We have a funny relationship with the word “pastor” in Churches of Christ. Elders are pastors, not preachers, we say…but the preachers often pastor as much or more as the elders. This is a common occurrence but certainly not universal.
I think we are correct, biblically, but don’t often live it out in practice. That is a problem.
Francis Chan says in chapter 6 of Letters to the Church that he will be addressing pastors, not as we understand them, but as the Bible does. I am not so sure he gets this right in principle but I am over much of what we have made of this in our fellowship and have no trouble following along with him.
Those who shepherd people are pastors, even if they don’t bear the title elder. Those who bear the title elder don’t always shepherd, even though they should. We don’t want to get into playing word games. We want to live out biblical truths and callings.
He first calls for caution and prayer because he realizes the repurcussions of this chapter could lead to some people stepping down out of their leadership positions. It might also require others to set up, into positions of leadership. In a sense the up and down language (which is mine not Chan’s) is too worldly – to be a leader is to be a servant. I am not so sure that is always a step up.
Next Chan mentions some traps ministers can find themselves in that should be avoided. Really, this is a character check – if a minister or an elder finds themselves doing these things they have character issues that should be addressed and I am sure we have all found ourselves guilty of something he lists on pages 107-108 at some point in time.
Francis Chan spends the rest of the chapter describing characteristics that should describe out leaders and he draws these qualities out of the Bible. These are not easy things – suffering and humility – but they will be required of anyone who leads.
We have often displayed leadership as the highest level of Christian maturity, something everyone should aspire to but I am not so sure that is always the case. Not everyone is meant to lead and not even every leader should be leading. Leaders are to be judged more severely, James tells us. The road of leadership can be lonely and it can be painful but if you are called to it, there is no better place to be!
I think we have a leadership crisis in Churches of Christ. We don’t know where we are headed and those with the training to help us get there don’t have the authority or freedom to make it happen. But before we can start in on that we do need to make sure that we are ready to have a conversation in a spirit of love and grace.