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Summary: Elders (Overseers) are appointed by God. They are not hired to do a job; they are appointed to serve the One who appoints and to serve His holy people.

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“I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher.” [1]

His face was red and his eyes were narrow slits as he raged, “We hired you, and we can fire you.” I was equally determined as I asserted with a firm, steady voice, “No one hired me; God appointed me.” Ignoring my assertion, the enraged man informed me that he was the “Chairman of the Church.” He continued his tirade, loudly proclaiming that what he wanted, he got; what he didn’t want wouldn’t happen. Tragically, this incident was not exceptional in modern church life; such despicable despots are not an anomaly among the churches of this day. Petty tyrants on a power trip are distressingly common among the churches of our Lord.

I caution the people of God, the Holy One is quite capable of guiding His holy people without the intervention or oversight of any individual. He managed to direct the people of Israel through the wilderness for forty years and He is well able to oversee the advance of any congregation in this day. Shockingly, professed leaders among the faithful seem often to fall into the trap of imagining that God is dependent upon them—as though without their expertise or without their firm hand holding the tiller the church will soon cease to exist. Yet, no individual is indispensable for the spiritual progress of a congregation. In fact, it is fair to say that if a congregation is guided by such an individual, or even by a group of such individuals, that congregation has ceased moving forward and has either begun to regress or it awaits the final pronouncement of “hic jacet.” Employing a biblical argot, it is likely that the Head of the Church has already inscribed “Ichabod” above the door of that particular congregation.

If I should begin to act in a domineering, autocratic manner, or should the congregation begin to permit any individual or group of individuals to act in an authoritarian, overbearing fashion, the advance of this congregation will be halted and the work will suffer. The Spirit of Christ dwells among His people. What else can Paul’s cautionary word mean when he writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” [1 CORINTHIANS 3:16, 17]. If anyone should begin to act presumptuously with the congregation of the faithful, they are presuming against God Himself. And just as God removed Ananias and Sapphira, so He will hold such individuals accountable even now.

That brings us to the message for this day. Paul asserts that he was appointed and not hired. His service was offered up as though fulfilling the appointment he had received. With this brief statement, the Apostle compels all who read his words to grapple with the manner in which God directs His church. Understanding the work of God is vital for a healthy church.

HIRING A PREACHER — The contemporary church model consists of members and adherents ruled by an elected board. The model is an ecclesiastical adaptation of modern democratic political life. The elected board searches out staff, including a preacher who is hired to act as sort of a CEO. This preacher is answerable to the board who reviews his performance on some ongoing basis. Should he fail to please his masters, he will be dismissed. Consequently, the modern preacher is careful not to offend and careful to make people feel good about themselves.

The hired preacher’s tenure may be long, but it is most frequently of short duration. Among modern churches, the tenure is often measured in months rather than years. One denomination has a reported average pastoral tenure of approximately eighteen months, a figure that is not incidentally frequently cited as the average tenure for youth pastors in evangelical churches. Among one of the largest denominations, the average pastoral tenure is 3.6 years. [2] Pastors with productive ministries tend to remain for longer periods, meaning that many pastors remain in their pulpit for less than two years.

George Barna writes of this rapid turnover, “Our work has found that the typical pastor has his or her greatest ministry impact at church in years five through fourteen of their pastorate. Unfortunately, we also know that the average pastor lasts only five years at a church—forfeiting the fruit of their investment in the church they’ve pastored. In our fast turnaround society where we demand overnight results and consider everyone expendable and everything disposable, we may be shortchanging pastors—and the congregations they oversee—by terminating their tenure.” [3]

Undoubtedly, most pastors accept their position in a given congregation in anticipation that they can make a difference. I am confident that most pastors want to honour God and they want to make those under their teaching strong in Christ the Lord. I know there are charlatans who seek only to climb the ecclesiastical ladder, securing a more prominent position for themselves. However, most pastors want to honour God—they want to build strong Christians and strong churches. Yet, such aspirations seem more often dashed than fulfilled.

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