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The Pastoral Appointment Process
— CONCERNING WHO HAS AUTHORITY TO APPOINT A SHEPHERD TO GOD'S FLOCK? —
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Congregational Choice Pastoral Responsibility Denominational Recognition
As is
true of the response of God's love in any situation of human life:
 
  the nature of the need determines the wisest method – the 'need'  as God sees that need.  
 But
practically, surely there is a right way or method of calling a pastor, or having a pastor appointed?
 
The essential principles of pastoral leadership need to be first understood in order to answer this question.
1. 
Congregational Choice
 
THE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLE:
The Bible's perspective is that there is no higher representative authority in all Christianity than the local congregation – for the local congregation, and only the local congregation of God's people, spiritually represents the whole Christian Church world-wide, the whole Christian Church IN THIS WORLD.
 
 
The local church is not simply a part of the world-wide Church of God, such as a local-subdivision or branch of the whole. In essence, the local congregation is the local instance of the whole. The local church thus represents the whole of the Church of God in its particular locality – not organisationally, but in its spiritual identity. It is a local instance of the whole Christian Church, and this essential truth resides it its relationship to the Spirit of God.
 
This
is powerfully expressed in the Bible where the one Holy Spirit of God is described in Revelation as the seven Spirits simply because seven local congregations are being addressed. In other words, representatively, it is as though each congregation were the whole Church to which the Holy Spirit had been given by God on the day of Pentecost.
Revelation
1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6.
 
Here, to correct a common misunderstanding: that day of Pentecost was not the beginning of individual distribution of the Holy Spirit to Christians! It was a once and for all act of God toward the whole Christian Church of all ages, in the gift of Christ's relationship to the Holy Spirit to those "in Christ". Individual experience of this is simply a faith-response to this previously given reality.
 
 Does
that mean the democratic vote of the local congregation ultimately calls the tune when it comes to pastoral appointment?
 
Christ
NO, the Church of Jesus is not a democratic institution! But neither does this mean that the Lord's flock is 'herded' by its shepherds – its pastors.
is the ultimate example to us of pastoral behaviour in this regard. Jesus said –
 
 
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
John 10:27.
The
flock of the Lord respond voluntarily. They are not forced or herded by having to submit to a pre-packaged pastoral decision, and even less a Deacon Board decision, either.
 
 
If a congregation is not ready to decide, it is not ready to be led – until serious repair is completed in its pastoral relationship to that congregation. Coercion by whatever strategy of manipulation is never part of the pattern of church leadership.
 
This
balanced relationship between the voluntary choice of the congregation, and pastoral authority to directly appoint, is well illustrated by how the foundation apostles of Christianity solved the need for welfare management in the Jerusalem church/congregation.
 
 
That congregation chose the persons whom they most trusted to do the job, according to the apostles' set parameters on both the number and the character of those to be chosen, and even then it was the existing pastoral leadership which appointed them.
 
 
"...pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,
whom we will appoint to this duty."
Acts 6:3.
In
a political democracy the myth might be held by some idealists that the voice of the people is the voice of God, but this is not so in Christianity, and has no bearing on the issue.
 
 
In choosing these Seven, the congregation's election itself did not appoint them. The choice by the congregation simply expressed in which men their confidence/trust lay in terms of the criteria set by their pastoral oversight. In this the spiritual 'sheep' as God's flock had the opportunity to respond voluntarily, following as they felt led in their personal knowledge of the men available to them.
 
2. 
Pastoral Responsibility
The
appointment which then followed was an action of the pastoral leadership of that congregation, not the congregation itself. This was no rubber-stamp token approval of congregational choice by the pastoral leadership.
 
 
Their pastoral leadership carried responsibility before God for the church as a whole, and these leaders then delegated their responsibility to these seven men as a special responsibility for the local church's welfare program, without relinquishing their own accountability to God for this church function.
Pastoral oversight is NOT a chaplaincy. It is NOT a department of the church.
 
The leadership's own approval of these seven was necessary, for delegation of duties does not absolve the appointing party from continued responsibility for those duties. Failure by these first deacons of the church would still be answerable to God by those who had appointed them, the apostles.
 
This
principle is why the apostle Paul taught Timothy to handle his church leadership responsibility cautiously in delegating to others –
 
 
"Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others..."
1 Tim.5:22
The
Bible's description of how the first shepherd/pastor of a new congregation is appointed demonstrates to us that the spiritual leadership, from whom that congregation had come into existence, carries the immediate responsibility to appoint its pastoral oversight, even from among new converts no matter how inexperienced.
 
 
"And when they [Paul and Barnabas] had appointed elders for them in every congregation [to which their ministry had given birth],
with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
Acts 14:23.
It
is in this sense that even when Paul exercised authority over the church in Corinth from a distance, it was not because of any special rank as apostle, but as its founding pastor –
 
 
"For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.
For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel... For though absent in body, I am present in spirit;
and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing."
1 Cor.4:15;5:3.
 
Unfortunately, it has become common for Church denominations to set theological education standards to qualify for a ceremony of ordination to a rank of clergy, without which pastoral authority is often not recognised among God's people.
 
3. 
Denominational Recognition
 
 
Denominational recognition of a pastoral appointment as not an essential.
 
It
is useful and sometimes a wise balance to help retard local tendencies toward lordship over God's people by egocentric leaders, but it is not fundamental to the spiritual character or Christian identity of the local church or its ministry. To use a metaphor: it is as useful as scaffolding is temporarily useful on the construction site of a building, but denominational recognition is not an essential any more than construction scaffolding is a permanent part of any building.
 
On
the other hand, neither is independency, as a character of church identity, wise: for if the ministry of a local church is blessed by God, grows and spreads its influence, daughter congregations form, which by reason of their founding relationship to their mother congregation tend to form a new denomination/association/sub-denomination, and the multiplicity of Christian denominations is not a good witness to an unbelieving world concerning the Christian character (our essential witness) or of the message of Jesus.
 
It
is in human nature to try to take control of what is in its hand. Hence the local church and its pastoral oversight tend to be quickly subjected to regional and national structures of a denomination, which then tend to impose uniform practices and standards as seems right to them at a particular time and place. This human trend has inhibited Christianity from its very beginning and frequently burdened it with cultural clothing which has impeded its mission.
 
For
this reason the Jerusalem church, as the mother church of Christianity, initially tried to impose conditions regarding recognition of Gentile churches. Even after the Spirit of God had made it clear that neither circumcision nor dietary regulations applied to the New Covenant community, the church leaders in Jerusalem still attempted to impose on the apostle Paul a public submission to Jewish regulations.
 
In
humility and simply for the sake of unity, Paul subjected himself to paying costs to the Jerusalem temple for four men of the Jerusalem church for whom he was not responsible.
Acts 9:25; 21:24.
 
Sadly, it was this public exposure which then ended his ministry in Judea and began a long imprisonment. He was only rescued from death by pagan Roman soldiers, in a city with multitudes of believers, in contrast to Paul experience when under threat many years before in Damascus. This remains as an historical shame upon the Jerusalem church.
 
It
was understandable that the Jerusalem church under the remaining foundation apostles should think of themselves as the standard bearers of Christianity. All things had begun within them. But they were mistaken, as they had failed to grasp the new identity of the believers through the New Covenant.
 
 
Administrative denominational oversight simply carried no authority beyond the local congregation. Anything more than this was meant to be nothing more than a supportive role.
 
Joseph,
nicknamed Barnabas, grasped the essence of this.
Even though Saul/Paul their previous persecutor was not generally accepted by the Jerusalem church, when Barnabas in Antioch found a serious teaching need, he, as part of their pastoral oversight in Antioch, traveled to Tarsus and brought Paul back to be part of that church's pastoral leadership.
Paul/Saul had two names,
for from birth he had dual citizenship: both Roman and Jewish.
 
"So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul [Paul], and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.
And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians
."
Acts 11:25-26.
PLEASE NOTE:
Jerusalem did not need to approve!
 
So – 
Any leadership beyond the local congregation has no value to the work of God except insofar as it provides a supporting structure, such as 'scaffolding', to the work of the local church, in whatever field of teaching, service, or mission that may be needed/useful.
 
 
So, the process of pastoral appointment is not the property of any management board or any regional oversight, no matter what that particular management level may be called in its local, regional, national, or international tradition, or may claim for itself.
 
This
process therefore is only the voluntary choice of the local congregation,
approved and implemented by their existing pastoral oversight, or, in the absence of this,
that of the founding ministry responsible for that congregation's existence.
 

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