An Important Part Of Pastoral Oversight Of The Local Church

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

      A local church is made up of people. It is not a building. So, the picture above does not mean to imply a building is a church. Please keep this in mind as you read the following article.
     Pastors are responsible for many things related to their churches. One of the most important parts of their job is that of providing oversight of what is being taught by others in Sunday school classes, home Bible studies, home fellowships, discipleship classes for new converts, book discussion groups, or any other settings in which Biblical subjects are being studied as a ministry of the church.
     Pastoral oversight is spoken of in a number of places in the New Testament. For example, Acts 20:17 – 35, the key verses being verses 17 and 28; 1 Timothy 3:1 – 7; and Titus 1:5 – 9. The apostle Peter also wrote specifically about it in 1 Peter 5:1 – 4, quoted here:
    “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords 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 does not fade away.”
      Although not directly related to our subject, you can see in these verses that 3  terms are used regarding pastors of local churches: elders, shepherds, and overseers. “Overseers” are called “bishops” in the King James Version. The word we commonly use is  “pastors,” and it means “shepherds.” 
      Here is what Presbyterian Bible scholar Albert Barnes’s commentary on 1 Peter 5: 1 – 4 says about these 3 terms: “Bishops. The word properly denotes those who are appointed to oversee, or inspect anything. This passage proves that the name was applicable to elders; and that in the time of the apostles, the name bishop and presbyter, or elder, was given to the same class of officers, and, of course, that there was no distinction between them. One term was originally used to denote office, the other age, and both were applied to the same persons in the church. The same thing occurs in Titus ; 1:5-7, where those who in Acts 20:5 are called elders, are in Acts 20:7 called bishops. See also 1 Timothy 3:1-10; Philippians 1:1.”
      Pastors are shepherds of their flocks of Christians, and it is their duty to oversee those flocks. And this involves overseeing what is being taught to their flocks in such settings as those mentioned in the first paragraph of this posting.
      The fact is, pastors cannot assume that the teachers in their churches, as good-hearted and well-intentioned as they might be, will teach what should be taught. Pastors need to make sure they not only teach Biblical subjects, but that they also teach the church’s official positions on those subjects.
      To name a few of many subjects, these can include the Trinity; the sinfulness of mankind; the provision of salvation by Jesus Christ;  repentance and faith; baptism and the Lord’s supper; the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible; the Holy Spirit’s gifts; the security of the believer; end times events, such as the rapture, the Antichrist, the second coming of Christ, the millennium; the resurrection of the dead; heaven and hell.
      If a church has official positions on these subjects, pastors must be diligent to make sure those positions are believed and taught by the church’s teachers. If pastors don’t do their jobs, it won’t take long for a church to drift a long way from what it says it stands for.
      Sometimes this drift comes into a church by members who mean well, but who don’t really know what the church stands for, and don’t know what it expects them to teach. And sometimes this drift comes into a church through persons who intentionally want to change the beliefs of the church. They might mean well. But they might also be agents of the devil whom he sends to a church to corrupt it by clever means.These kinds of persons were referred to by the apostle Paul, in his words to the elders-pastors-overseers of the church at Ephesus. Here is what Paul said to them in Acts 2:28 – 30: “28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
     There are different ways for pastors to oversee what is being taught in a church. One way is for  them to preach and teach the church’s official positions to the church body during regular services of the church, especially at whatever services the majority attend. In many cases that is the Sunday morning service. An informed congregation will more easily detect a departure from the church’s doctrines. Another means of doing this is to teach the teachers what the church officially believes, and to insist that they also teach those things. Another way to do this is to preview any material that a teacher wants to use, or to only allow use of material from sources that hold the same positions of the church.
     This aspect of pastoring a church is very important, for the direction a church goes is determined primarily by pastoral leadership. Pastors have their hands on the steering wheel of the local church. If we steer a church in the right direction, we will do it a great service.  It is only to those pastors who do their job faithfully that Peter’s words apply:  “….when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” ( 1 Peter 5:4)
      A good book on the local and universal church is edited by Mal Couch. It is called A Biblical Theology Of The Church. It is from a dispensationalist perspective, which gives it even more value than some other books on the subject. To take a look at it, click on the following link:
    All Bible quotes in this posting are from the New King James Version, and were taken from this website: “Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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