What does God require of a church leader?

What does God require of a church leader?

What does God require of a church leader? In the New Testament, God required his offices (deacon and elder) be filled by believer-priests who manifest the right equipment (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:11, 28; Eph. 4:11f), the right motivation (Phil 2:13; 1 Tim. 3:1), and the right qualities (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Ti. 1:5-9).

Your pastor was a jerk?

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Your pastor was a jerk?  

(An open letter to encourage friends who were mistreated by their pastor).

Dear Friends,

I am so sorry you have to go through yet another injury inflicted on your souls, again by those who are supposed to give aid and comfort.  No doubt it is emotionally painful.  All the more since it comes at a time when you were seeking respite and help for the beatings and bruising you have endured by leadership in a couple previous churches.

There really is no excuse for your pastor-in-law (as opposed to your pastor-in-grace) to have avoided you during your trials, neglected you during your absence, and betrayed you during your move.  I know you were excited to join this new church, shortly after your stressful move.  Yet, there really is no excuse for the pastor of this new church to so quickly reject you.  Without evidence, you can only suspect that a negative report was given about you since the new minister went from a willing and ready spirit to receive you to advising you find another church, all within a couple days.  

Certainly, you haven't been the simple or ideal Christian family who fits the box (whatever that is), who is without any hint of flaws, warts, trials or baggage.  You have had far more than the average share.  Perhaps that is why some families don't have such problems - you apparently got theirs?

Now, lest I come across as yet another self-righteous, judgmental pastor, I can say that I relate to those two ministers.  Looking back in time, I too have avoided, neglected and evidently betrayed people.  The neglect came from trying many times to help but without any ounce of "success," so I gave up.  I admit ignoring a few people who so easily monopolized my life and tried so hard to manipulate me and my family.  Ignoring them was the simple but sinful way of handling them.  I have since learned my lesson.  The ones I have been accused of rejecting or betraying are those to whom I boldly spoke the truth (at least what I believed was truthful) and they took offense.  They've never tried to clarify what was said, never forgave me, and have never been willing to reconcile.  Very sad.  

From a pastor's viewpoint, I understand how easy it is to avoid people who are loaded down with trouble and trials.  It is so much easier not deal with other people's baggage.  I mean, some of them have baggage over the 50-pound limit.  Some of them have lots of heavy bags.  Lots and lots of bags. And I have enough of my own baggage.   So, I can relate to wanting a church filled with holy angels who neatly fit into my image of a perfect, peaceful, problem-free church.

However, the fact of the matter is those of us who are called to minister in the name of Jesus Christ are called to roll up our sleeves and get dirty.  Years ago, a pastor, who was a brilliant, earthy, former blue-collar worker, complained how too many of his fellow pastors never got dirty. No rough hands, tough skin, or dirt under their nails.  Of course, he was also speaking metaphorically.  He was right.  But that's the nature of pastoral work.

We ministers are called to get: 

  • into the trenches like soldiers (Phil 2:25; 2 Tim. 2:3-4),

  • down and dirty like farmers (2 Tim. 2:6),

  • tough and smelly like fishermen,

  • sore and exhausted like athletes (1 Cor. 9:24-25; Phil 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7-8; Heb. 12:1), and

  • humiliated and abused like servants (Matt. 20:27; Jn 10:11, 15; Luke 10:34, 35).

Those are biblical descriptions, and they run contrary to contemporary descriptions and models of ministers (CEOs, coaches, or university professors).  I'm afraid we have adopted worldly portraits and exchanged them for God's models all to the detriment and injury of God's people.

We are called to apply heavenly truth to life's dirty, earthy issues through the means of the good news of Christ.  As pastors, we are called to be gentle (2 Tim. 2:24-26), patient (1 Tim. 3:3), and marked by the fruit of God's Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24; Eph. 5:9), just like Christ.  Think about him - no doubt he was patient with his stubborn, ignorant, at times belligerent, messed up disciples.  He was pure and yet patient and gentle with the lowly scum of the world (the prostitutes, beggars, infirm, and handicapped).  He was kind with those who received so much from him but who were so ungrateful.  He was sympathetic and a great help to those in need.

Christ has redeemed, gifted, and called pastors to be servants to God's people.  Servants filled with the kind of humility that is not self-serving or rewarding (Luke 14:10; Rom. 12:1-3, 10, 16:  1 Cor. 10:31-33; Titus 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5), just like the Servant Jesus (Phil. 2:3).  And just like Jesus, we are called, gifted and empowered to practice and model true hospitality, which means to be lovers of strangers.  This goes above and beyond loving our neighbors as ourselves (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8, 9; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9).  Our calling is to genuinely love others, especially those of the household of faith (1 Cor. 13; Gal. 5:25; 1 Thess. 2:7-8).  Like it or not we must be gracious, merciful (Matt. 25; 1 Cor. 12:28) and proactively, unquestionably kind (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2:7).  What's more, God does not give us a choice about who it is with whom we are to be loving, merciful, and kind.

Jesus was lowly, meek and gentle.  All believers in Christ should also be lowly, meek and gentle, but particularly ministers.  As brought out in the book, The Perfect Pastor?,  

"Gentleness, a very important feature in a godly leader, is the quality of being gracious, kind, mild, patient and reasonable.  A gentle person is caring, considerate and has an ability to sympathize (Rom. 15:1; 1 Pet. 4:8).  The gentle one shows carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to unnecessarily offend (Gal. 6:1)" (p. 352).

In the book's Appendix F, which is a self-examination of godly character, the potential deacon, elder, pastor, and other church leaders are encouraged to test themselves.  One of the questions probes whether, "I reflect care, affection, and good-will toward others (2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2; Eph. 4:2)"  (p. 352)."  The implication from the Bible is that I do so, not only with those who have it all together, or who are apparently absent any challenges or "issues," or only when I feel like it (which admittedly is rare).  I or we are to reflect care, affection, and good-will toward others as gentle leaders - always!  Especially toward those who need it the most!

This is the very nature of the redemptive work of Christ.  He came to save sinners, not saints.  He came for the infirm, not the healthy; the poor, not the self-sustaining rich; the prodigal, not the pious.  His grace is extended to the chief of sinners, for grace abounds more where sin seems to flourish.  As ministers, we must never forget that.  But, dear friends, it appears that some ministers have indeed forgotten just that.

Certainly, when I reflect on what is required of me in character and action, I too fall far short.  However, these are the qualities of godliness and ministry this unique calling requires.  If I or any other person who has taken on the yoke of shepherd ministry, refuses to press toward these high and heavenly goals and refuses to practice them, then we need to step down and step away from the office called the pastorate.  May God daily spare me of my pride and keep me from falling into such pious worldliness.  May the Lord grant to such men the grace of repentance to change and become more like our Master who faithfully served us.

I am saddened your pastor was a jerk and sorry that you have had to endure men in the name of Christ but do not minister in the spirit of Christ.  Frankly, they have failed you.  Their actions, their sins, mostly of omission, say quite a bit about their character and philosophy of ministry.  But in this sense, be encouraged that God has used this "rejection" of you as a grace to spare you from their miserable orthopraxy, horrible hypocrisy, and intolerable misdeeds.  Lick your wounds, run to the Great Shepherd, and find a church where you can heal and ultimately, where you can help others who have suffered the same.

With affection;



What does it mean to "lord it over?"

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What Does It Mean to “Lord It Over”?  This is something heard in some Christian circles because the phrase is found in the Bible.  God's church leaders are not to lord it over God's people, which is another way of saying they must not abuse God's people.  Yet, genuine abuse of all kinds does happen in local churches.  Some abuse, like sexual abuse is done secretly.  Other abuse such as emotional, social, or even physical abuse happens under the guise of God's authority.  This is arrogant manipulation of the apostate sort.  However, it is too often tolerated.

At the same time, there are people in churches who have chosen to take offense at something the pastor(s), elder(s), deacon(s) or leaders have done who then accuse these leaders of abuse or lording it over them.  So, according to the Bible, what does it mean to "lord it over" or abuse others?

The following is from one of the appendices in my book, The Perfect Pastor? 

What does the Bible say about how church leaders govern?

Biblically, the jurisdiction of elders to rule or govern is shown by the following New Testament words:

  1. Exousia – a term that connotes delegated right and duty to exercise authority over something or someone. In the New Testament, the contexts refer to the authority that issues from the Head of the Church, King Jesus and is delegated to His ruling officers. It is an authority that is subject to Christ and His Law or Word.

        Some principles we can glean: 

a.     This delegated authority is the duty and right to think, decide, act and govern within the sphere of authority to which the officers are placed (session, presbytery, or general assembly). This delegated authority is the duty and right to make policies that determine the direction and emphases of Christ’s church that is in keeping with God’s revealed will. We have illustrations of this:

(1)  Jesus Christ (in Matt. 9:6-8; Mk. 6:39)

(2)  The Roman Centurion (Mt. 8:9)

b.     In a general sense, all believers are subject to all God-ordained rulers and authorities (Lk. 10:19; Rom. 13:1ff; Ti. 3:1-2; etc.)

c.     This leadership authority is given to officers for the purpose of building up, and not for tearing down (2 Cor. 13:10).

d.     This position is a stewardship from God Himself. Officers are answerable to the Lord for their faithfulness:

(1)  Officers are accountable to the Lord under the biblical authority God has assigned (local, regional or national church rule).

(2)  However, officers are not answerable to the people or congregation (1 Cor. 4:1-5; Ti. 1:7).

Note:  It is often asked, “What about the command for all believers to be subject to one another?” (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5). 

(a)   First, this subjection is to be done “in the fear of Christ” meaning that all are ultimately subject to Him, and all are to be subject in Him.

(b)  Secondly, Scripture never teaches that the sheep or congregation has authority. In fact, many passages, such as 1 Thess. 5:12 and Heb. 13:17, teach otherwise.

(c)   The subjection to one another is qualified by the context(s). It is a subjection under Christ, out of love, for the highest good and need of God’s people.  God’s sheep place themselves under the subjection of the God-ordained authorities of His Church, and God’s officers are subject to the Lord, and demonstrate subjection to Him by loving and serving His people.

e.     Scripture defines for us the manner in which this authority is to be exercised:

(1)  From a motivation of love (John 21:16).

(a)   making appeals from love for Christ’s sake (Philemon 8-9).

(b)  with compassion for distressed sheep (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34; Jas. 5:14).

(c)   sacrificially, willingness to lay down their lives for the sheep (John 10:11,15)

(2)  With a servant’s heart (Matt. 20:25; Lk 22:26).

(3)  With a watchful care for the flock (1 Tim. 3:5; Heb. 13:17).

(4)  Voluntarily as shepherds (1 Pet. 5:2).

(5)  Examples as shepherds (1 Pet. 5:3).

(6)  Guarding themselves and the church (Acts 20:28).

f.      Scripture also informs us how officers are not to be characterized:

(1)  Having uncontrolled home (1 Tim. 3:4,5,12).

(2)  Desertion of the office and/or church in times of distress (Jn. 10:12).

(3)  Not to serve under compulsion or greed (1 Pet. 5:2ff).

(4)  Not abusively, ‘lording it over the sheep.’ (Matt. 20:25; Mk 10:42; Lk. 22:25f; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 Pet. 5:3)  (for more, see below).

2. Hegeomai – a term that means to “lead” or “guide.”

a.       Of a political ruler (Mt. 2:6; Acts 7:10)

b.      As chief speaker (Acts 14:12)

c.       As church leaders (Heb. 13:7,17,24)

3. Proistemi:  literally, “to stand before” as a leader stands before the people.

a.     To have a charge over (1 Thess. 5:12).

b.     To lead (Rom. 12:8).

c.     To manage (1 Tim. 3:4,5,12).

d.     To rule (1 Tim. 5:17).

What does it mean to lord it over people?

  1. What it does not mean:

a.     It does NOT mean that God’s officers should not reprove and rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2).

b.     It does NOT mean that God’s officers should never at times reprove or rebuke severely (Ti. 1:13; 2:15).

c.     It does NOT mean that God’s officers should not ‘come with a rod” when it is appropriate (1 Cor. 4:21).

    2.  What it does mean:

a.     Abuse – (from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language)

(1)    To use ill; to maltreat, to misuse; to use with bad motives or to wrong purposes

(2)    To violate; to defile by improper sexual  intercourse.

(3)    To deceive; to impose on.

(4)    To treat rudely, or with reproachful language; to revile.

(5)    To pervert the meaning of; to misapply; as to abuse words.

b.     “Lord it over” is translated “subdue” in Acts 19:16.

c.     Two verses that demonstrate the abuse of authority are

(1)  Matt. 20:25

(2)  Luke 22:25

d.     Therefore, to “lord it over” means:

(1)  The excessive or coercive use of authority for unbiblical, sinful, and/or self-serving purposes rather than for the glory of God and the edification and loving welfare of God’s people.

(2)  Hence, officers of God’s Church are not to “lord it over” His sheep by ruling abusively or coercively (1 Pet. 5:3). The abuse of authority happens when leadership steps beyond the boundaries defined by the Word of God.

Therefore, some questions to consider:

  1. Have the elders acted in any way that has clearly violated Scripture?

  2. Has the Session developed policies that are out of sync with their delegated authority to determine the direction and emphases of the local church according to Scripture?

  3. Have the policies or actions of Session built up or torn down the church (2 Cor. 13:10)?

  4. Is there anything session has said or done that demonstrates or proves they have NOT acted

a.     From a motivation of love for the sheep (John 21:16)?

b.     With compassion for distressed sheep (Matt. 9;36; Mk. 6:34; Jas. 5:14)?

c.     Sacrificially (John 10:11,15)?

d.     With a servant’s heart (Matt. 20:25; Lk 22:26)?

e.     With a watchful care for the flock (1 Tim. 3:5; Heb. 13:17)?

f.      Voluntarily as shepherds (not under compulsion or greed) (1 Pet. 5;2)?

g.     By guarding themselves and the church (Acts 20:28)?

     5. Have the elders led or guided the church down the wrong path doctrinally or behaviorally             (sinned)?

     6. Have they failed or abused their role by having a charge over, leading, managing or ruling?

     7. Have the elders sinfully mistreated or subdued any member or members of the church?

     8. Has there been any excessive or coercive use of authority for unbiblical, sinful, and/or self-         serving purposes rather than for the glory of God, and the edification and loving welfare of           God’s people?

     9. Can any of these questions be factually, truthfully, and Scripturally demonstrated by two or        more witnesses?

When should a charge be brought against an elder, elders, or pastor?

1.   When it can be proven that his actions demonstrate the above definition and description, and such sin is injurious to the body of Christ. It is injurious when it is disruptive and destroys the church’s testimony.

2.   What are the some of the sins that necessitate church discipline?

      a.  Unresolved problems between members of the church (Matt. 18:15-17)

      b.   Disorderly and undisciplined conduct (2 Thess. 3:6-11)

      c.   Divisiveness (Rom. 16:17-18; Ti. 3:9-11)

      d.   Obvious and persistent patterns of sin (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim 5:20)


This an edited and revised study taken primarily from an unpublished booklet by Dr. George E. Meisinger, The Local Church and Its Leadership. (self-published) 1981.

The Minister's Priorities

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What are the minister's priorities according to the Bible?  The following is a study on the subject.

The Minister’s Priorities (a study)

Questions for you to consider:

  • What kinds of things do your elders expect the pastor to do?

  • What kinds of things do church members expect their pastor to do?

  • What are the priorities of your life that God expects of the pastor?

  • How do you, pastor, prioritize your God-given duties with people’s expectations for what you should do?

  • How do you, pastor, handle the conflict that comes when you are fulfilling biblical priorities but not people’s personal expectations?

Listed in order of priority, the minister is responsible to God first, secondly to himself and finally to others.  All too often members of a church reverse the order, only to the detriment of their personal and corporate well-being in Christ.

The pastor is responsible to serve the Lord first.

1.  The Christian pastor must possess and exercise a saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (1 Thess. 1:9;  Heb. 9:11-14).

2.  The minister’s first priority is to serve the Lord first and foremost before he serves people. (Acts 20:19; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4; Eph. 6:6-7; Col. 3:22-24).  He serves God’s people by serving and answering to the Lord first and doing so for the glory of God (Deut. 10:12; Josh. 24:14, 15; 1 Cor. 10:31; 15:58; Eph. 6:7; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

a.  This was clearly the pattern of God’s true prophets, priests, and kings (1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 12:8; 34:33).

b.  This was also the pattern of Jesus Christ who always did His Father’s will (Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8; John 8:26-28)

c.  This was the pattern of the Apostles (Acts 4:5-21; 27:23; 1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:23; 1 Thess. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Heb. 12:28).

3. The minister is to live for Christ

a.  He must never to be ashamed of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 1:8-11; 2:11-13).

b.  His focus is to always be upon Christ (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21; 2 Tim 2:8-13).

c.  He should expect to suffer for Christ (Lk. 21:19; 2 Tim. 2:3-7; 3:10-12).

The pastor is responsible to keep his life right in relationship to the Lord.

1.  All believers are called upon to keep their lives right before God (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:16; Gal. 5:17-25; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:1-12; 2 Tim. 2:19-21; 2 Pet. 3:1-11).  They are to be faithful stewards of Christ and are accountable to Him through a biblically balanced life (1 Cor. 4:1-2; 9:17; Col. 1:25f).

2.  This is all the more true for pastors, as well as for elders and deacons.  The admonition to Timothy is applicable to those who take on the yoke of ministry, that the pastor or elder must guard and maintain his life, piety and gifts (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:14-16; 2 Tim. 2:19-21) so that he might have the proper capacity to serve others through Christ (2 Tim. 2:1, 6, 15; 3:16-17).  Further, he should practice and devote himself to godliness in Christ so that others will see progress in his walk (1 Tim. 4:15).  This is what Thomas Murphy means when he says that “The conversion of souls and the prosperity of the Church depend on the degree of the pastor’s piety” (Murphy, 1996, p. 47).

The purpose of taking care of his life in Christ is not for self-actualization or other self-serving goals but rather so that he may be of greater service to others. While this might seem odd, a properly oriented life that is saturated with God through Christ is a far better blessing to others.  This is because the greater, more expansive capacity one has for God the greater his capacity for a fruitful ministry.

Jesus is a model of one who, though sinless, maintained and nurtured his relationship with the Father, to understand God’s will and to be strengthened from on high in order to accomplish all that God set for him to do.  He always made it a priority to spend time with the Father before serving others.


What do you think of the statement: “The purpose of taking care of his life in Christ is…so that he may be of greater service to others. This is because the greater, more expansive capacity one has for God the greater his capacity for a fruitful ministry”?What do you say to someone when they say that serving him or her is serving the Lord?

3.  The pastor is called to train and discipline himself for godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-11) so as to become more and more like Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Tim. 4:14-16; 6:11; Ti. 2:12; 2 Pet. 1:4).  After all, the minister is to “incarnate” and model the life of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:18; 1 Thess. 2:10-12; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3).  This is very profitable for him and for others (1 Tim. 6:6).  At a minimum, this would include the nurture and improvement of the godly character required of him according to 1 Timothy 3:1-9 and Titus 1:5-9.  Yet he should also cultivate and strengthen other qualities God desires of him as Christ’s under-shepherd such as, but not limited to:

a.  Humility (Acts 20:19; 1 Cor. 10:12).

b.  Being free of or fleeing from the love of money (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:7-11)

c.   Being a vessel of honor that is set apart from sin (2 Tim. 2:20-21)

(1) Actively pursuing biblical righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11).

(2)  Fleeing youthful lusts, pursuing righteousness, faith, love (2 Tim 2:22).

d.  Fearing no one or nothing except God (Deut. 10:12; Eccles. 12:13; Psa. 118:6; Isa. 12:2; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:17).

e.  Being sober-minded about everything (2 Tim. 4:5).

f.   Maintaining a clear conscience before the Lord (2 Cor. 11:31).



What does your church do to foster and encourage their pastor to grow in Christ and godliness?Minister, which of the above items is the easiest for you to get a handle on?Which of the above is the hardest to train yourself in?


4.  He is to put to use the good gift(s) God has placed upon him.  In fact, he is called upon to fan the flame or rekindle the gift(s) of God in his life (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).   How do you handle it when people expect you to minister as if you had a special gift(s) they want, but you have not been given?

5.  The pastor or elder is to saturate his life with and properly handle God’s Word (1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-16).

a. Always growing in grace and truth (2 Pet. 3:18).

b. Holding fast to and be nourished by the Word of God (1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:14-17; Ti. 1:9).

c. Rightly handling God’s Word so as to be approved (2 Tim. 2:15).

d.  Contending for the truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 1:18-19).

e.  Guarding the truth (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:12-14).

6.  He should bear fruit (Jn. 15:8; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 2:8-10; Col. 1:10; Ti. 2:7; 3:8, 14).

7.  He is to take care of his physical life (1 Tim 5:23).

8. He should not be concerned about the judgments of others (1 Cor. 4:1-5), neither should he compare himself with others (1 Cor. 3; 2 Cor. 10:12-16).  At the same time, he should defend a biblical and righteous ministry in the cause of Christ against false accusations (1 Cor. 1:6-23; 2:4, 17; 3:6, 12; 4:1-8; 5:14, 21; 1 Tim. 4:12).

Challenge for the minister:

What do you do with judgmental criticism or condemnation from:

a church member?

an elder?

a power player in the church?


9.  He must keep his family life in order (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Ti. 1:6).

10.  Finally, the minister and others must understand that his life and ministry is a living sacrifice to God (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6; 2 Sam. 24:24; Acts 20:24; 21:13; Phil. 3:7-8).

It is not even your own estimate of your service that is important.  Feeling good about your ministry may have some limited utility somewhere, but surely it has no ultimate significance. You may think more highly of your service than God does.  But if you are constantly trying to please yourself, to make self-esteem your ultimate goal, then you are forgetting whose servant you are, whom you must strive to please.  So Paul candidly writes, “I do not even judge myself” (4:3). He does not mean that there is no place in his life for self-examination or self-discipline; his own writings contradict any such interpretation (e.g. 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 13:5).  What he means is that his own judging of himself cannot possibly have ultimate significance.  As he puts it, 'My conscience is clear.' (4:4)

- D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry; p. 97


After serving God and attending to his life in Christ the pastor or elder then serves others, particularly God’s people.

[1] This chapter is taken from D. Thomas Owsley, The Perfect Pastor?  pp. 369-371

The Perfect Pastor?
By D. Thomas Owsley

The Pastor is First a Servant

The Pastor is First a Servant

“Servant,” and not “pastor” is the most important and prominent, biblical term for any Christian believer in church leadership!  Surprising?  It was to me.  Like most church people I had accepted the common belief that a lead elder in the local church, is properly called “pastor” because the idea of pastor (or shepherd) is the key to understanding the role and title of that church office. Yet, it is not.