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Who leads and serves the church?

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Who leads and serves the church? 

Series: The Church [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

August 18, 2019

Introductory Comments:

Have you ever been a part of a leaderless organization? It’s a mess. All organizations need leaders! Whether it’s a home, a business, a sports team, or a church, a leader is needed. 

We know from God’s Word that the ultimate head, foundation, and leader of the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ. 

As we think of Jesus as the leader of the universal, capital “C,” Church, we must recognize that as the chief Shepherd, Jesus has also enlisted other leaders for individual local churches. 

Today, we’re going to learn who leads and serves those local churches. 

Before we dive into this question, let’s pray together and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us. 


As we discover what the Bible says regarding church leadership we must first discuss a foundational truth that we believe concerning local churches. That truth is that we believe that local churches are autonomous and congregationally led. 

When we say that First Baptist Church Bartow is autonomous that means that we do not answer to anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no governing organization that tells us what to do; there is no bishop, pope, or patriarch to whom we answer; and there is no one who decides what we preach, whom we hire, and what kind of building we have. We willingly choose to affiliate and cooperate with other churches and organizations, but we do not answer to anyone else. 

We say that the church is congregationally led in that it is ultimately governed by the congregation. The congregation chooses the pastor, votes in members, practices discipline, approves budgets, makes up its committees, and more. Furthermore, every member of the church has a voice in the church. While the church may be led by certain people, and certain decisions may be made by those leaders, ultimately the congregation is responsible for itself. 

We believe in the autonomous church and the congregationally led church because that is the picture we have in the New Testament. When it comes to church matters, there was no governing structure beyond the local churches in the Bible, and there should be no governing structure beyond the local church today. 

Although the authority rests with the local church, she still must have leaders, both for practical reasons and for biblical reasons. Let us then discuss the biblical offices for New Testament local churches. 

First, . . .

I. Pastors are called to lead and teach the church. [on screen]

God, indeed, has a plan for the church to be led and that plan is for pastors to lead churches. This is the way God designed it. 

Before we get into what the Bible says regarding pastors, let’s get our language correct concerning pastors. 

The Bible uses two main Greek words to refer to what we call pastors. These words are presbuterous, which translates as “elder” or “shepherd;” and the word episkop, which translates as “bishop” or “overseer.” In only one instance, Paul also uses the word poimenas to refer to a pastor. 

It’s clear from their usage that these titles for pastors are used interchangeably in Scripture. The terms elder, shepherd, overseer, bishop, and pastor all refer to what we know of today as the leader of a local church, a pastor. 

As one preacher pointed out, the terms elder and pastor go together like the terms dad and father. They essentially mean the same thing.

So, with that understanding, listen to what God’s Word says about pastors as leaders of the church:

Read Acts 14:23 

23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. [on screen]

The apostles and the early Christians planted churches like crazy during the early days. When they did so, they appointed elders, or pastors. Every church needed pastors. 

Read Acts 20:17

17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church. [on screen]

As Paul is ministering and traveling he sends to speak with the elders of the church. There is evidence that the churches from the very beginning had elders, or pastors. 

Read Philippians 1:1 

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. [on screen]

As Paul addresses his letter to the Philippian church, he does so by bringing special attention to the overseers, or the pastors, as well as the deacons (whom we will talk about later). 

Read 1 Timothy 4:14 

14 Don’t neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. [on screen]

As Paul seeks to encourage the young pastor, Timothy, he does so by reminding him of the elders, or pastors, who gathered over him and prayed for him. 

The evidence in the New Testament demonstrates that local individual churches are to have elders, overseers, shepherds, or pastors over them. 

Well, what are their functions? What is a pastor supposed to do? I’m glad you asked! Listen to what God’s Word says about the function of a pastor. 

Read Ephesians 4:11-12 

11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ [on screen]

Paul tells the church in Ephesus that God specifically gave pastors and teachers to churches who are to teach the church and equip the church for the work of ministry. Pastors are to teach and equip. 

Read 1 Timothy 5:17-18

17 The elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and “The worker is worthy of his wages.” [on screen]

Paul tells Timothy that pastors are worthy of special honor, indeed double honor, especially because of their role of preaching and teaching. Pastors are to be well taken care of because of their work, especially the work of preaching and teaching.

Read 1 Peter 5:1-2 

1 I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. [on screen]

The apostle Peter encourages the pastors of the early churches to shepherd God’s flock and to do so humbly, willingly, and as examples. To shepherd means to lead the sheep. Peter says that the pastor must lead. 

Read Hebrews 13:17 

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. [on screen]

Again, the author of Hebrews points out that pastors lead. Not only do they lead, but they watch over the souls of the church and are accountable. 

In summary, the whole of the New Testament teaches us that the role of the pastor is to equip, preach to, teach, lead, watch over, and pray for the church. 

Well, we know that pastors were present in the New Testament, we know what they are supposed to do. What qualifies someone to be a pastor? I’m glad you asked. Let’s see what Scripture says:

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7

1 This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” 2 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy. 4 He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap. [on screen]

As a matter of note, there is a very similar list of qualifications for pastors found in Titus 1:6-9. You can write that down and check it out later if you would like. 

We see that these qualifications can be narrowed down to a few different categories. These categories are,

(1) Godliness in his personal life – he must be godly in his heart, conduct, and life. 

(2) Godliness in his family – he must be committed to his wife, and  he must instruct and manage his household with godliness. 

(3) Godliness among outsiders – he must have a godly reputation in the world. 

(4) Ability to instruct godliness – he must be able to teach and instruct people in the ways of God. 

Really, every Christian should strive to uphold these qualifications in his or her own life, with the exception of the calling to teach. That is a unique qualification for an elder that is not required for every follower of Jesus.

Before we leave the qualifications of a pastor or elder, I would like to address the issue of whether or not the biblical model of a pastor is reserved for men only. I want to address this because it’s a matter in our culture and because it’s a biblical issue. I would like to say right off the bat that I believe that the role of pastor, according to the Bible, is reserved only for qualified men. Here’s why I say that:

First, Paul’s language in 1 Timothy (which we just read) and Titus 1 speaks only to men.  Paul had an opportunity to speak to women overseers, but he did not. 

Second, Paul appeals to the creation order to speak of men as leaders and teachers in church settings. Make a note to see 1 Timothy 2:8-15 on your own for this. 

Third, although women are celebrated, honored, and are serving in the early New Testament churches we never see an example of a woman serving as a pastor in the New Testament, not once.

Finally, the role of pastor is not reserved for men because they are better, smarter, or stronger. I know a lot of women who are smarter and stronger than some of the pastors I know. Competency is not the issue. Biblical design is the issue. The role of pastor is reserved for qualified men because that was God’s design. Just as a man can’t be a mother or wife and a woman can’t be a father or husband, so also only a qualified man should be a pastor because God designed it that way.

As a matter of note, the fact that women aren’t designed to be pastors does not mean that women aren’t meant to serve in the church. There are many other functions for women in the church besides being a pastor. Women should be unleashed to serve in multiple ways. I’m proud of the fact that we have some women in our church serving in key roles and I hope to see even more doing so in the future. 

There’s a lot more that could be said of pastors, their calling, and their qualifications, but we’ll leave it there for now. You can contact me if you have more questions about this.  

There’s another office in the local church. That’s our next point:

II. Deacons are called to serve the church. [on screen]

Serving is inherent to what it means to be a deacon. In fact, the Greek word diakonos actually means “servant.”

To serve someone means to work in a way that helps them. So, deacons work for the church in a way that helps the pastors and the people of the church.

You might wonder, “How did the idea of deacons originate anyways?” Well, I’m glad you asked. 

The first deacons in the Bible were chosen to help serve the leaders of the church. Let’s check it out in the book of Acts. 

Read Acts 6:1-6

1 In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 The Twelve [that is, the apostles] summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a convert from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. [on screen]

These first deacons helped serve alongside the apostles to help them with ministry so the apostles could focus on what was most important: prayer and the ministry of the word. 

As with a pastor, the Bible also tells us which qualifications someone must have in order to be a deacon. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 3 again.

Read 1 Timothy 3:8-13

8 Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must also be tested first; if they prove blameless, then they can serve as deacons. 11 Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything. 12 Deacons are to be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently. 13 For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. [on screen]

You may notice in these qualifications for deacons that they are very similar to the qualifications for pastors except the ability to teach. Pastors must be able to teach, whereas deacons do not.

Clearly, the deacons in the New Testament held a special role in the life of the local churches. It’s important to note, though, that this role in the Bible was not a governing role or a leadership board. Rather, it was a role of godliness and service. And I’m thankful for our deacons and their commitment to godliness and service to the church and her pastors, which is the biblical model for a deacon. 

Some of the ways that our deacons can serve our pastors and our church today are to pray with and for the church, evangelize the lost, meet physical needs, visit the sick and hurting, create harmony in the church, squelch out gossip and falsehoods, practice church discipline, serve in ministry, and assist the pastors in other ways. I’m thankful for our deacons who serve in that way. 

It’s important for us to catch this as well: deacons are not power players, they are humble servants. 

Deacons serve the church. 

Concluding Thoughts:

The biblical picture for church roles in the church reveals pastors and deacons. That takes us to our bottom line:

Bottom Line: God has designed the church to be led by pastors and served by deacons. [on screen]


Pastors and deacons go together like ham and cheese, like steak and potatoes, like eggs and grits; or at least they should. Many churches have conflicts between pastors and deacons. That’s not only sad, it’s unbiblical and God is not pleased with that. 

After learning of God’s design for pastors and deacons, challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Pray for our pastors and deacons.  [on screen]

We need your prayers. 

Pray for our holiness. Pray for our humility. Pray for our endurance. Pray for our families. 

  1. Support our pastors and deacons.  [on screen]

We need you to support our leadership. 

We need your verbal support. We need you to lovingly edify and rebuke us when necessary. 

Support our pastors and deacons. It’s biblical to do so!


By the way, one might ask, “What about the other positions we have in our church? What about Bible study teachers, committee members, church treasurers, ushers, greeters, and more?”

Well, all those positions are extra-biblical. That is to say, they are not in the Bible. So, they’re not unbiblical. That is to say that they are not against what the Bible teaches. However, they are above and beyond the biblical offices. They are extra-biblical, or non-biblical.

Here’s another way to say it: we could still be a biblical church without all those other leadership positions. However, having some of those positions helps us operate and function in our specific context. So long as those positions do not supersede the biblical positions, we can still function as a healthy biblical church. 

Further, the church is not only led and served by pastors and deacons, it’s also led and served by its members. Each and every member serves an important role in the life of the church. Every member matters in the life of the church.

The pastors, deacons, and members of the church must be led by the Holy Spirit, in submission to King Jesus, for the Glory of God the Father. 

Are you submitted to King Jesus? Are you being led by the Spirit? Are you glorifying the Father?

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

Invitation Song – I Have Decided to Follow Jesus


If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or any of our staff and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

We’re starting back our Adopt a School ministry very soon. We’re once again adopting Floral Avenue Elementary school. If you would like to help with that in any way, see Barbara Johnson out in the hallway after the service. Also, we’re working to make sure that every Bartow school has a church that adopts them, so pray for us in that effort. 

Next week we will have a special reception after the service. We will have a Celebration Reception to welcome and honor Dirck and Melissa Van Clief. We’re so glad to have Dirck and Melissa here with us. We’ll have lunch immediately after the morning worship service. We’ll provide the meat and dessert. So please bring a side dish and take it to the fellowship hall before worship. Also, please bring an encouraging card for the Van Cliefs. You may also choose to fill it with a gift card or a bundle of cash in order to bless them and show them your love.

Also, church, we have something very important coming up. Invite Your One is September 8 [on screen]. This is a day where we want every member and regular attender to invite someone with them to be with us in worship. This is not a day when we want you to spread invitations all over the city to invite as many people as you can. This is where we want you to be intentional about making sure at least one person comes with you. This week please be in prayer about who God might have you invite, the next week you can invite them, and the next week you can follow up with them to make sure that they come. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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