When Studying the Constellations you don’t need Binoculars…
My 8 year old son and I are studying the stars and constellations right now in Science. (He has me — for better or worse — as his home-school teacher!) One of the discoveries we have made is that to see the constellations, binoculars are really of little help. It seems counter intuitive but it is really true. You need the broader view of the naked eye when approaching the heavens… You will never see the constellation if you try and find them one star at a time!
Well, this got me thinking to an obvious Biblical correlation: “In our life with God we maybe are ‘not seeing the constellations‘ because we are too focused on the ‘individual stars’ through the binoculars”!
More to the point, I want to bring up a conversation I had recently with an old college roommate. He has known for some time of our partiality (passion) for “simple church“, churches meeting in homes without pastor, pulpit and pew, yet it has been hard for him to grasp the idea that a church without a pastor and the order that he brings can lead to more than just “unsanctified navel gazing” (my words not his!).
I tried to present the subject of elders being the New Testament (NT) expression and reality of what we nowadays call “pastors” and got him to see that elders in the NT had a rigorous list of qualifications as found in 1 Timothy and Titus. He agreed with those qualifications. Then I asked him “What are the NT qualifications for a pastor?” The phone line was silent for a few seconds… and then he responded that there weren’t any.
So it became more and more apparent to him during our phone call that we were talking about two different animals: pastors and elders. I suggested that pastors in the NT were the equivalent to those other gifts to the body of apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher from Eph 4. Gifts to the body for the “equipping of the saints“ which may have lead them on a more itinerant journey than we have assumed for the past 2000 years. Elders, on the other hand, were local, homegrown, family men who seemed best suited to lead if they could lead their family in a stable way and provide for their “daily bread”.
So, in getting back to my analogy, I suggest that we have not seen the “constellation” of elders in the NT church because of the concentration upon the single star of “pastor”, what has no biblical warrant. One obvious case in point would be that in the Constantine church era (333 A.D.) there could be no baptism without the attendance of the pastor. No pastor, no church. (This was, and is, taken to an extreme to those who find themselves in a Catholic tradition, which point I do not want to belabor!)
In My Mind as I Lay on My Bed…
One last point I wish to bring up here came to me not during that phone conversation but a few days later in the middle of the night. I found myself “in my sleep” writing an article… Then I asked myself in the dream: “Who did Paul call to himself on the shores of the Mediterranean at Miletus?” (I don’t know what your dreams are like but this is quite normal for me…)
I woke up at this point and turned to my Bible:
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)
There was my heavenly answer. Paul did not address “the pastors” of the churches in Ephesus BUT the elders of the church.
I must confess that I wonder if we will ever live up to this high biblical standard when once again “Paul” can come to our city and call “the elders of the church” in Milwaukee to the shores of Lake Michigan, where we receive corporate instruction and encouragement and take it back to the flock with one voice!
Yours for the King,
P.S. BTW, my favorite constellation right now is the Northern Crown and my son’s is Pleiades — mentioned by God in Job 38.