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Whats in a name?

May 18, 2012

As I hinted yesterday in a couple of weeks I will be taking lead responsibility for our church in Barnoldswick, Actually when I get back from India (but that’s another blog!) My title now is `Elder`, then i shall be `Lead Elder`, I shall resist people who want to call me Vicar, Priest, Father, or Boss, Captain or Sir.

In my previous church I was called Pastor, the assumption – which I never questioned at the time – was that a church is led by a Pastor or Minister who provides all the necessary input to help the church to be the church. I had a team of people called Deacons who were a leadership team, and who helped it all to function.

Looking back I think that was a mistake. Both because I was incredibly exposed as someone who was basically “in charge” (although technically the church meeting could over rule me, I had  a disproportionate influence over what the church meeting decided), but not accountable to anyone. Fortunately I resisted the temptation to either run of with the money, or to build a personal empire – but either of those could so easily have happened!

Now I am completely committed to an Eldership team, this seems to me to be biblical – nowhere in the Bible do we find a church led by one person! It is also very practical because someone needs to hold me to account for what I do (or fail to do) and within a team of Elders there is that mutual accountability!

So I’m happy to be an Elder, It is one of three words that are used (interchangeably) in the bible to describe church leadership. The other two are Bishop and Pastor – so you can call me any of the three, but not Vicar. I lead a church but I am not the church, Vicar comes from the word vicarious meaning “on behalf of” – I do not worship God for anyone else, pray on behalf of anyone, or do church for anyone, I am not a priest in that sense, rather we are all priests who all have access to God through Jesus. We are a community and we do these things together WITH each other – not FOR each other.

Neither am I Father, – (apart from my own children – who are more likely to call me Dad) Admittedly Paul uses this term  to ask the church he planted to follow his example – but it is not a title even there! There is only one Father – and each and every Christian has direct access to Him because of what Jesus has done!

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