Leading the Church: Types of Government
1 Peter 5:1–4
1 Peter Lesson #146
September 27, 2018
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we are encouraged from Scripture that You are the God Who planned out human history; You declared the end from the beginning. That human history is the outworking of Your plan. That, as we look at the chaos around us, we know that in Your plan there is a purpose. That all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to Your purpose.
“That You are the King of the Heavens, the Ruler of the Earth, and that all that takes place is either under Your directive or permissive will.
“Father, as we watch these things go past and we are concerned about our future, we can only think about what it must’ve been like to have been an Israelite in the late 600s/early 500s BC, to watch the encroaching power of Babylon, knowing what the Word taught and having to be prepared. That no matter what, we must walk with You.
“Now, Father, we pray that as we study about the church tonight, that we may come to a better understanding of why we do things the way we do things and that we may understand the guidance that You’ve given us in Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re in 1 Peter 5 looking at the first couple of verses. In these verses, along with a passage that we looked at last week in Acts 20:17–28, we have clear reference to certain leaders in the church. We’ve been studying this in terms of understanding how God has revealed to us, through the Word, how the church is to be led.
What we’ve seen, as we came to the end last time, is that this has developed into basically three different forms of government, historically. I made the comment that I’ve operated in two of them. Frankly, I don’t get too caught up with one or the other because I have been under bad forms of both—and under good forms of both.
If you have spiritually mature men leading in the church, then all of the functions get covered, and everything works great. If you have spiritually immature and arrogant men leading in the church, then you have problems. It doesn’t really matter what they’re called; what matters is either their ability to walk with the Lord and serve Him—or not. So, I personally don’t get too caught up in determining that one is the precise form or another. I think a lot of people have backed off into their corners and taken positions that are better left fighting over other issues. But that’s my view.
What we’ve seen is that there are three keywords that are used in 1 Peter 5:1–2. This is the same as what we have in Acts 20. We have elders. The term PRESBUTEROS literally means “someone who is older,” just as it did in the Jewish church.
One of the things that has impressed me in my study this time is how much these terms are rooted in the Old Testament, as well as in the developed practice of the synagogue. We have to remember … We’ve gone through Acts, and we’ve seen that Acts has this transitional nature to it. As I pointed out last time, when Acts talks about the leadership of the Jerusalem church, the terms that are used are the “apostles” and the “elders”; there’s no mention of “deacons.”
When we get later literature, Paul talks about appointing overseers—or bishops—and appointing deacons. So, we understand there’s transition here. The church itself is in transition. When they’re meeting early in Acts, they don’t have their own facilities. They’re not meeting in buildings or churches. They’re going to the temple; they’re going to synagogues; and they’re meeting in homes.
So you would have leaders that were over each group that met in the homes, and those would be probably termed “elders.” We don’t know because we don’t have specific statements. So, that’s what we’re looking at: What are the guidelines? What are the parameters that are set forth here?
PRESBUTEROS comes out of that Old Testament framework, “the elders of the nation.” These would be the leaders, and they are usually older; they are men who have gone through life and seen experience. I pastored a church in Irving, Texas, from 1985 until 1990, and we had elders. They had elders and they had deacons, and that was fine; and it worked out really well. But they weren’t really mature. I don’t think any of those men that were designated as elders should have been elders.
That’s one of the concerns that I often raise when we have some people who come along and say, “Well …” I know of some pastors who have changed their government and their churches in recent years, who I’ve known all through the time I’ve been a pastor. And I say, “Well, the problem that we have is that none of those guys were mature enough. I only had two people in that church that were over 38!”
Now that I’m on the north side of 60—well on the north side of 60—I look back. Especially with today’s crop of millennials that are coming up, I think there was a greater maturity among 30-year-olds, spiritually, and a greater sense of service and involvement at that time (what I saw in my generation) than what we see today. And that’s just on my observation. I think a lot of baby boomers make that same observation. It’s not just because were older; it’s because the culture has changed.
I think, probably, my parents’ generation would have been much different. My parents’ generation was the Depression and World War II generation. Those men when they were in their 30s … I think back to my dad when he was in his 30s. He had gone through World War II. My uncle had gone through World War II. The things that they had seen and experienced in that crucible matured them far beyond their normal years.
But we have a generation now that’s coming up that isn’t that way. I’m not saying that to be critical of millennials; I’m pointing out that culture changes. Tthat’s been true all through history. There are different circumstances and situations that mature people faster in some times than in other times. So the emphasis in PRESBUTEROS is on that element of maturity and spiritual maturity, which only comes with time and with experience. You just can’t get past that.
Shepherd is a command here, POIMAINO. What does it mean to “shepherd”? We’ll get to that and start developing that biblically later tonight. Then the third term: the verb form is EPISKOPEO, which means to manage or to oversee. It has a management or administrative aspect. It doesn’t mean the pastor is the administrator—but that he overseas to make sure the administration gets done. So, we see these terms are all used of the same person; that’s important to understand.
As we developed our understanding of the church, we asked these questions:
2. When did the Church begin?
3. How did leadership develop in the early Church as described in Acts?
4. How did leadership develop in the early centuries of the Church Age? As part of that, tonight we’ll start looking at: what are the three basic forms of Church government?
5. What are the scriptural terms used for biblical leaders? (We’ll start developing that a little bit, too.)
6. What are the roles of deacons and elders (or pastors/bishops)?
7. How many elders should there be? (Getting into the question of single leadership versus multiple leadership.)
In summary, you’ve got EKKLESIA, the basic term for assembly. It would refer to a political assembly; it would refer to any group that gathered together. In the Old Testament it referred to Israel in their assembly as the Israelites, as the 12 tribes. But it doesn’t have the same sense as it does once you get into the New Testament as the church. Then it became a technical term, where Christ is viewed as the Head of the church universal. It is called the body of Christ.
When we talk about when the church began, we recognize that:
1. The Church did not exist in the Old Testament because, according to Ephesians 3:2–6 it was a mystery. It was previously unrevealed truth, so it wasn’t known.
2. Jesus spoke of building the church as future. In Matthew 16:18. He says, “I will build My church.” It’s a future thing. It’s not a present thing. It wasn’t in existence at that point.
3. We saw that the church could not begin until after Christ’s death and resurrection, according to Acts 20:28.
4. We saw that the leadership and communication-gifted leaders is an important issue. We’ll come back and talk about the exegetical issues in Ephesians 4:8–11 later. But they aren’t given until Christ ascends.
5. References that indicate a beginning at Pentecost are in Acts 5:14 and Acts 2:47. Something happened on the Day of Pentecost. What was it? That’s point 6.
6. The Spirit descends. When you have the baptism by the Holy Spirit, which is for every believer—and every believer is indwelt by the Spirit—that’s when the Church Age began. Not in Acts 9. Not at the end of Acts. Not with the salvation of Paul or the expansion. It began when the baptism by the Spirit began. That deals with all the objections by the ultra- or hyper-dispensationalists.
7. Four groups received this gift independently in Acts, each at the hand of an apostle, demonstrating that the apostles are the foundation of the church. You have the Jews in Acts 2, you have the Samaritans in Acts 7, then the Gentiles in Acts 11, and then Old Testament saints in Acts 19. That brings them all together into the one body of Christ.
This is what happens at the Samaritan Pentecost and the Gentile Pentecost and when the disciples of John the Baptist are saved—because they understand that Jesus the Messiah has come in Acts 19—each of them receives the baptism by the Holy Spirit at that point—even though it’s only mentioned in three of them.
The next thing we looked at is:
3. How did leadership develop in the early church as described in Acts?
You don’t have this revelation that comes down with a church constitution saying: “You’re going to have a pastor,” or “You’re going to have a panel of elders,” or “You’re going to have deacons,” and that “You set them up this way,” and that, “They function this way. And this is your organizational flowchart,” and “This is who’s in charge and who’s not in charge.” You don’t have that. It develops with the progress of revelation.
1. The leadership of the early church resided in the apostles. Again and again, it refers to things related to the apostles.
2. Then we got to Acts 6. There was difficulty; they couldn’t oversee all the details. They were receiving complaints that the Hellenistic Jewish widows were not being properly taken care of. So, they developed a division of labor. They appointed seven men; they were recommended by the congregation, as it were, by the believers. They appointed them and set them over the administration of the widows of the Hellenistic Jews.
3. Then, following that, just tracing it through, what we see is that Acts talks about the “apostles and the elders.” It doesn’t mention deacons.
We have passages such as Acts 14:23. We’ll come back later to talk about this issue.
“So when they had appointed elders in every church …” That’s the clearest statement that there may have been more than one in each church. But it’s not a mandate—it is what they did. And we don’t know why they did that.
Now, if you’re coming at this from a preloaded Presbyterian background, you’re going to say, “Well, that’s because God wants multiple elders in every church.” But you’re reading that into that text. It deteriorates—or changes—so rapidly. Before John is dead, you’ve got the rise of the single bishop who is one of the elders, and he’s the key leader. So, it’s not something that is mandated, and I’ll show you some arguments against that as we go along.
Acts 15:2—it’s apostles and elders.
Acts 15:4—apostles and elders. Acts 15:6—apostles and elders.
Acts 15:22—apostles and elders. Acts 15:23—apostles, the elders, and the brethren.
So, you clearly have these elders. Now, we’ll learn more about them as we get into the passages in Timothy and Titus.
We looked at the passage in Acts 20:17 and Acts 20:28; that reiterates the same thing. This is the other key passage. But this passage is parallel to 1 Peter 5:1–2. You have “elders,” which is the predominant name given the leadership in a local church. But is this talking about one local church?
Or is it talking about Ephesus, which was quite large? Having multiple congregations—which would entail multiple pastors—so all of these different pastors would have come down to meet with Paul. I think that is much more likely.
Acts 20:28 says that they were made overseers by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit raises up leaders, ultimately, in the church. Their mission—their task, their purpose—is to “shepherd the church of God.” Again, we have to look at what it means to “shepherd.”
We have these three terms. “Elder” describes the office with reference to spiritual maturity. So, it’s describing the spiritual maturity of the individual. “Bishop” describes the function of the office, and “pastor” talks about his spiritual gift and role, which is to feed the sheep through teaching. That’s the primary aspect of the metaphor.
So, what are the three basic forms of church government?
Last time I started to talk about the first form. This is what is known as the Episcopal form of government from the Greek word EPISKOPOS, translated “overseer” or “bishop.” This is the earliest form of government. For those who hold to the Episcopal form of government, they will say that those who hold to Congregational government or to elder rule or Presbyterian government are Johnny-come-latelys—that no one held those views until the Reformation.
So, they would argue rightly from history that for 1400 years the church operated under an Episcopal form of government. But it moved beyond what I would call a simple episcopacy in the early church—which would mean a single pastor or single leader in the church as the ultimate focal point to these other things. What gets blended into this is that you get into questions of interpretation. They don’t have a closed Canon yet in the early church. Where are they coming up with these ideas? Lots of questions get raised, and it’s not clear and clean cut.
So, we’re looking at three basic forms of government. The three forms are the Episcopal form, which will talk about the pastor as the “bishop.” That becomes a term—and they’re equated in the early church through the medieval church and even past the Reformation you’ll find that equated in many Anglican circles. It develops, by the third century, to a hierarchy that goes beyond the local church. So that you get the development—the bishop becomes more than the pastor, then there’s an archbishop, then are Cardinals, and then the Pope in the Western church and the Roman church.
In the Eastern church, in what is called the Greek Orthodox—or any of the Eastern Orthodox churches—there’s the patriarchate. You have patriarchs over each national church. So you have a patriarch over Greece, and over other areas.
The Russian is the largest Orthodox church denomination in the world, but they don’t believe in a single head of the church visible on the earth, like the Pope. That’s one reason that the Eastern church split from the Western church in the 11th century—over issues of authority. Who has the ultimate authority over all the Christian churches?
So, we’ll start looking at the Episcopal church. This was developed very early by the late first century where you begin to see the terminology shift. As I pointed out last time, the terminology began to shift late first century/early second century to refer to the leader of the church, to refer to that elder/bishop/pastor person as the bishop. The EPISKOPOS.
You had references (I pointed these out last time) from Polycarp’s letter. He seemed to reference bishops and elders as being the same people in his epistle to the Philippians that’s dated around AD 110 to 150. But also about that same time, you have references by Ignatius of Antioch, where he refers to bishops as distinct from the presbyters and the deacons. Those are all written about the same time, so that’s already in shift and transition at that time.
Now, when we look at the Scripture, the Scripture uses this term EPISKOPOS in two key passages. The first is in 1 Timothy 3:1, which we’ll go to in a minute, and the other is in Titus 1:7. Now, in both passages Paul is directing Timothy and Titus to appoint elders. And that is often taken as a model against Congregational involvement or voting for the elder or pastor—and I think wrongly. Because in my reading, in my understanding of what’s going on in the apostolic period and with Paul, these are his men. They are his representatives. They are not functioning on their own authority; they are representatives of Paul’s apostolic authority. The term that is used is “apostolic legates.”
A legate is an ambassador or representative. That’s a term that is still used today to refer to a representative to the American Roman Catholic Church from the pope in Rome. So, they are apostolic legates; they had an authority that wasn’t in them as a local pastor or leader, but as representatives from Paul and with directions from him.
But what we see in Titus 1:7 is this statement, “For a bishop [an EPISKOPOS] must be …” Notice: he’s blameless; he’s a steward of God (he is a manager, he’s to administer the church of God); he’s not self-willed; he’s not quick-tempered; he’s not given to wine (that means he’s not a drunk, he doesn’t have a problem with alcohol); he’s not violent; he is not greedy for money. But that comes in a context.
In this slide what I’m pointing out is that in Titus 1:5 Paul says, “For this reason I left you in Crete [giving him orders], that you should set in order the things that are lacking ...” Paul had to move on, but he left Titus in charge, representing Paul’s apostolic authority. He is the one who was to appoint elders.
So, this is a unique situation. It’s not a pattern for the rest of the church, that elders are appointed without congregational involvement. Because what we saw when we went through Acts is that, for example, in the selection of leaders, that there is an emphasis on the congregation. We’ll come back next time and look at some more passages on that, because there’s a good support for it in Scripture that there is a significant role within each church where there is a certain responsibility and authority given to the congregation in the selection of leaders and also in carrying out and enforcing church discipline.
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you …” Then he lists these characteristics: he’s blameless, the husband of one wife, he has faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. “For a bishop …”
It starts off with an explanation, “For a bishop …” What he means by that is that here the term “bishop” is a synonym for the elder. He is the overseer. So, it’s the same person; it’s the same office.
When he is appointing elders in every city, some come along and say, “See, you had multiple in every city.” You could have multiple leaders, possibly, in every church, but you would have more than one congregation. This is early on. They don’t have their own individual buildings; they met in homes. So, these are the leaders that are being appointed—what we would call, I believe, the “pastor” in every city. Then, after that it talks about them in the singular.
That’s the same thing we see when we get over to 1 Timothy 3:1. In 1 Timothy 3:1 and following, we see the qualifications. I’ll come back later in our study and talk about the qualifications of the elder and the bishop. But here he says, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach …”
What we see in 1 Timothy 3 is only two leaders mentioned. One is the bishop, the EPISKOPOS, and the other comes in at 1Timothy 3:8, and that’s the deacon. Those are the only two offices that are mentioned.
The other thing I want you to notice here is that when it talks about the bishop, the bishop is in the singular. It doesn’t talk about the bishop in terms of a plural. Now, that might be just because it’s taking it as sort of a case study.
But what’s interesting is … if you look down to 1 Timothy 3:8, when it talks about the deacon, it doesn’t say, “Likewise a deacon must be …” It says, “deacons must be”; it’s a noticeable shift from singular to plural. What you have today is a lot of people who come along and say, “That’s just a stylistic shift.” Well, wait a minute. If we really believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture and the verbal inspiration of Scripture, then when it shifts from singular to plural, that’s just not Paul saying, “Well, I think I’m going to use plurals this time instead of singulars, because we need a little stylistic shift so people won’t get bored.” Now that’s a rule for English writing, but it wasn’t a rule for writing the Scriptures.
If you read through the whole section of both of them, you will notice that the bishop section (from 1 Timothy 3:1–7) always talks about the elder. Whether it’s talking about him with reference to a pronoun (such as “he” or “his”), it’s always in the singular. Then, when you look at the section on the deacons (from 1 Timothy 3:8–13), it always talks about the deacon in the plural. This indicates that there would be one leader and multiple deacons.
We also have another passage that indicates the connection between the shepherd (the pastor) and the overseer, as being identical terms for the same person. We find this in 1 Peter 2:25. “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” This is a classic Granville Sharp rule. You may have heard the name Granville Sharp before; we’ll get into it a little more when we get into Ephesians 4:11–12.
Ephesians 4:11–12, where it talks about “pastors and teachers,” some have taught as a Granville Sharp rule. That is erroneous. That does not fit the Granville Sharp rule. The Granville Sharp rule only applies to singular nouns, not to plural nouns. “Pastors and teachers” are plural nouns; so that’s not Granville Sharp. But we’ll look at that—it gets more technical than that—when we look at that passage.
In 1 Peter 2:25 this is a classic example of the Granville Sharp rule: that when you have two nouns (that are not plurals, that are not abstract) governed by one article and linked with the conjunction “and,” then they are identical. They’re talking about the same thing for the same person.
Here is a classic example of the Granville Sharp rule, meaning that Shepherd equals Overseer. These words are strict synonyms. They both, in this case, apply to the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the Chief Shepherd and Who is the Overseer, the Head, of the church.
Now, when the Episcopal form developed, it developed gradually. As I talked about last time, you had the development of the monarchical bishop. Last time I talked about Polycarp, who wrote around AD 110. I talked about Ignatius, who writes in that same period; we’re not exactly clear when he wrote the eEpistle to the Ephesians.
But we do have another early church writing by Clement, who is the Bishop of Rome. He writes an epistle to Corinth, and it is usually referred to in the Apostolic Fathers. The apostles are the apostles—the 1Eleven that are from the time of Jesus to the time they die. The period that comes after them—from roughly AD 90 (even though John is still alive) to AD 100 to about AD 150 or 160—is called the time of the Apostolic Fathers.
You have men like Ignatius. You have Polycarp. Polycarp was a disciple; he was personally trained by the Apostle John. So these people carried a lot of weight. They were one generation removed from the apostles.
You have Clement of Rome, and he writes to Corinth. He talks about the church at Rome and the church at Corinth, [that they] are led by a group of presbyters (who he also calls bishops). So this is this period where you identify “bishop” and “elder” as identical. And this is indicated early on by Clement. They also had deacons, as indicated in his writing.
But then, as I pointed out, this changes. In the second century you have the development of this monarchical bishop who is the leader of the church, and he is the man who is the foundational shepherd.
There were also elders. They assisted him in the oversight of spiritual matters within the congregation. And then there were deacons who carried out physical or administrative responsibilities within the congregation.
By this time, you’ve really changed the format of the church. By the time you get into the early second century, they’re moving out of the synagogue; they’re beginning to build some of their own meeting places, their own buildings. The congregations are getting much larger. So, they’re having to develop ideas and policies on “How we’re going to now administer things.”
What I see is a pattern that really starts in Acts 6, and you see again in Acts 15. There is no direct revelation from the Scripture on: “You’ve got an administrative issue. How are you going to handle it?” So, there was no direct revelation in Acts 6. God the Holy Spirit did not appear to them and say, “You need to appoint seven men to help administer the money for the widows.”
They looked at it. They prayed about it. And they did what seemed good to them, administratively. They probably thought about how Moses appointed elders to assist him in the leadership of Israel, going back to the time that they were at Mount Sinai. They were probably thinking about that as a pattern. So they applied that, and they came up with a way to administer things. It worked for them.
Every culture addresses issues of leadership and organization differently. I believe that God gave us enough information here in terms of leadership to give us a structure: there need to be those who are spiritually focused and leading the congregation and those who are focusing on the administration.
I believe that there needs to be one man—with one singular vision—for the congregation. We’ll get into that as we go forward. But that’s what’s developing. And it’s developing as an application from general description to apply those principles to the situation based on their wisdom and maturity from the Scriptures.
By the third century, the monarchical bishop becomes strengthened. By then you have a lot of strange ideas starting to come into the church—like giving authority and responsibilities to the pastor, or the bishop, that were not part of what was going on in the New Testament. For example, Cyprian of Carthage gives the bishop authority to administer the forgiveness of sins.
One of the issues that they’re dealing with is the persecution that had arisen in the late second century. So you had a lot of Christians who, when the Roman soldiers knocked on the door and were threatening them with martyrdom if they were Christians, they gave it up. Now they lapsed.
After Constantine’s Edict of Toleration around AD 310 or 312, it’s legal to be a Christian. They want to come back to church. So the church leadership—which was legalistic in this area, I believe—are trying to decide, “Do we let these people come back?” Because half the congregation stood firm: they got thrown in the dungeon, and they were tortured. And these [other] people said, “Oh no, I’m not a Christian.” Maybe they gave up other Christians. So now they want to return. What kind of forgiveness is there? So, the pastor is given this responsibility for forgiveness. You can see where that eventually develops into the whole confessional thing in Roman Catholic theology later on.
The power and the authority of the monarchical bishop expands in the third century. Then, by the time you get into about 600s to 800s, you see the development of archbishops and other parts of the structure that we associate with the Roman Catholic Church.
But it’s also in the Methodist Church; they’re not independent, autonomous congregations. They all come under oversight of a Bishop and an Archbishop.
You see it in the Anglican Church. You see it in some other denominations where you have this hierarchy that goes to an authority structure above the local church. So that’s the development of the Episcopal form of government, and that dominates until you get to the Reformation.
Then we have the second form of government, which is called Congregational government. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines Congregationalism this way: “Congregationalism is that form of Church polity [that means church government] which rests on the independence and autonomy of each local church …”
Let me just add something. You can have a Presbyterian Church. Some of you are familiar with a church here in Houston, Bethel Independent Presbyterian Church. It has an autonomous Presbyterian government. It has elders and deacons, but it is autonomous. It is not a member of a higher authority. It is an independent, autonomous church. That is often what was meant in English church history when they have the splits between the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians.
Presbyterians had a hierarchy that went beyond the local church. Congregationalists had no external hierarchy. But they both had elders and deacons. They were Congregationalists, but they weren’t necessarily Baptists. We’ll talk a little bit about the rise and development of Baptist polity here in just a minute.
When we look at this we see the rise of Congregationalism in English church history. Congregationalism develops in two streams. One is within what I would call the Presbyterian stream. Because, as I just pointed out, you had those that had a hierarchy beyond the church; they were call Presbyterian. Those that didn’t were called Congregationalists because they emphasized an autonomy.
But then you had another stream that came out of the Reformation. Remember, the Reformation initially starts off in national churches. So that in Germany you have Martin Luther, who’s the great reformer, and you have the development of the German Lutheran Church.
Lutheranism expands and is taken into the Scandinavian countries. So Scandinavian countries develop Swedish Lutheran, Norwegian Lutheran, and Danish Lutheran churches. You also had Lutheran churches develop in other nations, but it’s always identified within that entity. That’s why, when you have the founding of America, you had Swedish Lutherans, Danish Lutherans, and all kinds of other Lutherans—national Lutheran churches—come to America.
Now what do you have? You don’t just have one Lutheran Church; you have all these different ethnic Lutheran Churches. So, that’s why America has so many more denominations than anybody else because we have this flow that came from all of these different countries in the 1500s—and especially in the 1600s in the colonization of America.
You had the Lutheran stream. Then, in the reform stream you had two groups. You had the French Swiss Reformation that’s led by Calvin, and he is hired by the elders of the church at Geneva. A lot that is pinned on Calvin is not Calvin’s personal fault. Tthis is why, I think, this form of an elder government is not good.
Calvin was under the authority of the elders so that they overrode his decisions. I think that’s a problem. If one man is the pastor, he’s given a vision by God for his ministry, the exercise of his gift, and the local church. As long as he is not leading the congregation into some kind of false doctrine or some kind of heresy, he’s the man whose vision you follow. You can’t have 15 visions—or 10 visions or five visions—leading a company … or leading a congregation because they become competitive, and then you have problems!
I know one congregation here in Houston that had a pastor for at least 30 years, and he was an outstanding pastor-teacher. He had his masters and doctorate from Dallas Seminary. The elders had a vision for that church; they wanted to be a mega church like Second Baptist. They wanted to get involved in a large building program, and they wanted to do this and they wanted to do that. He did not agree. That was not his understanding of how the church should operate.
He was a man of great integrity, and so he took them through their building programs. But when that was finished, he retired and moved out of state—as far as he could get from the church. That church has had two or three pastors since then. It’s been a real problem. When you have elders who see the pastor as either one of them or under their authority, you have this competition of vision. I think that is an unworkable situation. I’ve seen that break down numerous times. But we’ll get back to talking about elders later on.
In congregational government, I talked about Luther, I talked about the French Swiss, and then you had the German Swiss Reformation, which was under Ulrich Zwingli in Zürich. Those two merged together to be the umbrella or the stream of reformed churches.
So that impacts the Anglican church. Under the reign of Bloody Mary, when all the Protestants are being burned at the stake, the leadership of the English church left and went to Geneva to go to seminary. When they came back, they brought all of Calvin’s ideas back to England.
You had John Knox, the Scottish Reformation, which is Presbyterian. They had their leaders that were also trained at Geneva. The German Swiss got trained there at Geneva. You have Dutch Reformed. You have the Huguenots in France; they are French Calvinists; they are French Reformed. You have Dutch Reformed. You get the development of the German Reformed Church, the Swiss Reformed Church. All of those are Presbyterian with that hierarchy. Then within that in England you develop the Congregational government with elder rule.
Then you have the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists started really in Zürich. You had men like George Blaurock, Felix Manz—others that were there—and they came to Baptist convictions. They came to understand that infant sprinkling didn’t do anything for them spiritually, that it was something that was introduced in the early church.
You had this unification of the church and the state from AD 315, when you have the merger, the legalization, of the church under Constantine in Rome. You know, becoming a member of the state and becoming a member of the church are the same thing. So, if you’re going to reject your membership in the church, that’s a political statement! You’ve become a traitor to the nation. That’s what happens when you have this church/state unification.
So, under Zwingli, these guys come to an understanding that baptism only counts once you’ve expressed your faith in Christ. So, you had to be baptized again. That’s what “Ana” “baptism” means, to be baptized a second time.
So you had the rise of various Anabaptist movements. Some were quite crazy and had a lot of problems. You had Anabaptist groups in Holland. You had Menno Simons who gave rise to the Mennonites. The Amish break off from that group. You had German Anabaptists. You had Swiss Anabaptists. But in England you get the development of the Baptist movement, and it is Congregational.
In 1550 there is evidence of men and women coming together, separated from the state church. They’re not going to be Anglican. They’re going to be separated from the national church, and so they are called Separatists. Separatists were different from Puritans.
Now, whatever you’ve learned about Puritans (unless you learned it from me) is wrong! What the culture thinks of as “Puritan” is really Victorian. Prince Albert was a prude, and Victorian prudery became identified with Puritanism. But Puritans loved to play cards. They loved to go bowling. They loved to drink beer. What they wanted to do was not leave the Anglican church but to purify it of any elements of Roman Catholicism. That’s why they’re called “Puritans.” They wanted to purify the church.
Separatists left the church. They want to be biblical. They’re independent; they’re autonomous. One of the first was a man named Robert Browne, who in 1582 wrote a book. Their titles are longer than some books today! The book is titled, A booke which sheweth the life and manners of all true Christians. Then he wrote a second one called, A Treatise of Reformation, Without Tarying for Anie, and of the wickednesse of those preachers, which will not refourme till the magistrate commanude and compell them. There you go! They get a lot longer than that.
But in those books, he emphasized that “the Kingdom of God was not to be begun by whole parishes, but rather of the worthiness, no matter how small or few they might be.” So, he’s emphasizing what he called the “gathered church,” or small, independent, autonomous congregations.
Browne is followed by several others and he influences one congregation (I believe it was out of Norwich, England). At this time, with the persecution, they left England and they went to Holland under their pastor, John Robinson, and they became known to us as “the Pilgrims.” That’s where they came from. They are separatist Anabaptists from England.
Then they came to America, and they brought that church polity (that independent, autonomous Congregationalism) where the congregation chooses the pastor, chooses the leadership, and they are independent of other congregations. Now, how do you think that idea impacted the development of the United States of America? That’s where we got our idea, really, of representative government.
They weren’t really a pure democracy. My first church was almost a pure democracy because the 19 deacons in a church that was about the size of ours didn’t want to make any decision that might upset everybody. So, every time a difficult decision had to be made, we had to take it to the congregation and vote on it—and that was just crazy. So that is a Congregational government that works badly—works inefficiently and works poorly.
What happened in the development of the church is that you had a group of Anabaptists who came together in 1527 in Germany who wrote a statement called the Schleitheim Confession (see Slide 30). They said, “We are agreed as follows on pastors in the church of God: The pastor in the church of God shall, as Paul has prescribed, be one who out-and-out has a good report of those who are outside the faith. This office shall be to read, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all the brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is to be broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderer be stopped.” For them, the pastor was chosen by the congregation.
They went on to say that the one who is chosen by the congregation is to be supported by the congregation: “This one moreover shall be supported of the church which has chosen him, wherein he may be in need, so that he who serves the Gospel may live of the Gospel as the Lord has ordained.”
Swiss Brethren and Southern German Anabaptists had small groups with one leader. They were very big, but they all had one leader who led them. That was in southern Germany and Switzerland.
In northern Europe you had a group of Mennonites called the Waterlander Mennonites. They adopted a confession in 1580, and that confession states that the congregation selects its ministers. It talks about the leaders in the congregation as the teachers, bishops, and deacons. In 1611, in Amsterdam, the same themes are reiterated by the group of Anabaptists there in “A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam, 1611.”
Then you have what happens in the Westminster Confession, the very famous Presbyterian statement of faith. It becomes the standard for the Anglican Church for many years, and it’s Presbyterian in form of government.
The Westminster Confession is answered by the Separatists in 1658 by a declaration called the Savoy Declaration which states: These particular Churches thus appointed by the Authority of Christ, and intrusted with power from him for the ends before expressed, are each of them as unto those ends the seat of that Power [“each of them” is each congregation is the seat of that power] which he is pleased to communicate to his Saints or Subjects in this World, so that as such they receive it immediately from himself.” [So, Christ is the Head of each congregation, essentially].
“The Officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the Church …” So, the church determines who its leaders are, and at the end it says they are called, “Pastors, Teachers, Elders, and Deacons.” So, they have four.
Then you have the London Confession of 1644, the Second London Confession of 1677. These are foundational. If you’re a Baptist, you know all these things (or you should know these things). This is a foundation.
Then, in the United States, there’s a confession called the New Hampshire Confession. That’s the basis for the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, which is basically the doctrinal statement (although they say they’re not a creedal people). It is basically what Southern Baptists believe. It’s been revised three or four times since then.
In each of these, there is an emphasis on either elders and deacons—or deacons and a pastor—but they all have singular leadership. Ultimately, they are led by one individual who is identified as the pastor.
I read about this a while back. I was going to talk about it tonight; I’ll probably find it again by next week. You didn’t have the big denominations in this country until you get into the 1830s or 1840s. You had regional Baptist associations, and they didn’t begin to go beyond their regions until about the 1830s to 1840s.
Then, in the 1850s, they split North and South because Northerners didn’t want to give their missions money to support a southern pastor or missionary whose family might own slaves. So that happened across the board: Christian churches, Presbyterian churches, Methodist churches. Everybody split—North and South—and most of them didn’t re-merge until you get into the 20th century.
But that’s the one thing they all have been in common, that you have either a bishop or an elder as the as the teacher, the leader, and then deacons.
I am going to stop here. Because in the next section I want to start getting into “How do we understand what is meant by this imagery of “being a pastor” or “pastoring.” It goes back to the Old Testament. One of the earliest examples we have of using the term for “shepherding” comes out of Exodus 3. We were there Tuesday night, looking at it in terms of worship, the use of that term in terms of “shepherding” and understanding what that means.
You can talk to a lot of people—even a lot of whom you might think are biblically conservative people—and say, “What does it mean to ‘pastor’?” They will come up with a lot of different things that they think pastors ought to do. Everything from, “The pastor ought to be doing visitation. He ought to be going to the hospital. He ought to be doing this. He ought to be doing that.” It’s pretty amusing, sometimes, what churches come up with in terms of responsibilities for pastors. What, essentially, is this metaphor that is so important throughout Scripture? How are we to understand it? We’ll come back and look at that next time.
“Father, thank You for this time we’ve had to look at this, to look at our heritage, because we come out of that Anabaptist/Baptist stream that has influenced so many in this country. Father, we are also influenced by the Presbyterian stream from Dallas Seminary, which is a background for much of the teaching that we have.
We’ve had both elements present. Sometimes it seems like we’re a little conflicted over these things because of this split background, but that’s our heritage; that’s our DNA. So, Father, help us as we think through Scripture to see why we do things the way we do. And help us to understand how that works to glorify You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”