saints – while the overseers are responsible for the spiritual ministry and needs of the church.
The terms pastor or shepherd, elder and overseer or bishop all refer to different aspects of the same individual. They do not refer to different offices within the church leadership structure.
1 Peter 5:1-4 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Let’s define each:
Pastor: the Greek word is “poimen.” It is translated into English as pastor or shepherd.
Overseer – the Greek word is “episkopos” and it can be translated, overseer or bishop.
Elder: the Greek word is “presbuteros” and it is translated as elder.
*Notice that the passage in I Peter 5:1-4 (above) is addressed to “the elders” (presbuteros) and instructs them to “be shepherds (poimen) of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (episkopos).”
Acts 14:23 “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”
The term “elder” is used to describe the degree of spiritual maturity that an individual possesses, while the term “bishop” is used to describe the role that an individual plays in the structure of the church. So an elder is not an “office”; it is a descriptive term for an individual who holds the office of bishop or overseer.
Both terms – episkopos (overseer/bishop) and presbuteros (elder) are used in reference to the same individuals in I Peter 5:1-4.
The pastor, elder or overseer’s role is to…
1. Keep watch over the church.
Acts 20:28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own Blood.”
2. Manage the church.
I Timothy 3:1 & 4-5 “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task…He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”
3. Lead the church.
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
4. Account to God for the church.
Hebrews 13:17 “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”
5. Preparing believers to serve the church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ
Pastors/Teachers are to prepare God’s people (saints) for works of service so the church can be unified in faith and spiritually mature.
The major qualifications for those who serve as overseers are found in
I Timothy 3:1-7…
1 Timothy 3:1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Leadership and decision-making authority at The Ridge Fellowship are acknowledged by service and Christ-like character.
Matthew 25:23 “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
For more about The Ridge Fellowship go to www.ridgefellowship.com
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