1. The Role of the Congregation
2. What is the Congregation
3. Responsibility of the Congregation. Hebrews 13:17
4. An Electronic Pastor?
5. Expression of Spiritual Gifts
6. Choosing a New Pastor
1. The Role of the Congregation
The congregation, likewise, has an important role in the local Church. After all, the Church exists to lead each member of the congregation to spiritual maturity. Spiritual growth provides the believer with the spiritual skills, namely the filling of the Spirit, to understood and believe doctrine circulating in the stream of consciousness, and the function of ten problem solving devices in their souls resulting in capacity, to fulfill their role in the angelic conflict. Each individual has a role in the angelic conflict which involves the accomplishment of his or her tactical victory. So also, does each local congregation have a role, an argument to Satan in the prehistoric Angelic Conflict. So the Church is for the congregation’s benefit as each member of the congregation seeks to fulfill the role to which God has delegated them. When the believer fulfills God’s plan for them, that believer glorifies God.
2. What is the Congregation
Just what constitutes a congregation of a local Church? A congregation is a group of believers, two or more, who gather together to hear the teaching of the Word of God from a specific pastor teacher. Generally, a congregation of believers is centered around a single pastor who is teaching the word of God accurately. The individuals become a part of a given congregation by accepting the spiritual authority of the man behind the pulpit. As I mentioned in our study of the pastor, he has no authority over those who do not accept his teaching as edifying to them. So what differentiates one congregation from another is their acceptance of a given pastor’s spiritual authority. Don’t accept a pastor’s spiritual authority over you unless he teaches the Word accurately and systematically, enabling you to grow up spiritually. Your spiritual growth is the key. You, as members of the congregation are responsible to the Lord for spiritual growth.
3. Responsibility of the Congregation. Hebrews 13:17
Now, why all this emphasis upon spiritual growth? As I mentioned earlier, you, as both individuals and collectively, as a congregation, have a role to play, a mission to accomplish in the angelic conflict. You cannot fulfill this without progressing from spiritual childhood, to spiritual adulthood, through the various tests and finally reaching spiritual maturity. And since our subject is the local Church, I need to mention the point that God cannot use us as a local congregation to the degree that He has planned without us becoming a congregation of mature believers! What God has in store for us, I cannot say, any more than I can tell you what categories of prosperity God has in store for each of you as you mature either. But I know that God has prepared wonderful things for those that love Him, so has He has prepared wonderful things for the maturing congregation. So, the central issue to each member of the congregation is his or her responsibility to the Lord for his or her own spiritual growth. Let me reiterate that point: the congregation is not responsible to the pastor for spiritual growth, only to the Lord. However, there is a caveat to this responsibility delineated in Hebrews 13:17.
ü Obey the ones leading you and be willing to do what they say. For their work is to watch over your souls, and God will judge them on how well they do this. Give them reason to report joyfully about you to the Lord and not with sorrow, for then you will suffer for it too. Hebrews 13:17 (TLB)
Let’s take a closer look at this verse. This is one that made Chrysostum shake in his boots. He was one of early Church Fathers who served as bishop in the 4th century Constantinople. He was deeply struck with these words, as he tells us [On the Priesthood, 6], “The fear of this threat continually agitates my soul.”
“Obey” is the present passive imperative of PEITHO. Peitho, in the present active indicative means “to persuade” or “to have confidence.” In the passive voice and imperative mood, it takes on the meaning: “to be convinced,” “to be persuaded” or “to believe.” When you add a dative of a person as a direct object, as it is here, then it really takes on a strong imperative mood, as in a command, a mandate: “Obey!” This is obviously a divine mandate. When our Lord mandates us for something, you can be sure that first: it is for you benefit and secondly: God has provided everything you need to fulfill it. Your spiritual growth depends upon following this mandate.
Whom are you to obey? The next phrase explains that: TOIS is a demonstrative pronoun meaning, “who.” The verb ἡγουμένοις HEGOUMENOIS, the present, passive participle, dative, masculine, plural from HEGEOMIA follows. It means, “to lead”. This is that dative of person which combines with PEITHO which gives us that translation of “obey.” It is a substantival participle, meaning that it is a participle that takes on the form and function of a noun: “ones who are leading you.” This is in the plural because over your lifetime, you will most likely have more than one pastor. Those to whom Paul is writing here, most likely the Jews in Jerusalem, who are under James or Peter, will also be under the authority of other pastors. The context here, as we will see in a few minutes is spiritual leadership: the leadership of your pastor-teacher. The spiritual gift of pastor-teacher also includes Holy Spirit given leadership, as does the gift of deacon which we have just discussed. So, by the context of this verse, we can say dogmatically, that the “ones leading you” here are your spiritual leaders, your pastor-teachers. One pastor-teacher at a time, of course.
The next word is HUMON, a pronoun, genitive, 2nd person, plural meaning,“you” which is a genitive of direct object.
Paul continues with the present active imperative of HUPEKO, an old compound verb meaning “to yield under,” “to submit to one’s authority,” and “to be subject to.” This is the only place this word is used in the New Testament. Why did Paul repeat himself here: first “obey” then “obey” again, using a different word? To submit to one’s authority is tantamount to obeying that person! Note, again, that this is an old word, used by Homer, 5th century BC. So this is classical Greek! Paul is waxing poetic, using an old, old word. He’s being oratorical, being really smooth, so that his listener-readers sit up and take note! It’s a way of underlining and emphasizing what he is saying: “Obey!…No, really! Doeth what they saith!” Again, Paul is really emphasizing the fact that every believer has volition, has freedom of choice.
Now, this brings up an issue herel. Again, I’m harping on that issue of just who one’s right pastor is. Did the Berean believers call Timothy, check out his teaching, then hire him? Did the Philippian believers check out Epaphrodites’s teaching then call him to be their pastor? No, Paul sent pastors to Churches, then told the congregations to listen to their teaching and obey (in classical language no less) the doctrines they were teaching! Now, we live in Church culture that, for the most, uses the congregational form of government: that is, the congregation chooses it’s pastor. I’m really not too sure just how Biblical that is. Obviously, we don’t have wise apostles sending out pastors these days, since the Pre-Canon period of the Church Age is over. Nor are we given guide lines as to what form of Church government we should operate under. We just know that a pastor is not to be a dictator and that the congregation are sheep. Since when do a flock of sheep possess the wisdom to choose a shepherd?! A congregation, especially the board of deacons (most likely mature, whereas the congregation will vary widely in maturity) needs to be so aware of God’s leadership in this area.
The norm and standard for selecting a pastor, whether it be a congregational matter, or an individual matter, is not a matter of personality or whether or not if he wears cowboy boots! (a possible issue if you’re a cowboy!). The issue is: is he teaching accurate doctrine? Is he locally available? If there is no local pastor teaching doctrine, then sure, get on tapes or what not. But if there is enough positive volition is a given area, God will provide a pastor teaching accurately! God will do that! Support the pastor God provides. Obey the correct and accurate doctrine he is teaching. The dynamics of your local Church depend upon your positive volition, your maturity, your spiritual gift functioning! The community around that local Church needs a mature local Church from which to receive outreach and a true demonstration of virtue love that God has mandated us to. We are ambassadors for Christ! How else can the world understand the tremendous virtue love that our Lord expressed upon the Cross when He died substitutionarily for each one of us, unless His living organism, the local Church, doesn’t live it, fulfilling the Church’s ambassadorial charge!
The issue here is submission to the authority of the pastor God provides for you, grow up spiritually and see how God can use you and your local Church! God has designed the local Church to be the framework for the expression of your spiritual gifts. Now, I am getting off of my topic now, we will talk about spiritual gifts another time! So, we’ll translate that “submit!” in keeping with Paul’s use of the classical Greek.
The next word in the Greek is AUTOS, used in a reflexive sense, emphasizing the subject of the next phrase. In the English, the next word is “for,” which is the post positive conjunction, GAR. AUTOS is translated, “themselves,” as means to emphasizing and referring back to leaders. And now the verb which characterizes those leaders: AGRUPNEO, which is the present, active,indicative, 3rd person, plural meaning, sleeplessness, wakeful, taking care of, keeping zealous watch over, implying continuous and wakeful concern over those over whom he has spiritual charge. This word is also used of every believer’s alertness regarding the resurrection of the Church, watchfulness for our joining the Lord. The nextphrase is HUPER TON PSUCHE HUMON, literally, “concerning the soul of you,” or better, “concerning your soul.” We mentioned this factor when we talked about the pastor’s responsibilities for you. One of those was your protection. I need to be concerned that you are receiving the right doctrine, I need to be aware of any false doctrine you may be receiving and correct it. I also need to be aware of any false notion any member of this congregation is operating under.
That last concern is why I am spending so much time on this doctrine of the local Church. One application of vigilance is to ensure that the I teach the doctrines that you need to hear. We developed this in some detail in the section about the pastor. Again, only a local pastor can do this. So the pastor has responsibilities: to build you up in knowledge, faith, and holiness, to watch against every thing that may be hurtful to your souls, and to give you warning of dangerous errors, of the devices of Satan, of approaching judgments; and to watch for all opportunities of helping you toward your spiritual growth. I am responsible for the spiritual development of your souls. That is why I am here. How do I fulfill that responsibility? Preparing messages, doctrinally accurate messages which must be systematically taught. I need to teach you as often as you will listen. That is my responsibility. That fact always raises a question in my mind: How much is enough. How much doctrine do you need to garner from this pulpit to mature. Like Crysostum, that question grieves me as well!
Now, the next phrase: “since they will give an account.” The word “account” is LOGOS, literally, translated, “word” refering to a report or an account. The next word is the future active participle of APODIDOMI, meaning “to give.” The context of this verse clearly implies that this account or report goes to God and the contents of that report deal with the relationship of the pastor to his congregation, that is regarding his service or ministry toward his congregation. I assume that this report is made at the evaluation seat of our Lord, after the Church is resurrected. A good translation is: “Since they will give an account.”
I will be asked about you and how well I have provided for you spiritually. Have I discharged my duty, and what has become of the souls committed to my trust. Have I neglected you and so on… So this verse clearly states, that I, as your pastor have a great responsibility to the Lord in providing adequately for your spiritual growth. And I need to do that aggressively! Am I giving you teaching from which to grow? Am I teaching accurately, systematically and with enough frequency? On the frequency issue, I have certainly had some issues. Ideally, I’d love to be teaching you with more frequency, but it just hasn’t worked out that way. But I do have a second best solution. I will provide you with the manuscript from which I teach the lessons. This will be unpublishable because I haven’t annotated them or given credit for quotes which are in them. Nor are they actual quotes of what I have said from the pulpit. These are more like, what I had planned to say! I think the combination of the audio, DVD and written lessons will help you fill in where we are unable to fit more live lessons in. I would also encourage you to read at least a chapter of your Bible daily, if not more, if you don’t already do so. Any questions you have, you may certainly e-mail me.
Now, this report also deals with your response to what I teach. Let’s assume for a second that I am fulfilling my responsibility to the Lord regarding your spiritual growth, that I am providing the needed spiritual leadership to both the board of deacons and to the congregation at large. This verse indicates that there are two options for how I give this report: “That with joy they can make (this report) and not with a groan or a sigh,” I can give this report with great joy or I can give it with a groan! The verse further indicates that if I have to give this report with a groan, that there is no profit for you, as a congregation, if I do. Being a fellow more interested in joy than groaning, let’s explore that first: Obviously, if I see that you are growing (I can’t get into your head, but I can be fairly aware of your priorities!) When I see that your priorities are focused upon this local Church, and the doctrine provided from this pulpit, I am over-joyed. I get excited to see this Church pull together, seeing every one pulling for everyone else’s spiritual growth, as always, keeping within the boundaries of priesthood privacy issues, using spiritual gifts, fulfilling their role, as the Lord leads them to.
Regarding your priorities, let me be very clear: (now, I can’t take credit for this elucidation: it came from my pastor, Bob Thieme!) Whatever is your first priority in life, that is what you will schedule your life around! If it is recreation, then you will schedule your life around that and squeeze in doctrine whenever you can. You cannot grow with haphazard doctrinal intake! Superbowl Sunday probably isn’t the best day to be teaching this, but for those whose life revolves around the pigskin to be here while that game is going on really indicates your priority: Bible doctrine! This I will report with joy! We all schedule our lives around certain things: our work, our school, and so on. These things can’t be avoided, obviously. Just remember that your capacity for these things come from your spiritual growth…not to mention that you will take your spiritual growth with you when you go face to face with the Lord! As to the groan, if I see that you are not getting it, not responding, it means that you are not growing up spiritually and that would indeed be a disaster to your spiritual life.
The congregation needs to bring respect to its own position in the Church, (attend class), to the office of pastor teacher (submit), to the position of deacon (respond to their leadership and be responsible to carry out your area of gifting) and to others who are responsible for Church administration (if you say you are going to do something, please do it.). One way the congregation brings respect to these and to the mission of the Church is by attendance to Bible class. Paul taught that we each should not forsake the gathering together with all the saints. Without this assembly, the congregation will not grow up spiritually…this should be the ultimate goal, the first priority in the life, of each individual.
4. An Electronic Pastor?
Granted, in this age of electronic communications, other options are available for one’s doctrinal intake. But note, that this is only one mission of the local Church. We also, by this assembly, demonstrate to both the community at large, and to our progeny, the importance of that function! This gathering together for systematic teaching is the means of spiritual growth and therefore, should be our first priority in life. God has ordained only the local Church as the place for doctrinal inculcation. Now, I have mentioned that the dynamics of the relationship between local pastor and local congregation are absolutely mind boggling. I have mentioned one result of the give and take above!
5. Expression of Spiritual Gifts
Another important role of the congregation and opportunity for individuals of the local Church is the expression of spiritual gifts. A local Church whose primary purpose is the spiritual growth of its congregation should experience the benefits of such spiritual growth: the use of spiritual gifts. Even in a congregation of this size, opportunities abound: teaching children for one. This is often one which people shy away from because of the nature of the obligation. It does take time to prepare and it can be difficult to get in front of a group of people, even kids. But, there is no greater way of cycling doctrine through your thinking than through teaching it. It accelerates your spiritual growth. You will find deficits in your understanding and be challenged to fill those gaps by teaching! I would encourage each member of this congregation to teach the children from time to time. Teaching our children is an incredible responsibility and a great privilege as well. An incredible responsibility and privilege we as a local congregation have is corporate prayer: a weekly prayer meeting. Well, you get the idea. Where, and in what capacity can I serve, you may ask? Talk to one of the deacons! They often understand the day to day needs of the Church better than I!
6. Choosing a New Pastor
Now, there comes a time in the life of every local Church when the pastor must be replaced. Pastors retire, pass away to be with the Lord or go on to other congregations. It is the responsibility of the congregation, applying the doctrine each believer has been taught, to replace that pastor. Remember that it is God who provides you with a pastor! Some important principles apply here: first: make sure that the procedure used to replace a pastor is Biblical. Approach to process with prayer, virtue and integrity learned from the previous pastor. This is no time to go into reversionism! Secondly: in choosing the next pastor, make sure that the pastor teaches the Word of God accurately and consistently. His responsibility to each member of the congregation is to provide steady, accurate and consistent teaching of the Word. A pastor provides leadership to the local congregation in this manner. Once a congregation has chosen a pastor, it has the responsibility to support the new pastor prayerfully, and to the degree possible, monetarily. Both areas of support undergird the pastor’s ability to study and teach, giving the congregation the opportunity to grow spiritually. Now, of course, if a given congregation wants to send a pastor packing, well, there are two ways of doing this: a formal vote of no confidence or an informal vote of no confidence. An informal vote of no confidence is not to attend! In doing this you, as a congregation are voting, albeit informally, a vote of no confidence!
So in conclusion: let me say this: The Church is our Lords chosen organism in this dispensation for the delegation of His power: Power of the Spirit, and Power of the Word. It is an incredible gift of power that we have each been given. A local Church though, cannot function to it’s fullest without both the two categories of divine power along with the positive volition of every member of the congregation and one more thing: the proper function of every component of the local Church. A Church cannot fulfill it’s potential dynamics with out all of these areas functioning properly. Paul wrote this describing what God has prepared for the mature believer:
ü Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
What has He in store for the fully functioning Church?