HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

Leadership in the Church

An Examination of Offices


The New Testament mentions a wide variety of leaders in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and deacons. What are these offices? Are they commanded for the church today? Let’s examine the evidence, starting with the titles given in Ephesians 4:11: “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.”


The word pastor appears only once in the NIV (Ephesians 4:11). The Greek word is usually translated as “shepherd.” Luke 2:8 uses the word in its literal meaning: “There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Shepherds take care of sheep.

“Shepherd” is often used metaphorically for spiritual leadership. Jesus considered himself a good shepherd (John 10:11-14). The people were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). His own disciples were “sheep of the flock” (Matthew 26:31 and Luke 12:32) — but Jesus had other sheep, too (John 10:16). He is the great shepherd, and we are the sheep of his pasture (Hebrews 13:20 and 1 Peter 2:25).

Jesus, using the verb for shepherding, told Peter to “take care of” his sheep (John 21:16). Paul told the Ephesian elders that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers of a flock; he exhorted them to shepherd the church (Acts 20:28). Peter also told elders to shepherd the flock, serving as overseers (1 Peter 5:2).

How should pastors “shepherd” their flocks? The verb has a range of meanings. On one end of the spectrum, it can mean to rule with great power, as Christ will when he returns (Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5 and Revelation 19:15). Christ “will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). However, Christ will also be a shepherd of great gentleness: “The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd [note the irony of a lamb being the shepherd]; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Church pastors are told to imitate Jesus’ gentle style: Serve willingly, Peter admonishes, “not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3). This is the kind of leaders Christ wants in his church. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).


Author: Godfrey Gregg

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