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Monday, July 9, 2012

On Pastors and Churches – A Word from John Owen

When our oldest daughter was about three, she said she was going to preach a sermon.  No, I don’t believe Scripture allows for women preachers, but she was only three and we were all alone at the church.  So she stepped up to the front, opened her Toddler Bible and said, “God loves you very much and you should do what God says.”  Not a bad summary.  Sometimes, simple is better. If we would just do that, we’d all be better off, wouldn’t we?

Recently I re-discovered a work by John Owen called Introduction to the Worship of God.  Published in 1667, it’s written in the form of a catechism and focuses on the makeup and operation of a Christian Church.  In there, I found a similarly helpful summary of things that we’d all be better off if we’d just follow.

Our Sunday School class, in our ongoing study of 2 Corinthians, has been looking off and on at the relationship between a pastor and his church.  What are the responsibilities of one to the other?  There are obviously hundreds of books that have been written addressing that issue in one way or another, but I’ve found these two questions from Owen and their answers to be a very helpful summary.

Question 27 — What are the principal duties of the pastors or teachers of the church?

Answer — (1)To be examples unto the flock in faith, love, knowledge, meekness, patience, readiness to suffer for the name and gospel of Christ, with constancy therein; (2)to watch for the souls and take care of all the spiritual concernments of the whole flock committed to them; (3)to preach the word diligently, dividing it aright; (4)to preserve and contend for the truth; (5)to administer all the ordinances of the gospel duly and orderly; (6)to stir up and exercise the gifts they have received in the discharge of their whole work and administration of all ordinances; (7)to instruct, admonish, cherish, and comfort all the members of the church, as their conditions, occasions, and necessities do require; (8)to attend with diligence, skill, and wisdom unto the discharge of that authority which in the rule of the church is committed unto them.

(1) 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 4:12; 2 Tim. 2:3; Col. 1:24; Phil. 2:17, 3:17. (2) Heb. 13:17; Acts 20:28. (3) 2 Tim. 2:15, 4:2; Rom. 12:6-8. (4) 1 Tim. 6:20; Acts 20:28; Jude 3. (5) 1 Cor. 4:1, 2; 1 Tim. 3:15. (6) 1 Tim. 4:14-16. (7) Acts 20:18-20, 25, 27; 1 Thess. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25. (8) Rom. 12:7, 8; 1 Tim. 5:17.

Question 29 — What is the duty of the church towards their elders, pastors, or teachers?

Answer — (1)To have them in reverence and honour for their office and work’s sake; (2)to obey them conscientiously in all things wherein they speak unto them in the name of the Lord; (3)to pray earnestly for them, that they may, and to exhort them, if need require, to fulfill the work of the ministry; (4)to communicate unto them of their temporals, for their comfortable subsistence in the world and usefulness unto others; (5)wisely to order things by their direction, so as that they may be amongst them without fear; (6)to abide with and stand by them in their sufferings for the gospel, and service of Christ among them.

 (1) 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; 1 Tim. 5:17. (2) Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 16:16. (3) Eph. 6:18, 19; Col. 4:3; 2 Thess. 3:1; Col. 4:17. (4) Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:14. (5) 1 Cor. 16:10. (6) 2 Tim. 1:16-18, 4:16.

If pastors would focus on faithfully fulfilling those first eight things, and if churches would do their best to fulfill the six things listed for them, the church would be a much better place.  God loves you very much and you should do what God says.  Sometimes the simply summaries should suffice. 

I don’t have much control over how people will respond, but I for one am going to resolve to do my best, by God’s grace and power, to hold up my end of the bargain.  Who’s with me?

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