Is “He” A Pastor or Bishop? Question on Church Leadership

The leadership construct in the Old Testament (OT) is obviously unlike that of the New Testament (NT). And both differ from our contemporary understanding of leadership in the church. The OT leadership was mostly on absolutes, whiles the NT model appears more subjective. Check the difference:

OT Leadership
Kingship (dynastic)
Priesthood (Levitical succession)
Prophets (School of prophets or special call)
Sages (Family heads and prominent persons)

NT Leadership

The NT mode of leadership flows from Christ and His Holy Spirit. “And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4: 11-12). These are by divine distribution.

The Exception And the Problem

Exceptionally came the office épiscopēs (episcopate) held by the episkopos (bishop) in 1 Tim. 3: 1-3. The office of the bishop does not appear to be a direct “divine call”. Neither is it based on the charisma of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastoring and teaching (Eph. 4: 11). Persons with good moral standards and who qualify in the Pauline list can aspire [ὀρέγεται]. There is, however, one trait of spiritual gift in conjunction, and that is: “able to teach [διδακτικόν]” (1 Tim. 3: 2; 2 Tim. 2: 24). Paul’s list are mostly on ethical and moral wellness. The model we have here in 1 Tim. 3 parallels Acts 6.

Beginning from the 2nd centuries, the bishop became an important figure in the church and later led to the establishment of the holy apostolic see (Papacy). Writing in the second century, Ignatius of Antioch constructed a hierarchy of leadership as descending from God, Jesus Christ, apostles, bishops, presbyters and finally deacons. He wrote: “[T]he bishop [ἐπίσκοπος] presiding after the likeness of God and the presbyters after the likeness of the council of the Apostles, with the deacons also who are most dear to me, having been entrusted with the diaconate of Jesus Christ.”1 Ignatius made a sharp remark somewhere that “In like manner let all men respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, even as they should respect the bishop as being a type of the Father and the presbyters as the council of God and as the college of Apostles. Apart from these there is not even the name of a church.”2 This manner of leadership is the basis of the Catholic papacy and in disguised forms in many churches.

Conclusion

Which ones are we practicing in the church today? The charisma or the episcopate? Or both? I have always considered the pastoral office as a divine call manifested in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I also see the pastor as a bishop since his authority does not come from God alone but also from the church he is ordained to serve. So what should be our approach to test the called and the uncalled? I think this has nothing to do with gender. It’s all about the gifts! The church’s role is to confirm the gifts through ordination to allow the individual to serve, unless the leadership model is far the contrary.

  1. Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, 6:1; 7:1; 13:2. Emphasis are mine.  
  2. Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, 3:1. Emphasis are mine.  
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Pastor/PhD Student
I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor designate for the Adventist Fellowship Geneva in Switzerland, and studying for a PhD at the University of Geneva.
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

@owusugyamficlif

@adventist theologian @adventistpastor Wisdom is not gained from a big head. It's from a big God. He's the ultimate source of all realities.
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Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi