Greetings once again!
Braydon Turpin isn’t our “youth pastor”. Luke Long was – after we ordained him in the fall of 2019. When Luke was hired in February 2019, he was our Minister to Students & Children. This is Braydon’s role today too. Many churches like ours have been particularly unwise in the use of “youth pastor”. Other churches in our local baptist association have Associate Pastor, Executive Pastor, Worship Pastor, Discipleship Pastor, Missions Pastor, one even has a Pastor of Counseling & Visitation. I am not here to knit-pick whether or not each of these people are actually pastors; in fact, I am thankful for the days when Jim Cohn, Luke Long, and I were the three pastors of our church. I am here to highlight the looseness with which many of us use the word “pastor”.
As you probably know, “pastor” is a Latin word. The English equivalent is “shepherd”. This is one of the three New Testament words used to refer to the biblical office I hold; the other two are “over-seer” (Latin: “bishop”) and “elder”. (The only other church office mentioned in the New Testament is “deacon”.) Now, to muddy the waters a little bit more, I have mentioned relatively recently that I Corinthians mentions the types of gifts within the church: apostolic gifts, prophetic gifts, evangelistic gifts, shepherding gifts, and teaching gifts. So, is “shepherd” an office, or a giftedness? Well, yes! This is why we have to speak with clarity.
A few churches (not including us) make an argument that “elder” and “pastor” are two separate offices within the Church. I would humbly submit that there is no biblical evidence for this view. Well, to further muddy the water, some of those churches are a [rather loud, but] small minority within our Southern Baptist Convention.
As I mentioned in my July article, the week prior to my vacation was spent in New Orleans, Louisiana attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Going into the Convention, I was paying particular attention to four items of business: the election of the President, the task force working to address the sexual abuse scandals, a proposed by-law amendment, and the appeals of removed churches. Personally, the one I thought was most important was the presidential election. Coming out of the Convention, the item that got the most public attention was the messengers’ vote to uphold the decision of the Executive Committee, dismissing three churches from “friendly cooperation”. One of these three churches was none other than Saddleback Community Church in California. Its Pastor Emeritus is Dr. Rick Warren, a widely beloved writer, and a godly leader across many circles.
The biggest reason the Executive Committee decided to “disfellowship” Saddleback back in the spring was its move within the past two years to call a few ladies to serve as pastors within their leadership. Additionally, the proposed by-law amendment is to strengthen the ability to dismiss any church that employs, commissions, or affirms any pastor who is not a “man as qualified by scripture”. This is a reference to I Timothy 3, which describes the qualifications of an elder/overseer/shepherd.
Needless to say, this issue has evolved into a broader discussion about the role(s) of women in the Church more broadly. I look forward to having this discussion within our church family. I am also involved first-hand in a discussion being held within our Pilot Mountain Baptist Association (now being called the Triad Church Network). As you may know, I am part of the leadership team of our local association, and within the past few months, we have received a request from a member church that we establish clearer guide lines regarding what it means to be a church in “friendly cooperation”. I appreciate the letter for two reasons: first, because I agree that there should be clearer guide lines, and second, because that church isn’t telling where those lines ought to be. Should we kick out churches that have different views on the office of pastor? Should we kick out churches that have different views on the Lord’s Supper? Should we kick out churches that have different views on missions and evangelism, or the extent of the atonement, or a particular view of the end times?
I don’t know where those lines are, but I believe the lines should exist. Frankly, I have a bit of a big-tent mindset when it comes to these things. To be clear, I have already given you my opinion about the office of “pastor”. To be clearer, so long as you’ll have me serve as yours, this church will strive to be as faithful to the Word of God in all areas as we possibly know how to be. Is there, though, room in our denominational groupings (my preferred word is “tribe”) for churches that may have slightly different views than ours? I think so. Though I would be rather reluctant to cut ties with a church teaching things not 100% aligned with ours, I would at the same time encourage them to exercise clarity, wisdom, and fidelity to God’s Word, avoiding careless and foolish use of words, especially words carrying so much theological baggage.
For further information regarding the Southern Baptist Convention meeting, refer to my report that will be presented on Wednesday, August 02 at 6:30pm. If you have questions for me about any of these things, contact me anytime. Finally, pray for me regarding this: I am debating whether or not to do a study series on ecclesiology (the study of the Church). Before you roll your eyes, let me remind you that the Church is God’s Plan A to reach the world with the Good News of salvation, and there is no Plan B. With humility, it’s important that we get these things right, so that we can be the best Plan A we can be as we reach Walnut Cove, Stokes County, North Carolina, and the uttermost parts of the earth!!
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
she is His new creation by Spirit and the Word.
‘til with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blessed,
and the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds