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A Warning to Church Leaders

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2017 · 19 November 2017

God always mediates His rule through specially chosen and qualified leaders. First were the patriarchs, then the judges, and then the prophets, priests and kings. In the New Testament God mediates His rule in the church through pastors and evangelists, and the Holy Spirit guides the individual believer. And so there is authority and submission as a two-fold operation of God in the world.

God now rules over people through a directed order that falls into three categories: the family, the church, and the state. And in all of these areas God has set in order that there be leaders and followers. That there be authority and submission. In the family, the parents are the leaders. In the church, the pastors and elders are the leaders. In the state, the government officials are the leaders. This is God's ordained pattern.

God directs His rule in the church through pastors and elders. And that takes us directly into Acts 20. Now here Paul is giving information to church pastors and elders who are given the responsibility of leading the church of Jesus Christ. Now the world's evaluation of leadership, is not the way God evaluates it. So what is it that makes an effective leader in the church?

The world says that leaders have to be visionary, and they have to be action-oriented. They should be involved, aggressive and courageous. They are also energetic and they are normally object-oriented, rather than people-oriented. They are egocentric, and they are always indispensable. In other words everything rises or falls with them. And in most cases these are the people that rise to the top and get into leadership.

But there is no such category of leaders in the Bible. All of the biblical qualifications completely circumvent anything like that and are spiritual and internal, rather than physical and external. The only one way that Biblical leaders lead is not by precept and verbiage, but by example.

Philippines 3:17 says, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Philippines 4:9 says, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” So Paul said, we lead by example.

Now such a responsibility of being a leader is difficult. Because it is a responsibility given by God to take care of people and that is always a big task. Hebrews 13:17 says, "They watch out for your souls, as those who must give account." And James 3:1 says that, "we shall receive stricter judgment if we stumble." But it also can be so rewarding that it overcomes the possibility of failure.

So in Acts 20, Paul gives the pastors all the precepts of leadership. Priority number one in spiritual leadership is to make sure you are right with God. Personal holiness is foundational. The most important task is not to prepare your sermons, but it is preparing yourself to be a channel that God can use effectively. So my primary responsibility is to make sure that my life before God is what it ought to be.

Verse 28, "Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves." And we saw in 1 Timothy and in Titus, the qualifications for a pastor were all spiritual. No man is really useful to God who is not holy. And you are only as useful as you are set apart unto God. Look at David in 2 Samuel 11, he took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah and made her pregnant.

Then in 2 Samuel 11:15, he wrote a letter to the soldiers and said, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle and retreat, that he may be left there, and smitten, and die." And so he was killed. Now he has committed adultery and murder. And you know what happened, he rendered himself totally useless to God. But God spoke to his heart and he broke under the weight of his sin, and he then wrote down his feelings in Psalms 51.

Psalm 51 is the broken heart of David over the sin of Bathsheba and Uriah. Hear what he says, "Have mercy upon me, O God according to Your loving kindness: according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only God, have I sinned.”

What he is saying is, “God, restore me, bring me back. Create in me a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence. Do not take your Holy One from me." David wouldn't have been worth anything in teaching or in converting anybody until he was clean. Do you see what he is saying? And it is not different now. The first priority in the ministry of any man is his own holiness.

Priority number two is also in verses 27-28, feed and shepherd the flock. Some of us perhaps are familiar with what is commonly known as congregational rule, where the congregation rules. That's foreign to Scripture. In the Scripture the congregation is subject to the authority of the pastors. Because when you put all the people over the leaders you have violated God's pattern for authority in the church.

Once those men are chosen by God and ordained of God, it is their job to rule for God, as they stand as under shepherds for Christ. And so leadership is important: leading the flock, making wise decisions, leading them into the places that are going to be beneficial to them, but also feeding them. And they feed with the Word, as God has called them to.

Now the third priority is: to watch and warn the flock. Feeding is the positive and watching and warning is the negative. This is protection and vigilance. Yes, the backward look is watching what is coming up from the rear. One of the greatest and one of the most strenuous kind of struggles is to protect the congregation.

Look at verse 29, “For I know this that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” How do you know it? Because Paul knows Satan and how he works. Paul says, false teachers are going to arrive as soon as I am gone. Wherever the truth is proclaimed, Satan will come in with lies to undermine it.

In Matthew 7:15 Jesus made reference to wolves, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." And, again, in Matthew 10:16, Jesus sends out people who are going to preach for Him and He said this, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." And the twelve disciples went off knowing they could expect to run into some wolves in sheep's clothing.

Do you know what a good minister of Jesus Christ does? He reminds people to watch out for false prophets, for doctrines of demons and for seducing spirits. And God condemns these people. 2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

2 Peter 2:18-19, “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”

False doctrine comes in, not only from the outside, but from the inside. Verse 30, “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Did that happen at Ephesus? Yes, because Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:3, “remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine.”

Paul even named them. 1 Timothy 1:19-20 says, “some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 2 Timothy 1:15 says, “All those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.”

Most people do not realize that this happens right now. Many churches in America are dominated by false teachers. We have to watch out for the tares being sown among the wheat. In Matthew 13:29, Jesus said, "Don't gather up the tares lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.”

The only one way to keep the tares from getting in, is to watch and warn. And it is up to us who is here as a part of the Riverside Indonesian Fellowship, whomever is teaching, whomever has responsibility, whomever sits in places of leadership. We owe that to the Lord Jesus Christ, for the sake of the purity that He wants presented to Him.

Verse 31, “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Why did Paul weep? Because he knew the terrible consequences of false teachers. He says, "I warned you night and day." So the pastor is to be vigilant. And Paul is saying, do it like I did it. Again leadership is by example.

2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 says, “We worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” So the pastor is there to protect the congregation from the wolves of false doctrine through being a good example.

The fourth priority is to study and pray. Acts 6:4 says, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Verse 32, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” That's what prayer is.

1 Peter 2:2, “that you may grow thereby, the pure milk of the Word." The Word causes us to grow "and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." As you study the Word you are build up and you are assured that the promised inheritance is really yours, set apart for all those who are holy through Christ.

This is His church. Ultimately, only God can safeguard and care for them. And so, Paul says, "I commit you to God." And everything the church ever does should have that kind of committal. That becomes a priority for every kind of ministry. We must pray about everything. Everything we do must be for God. Look at Acts and you will find that they prayed before they did anything.

Do you know there's no substitute for prayer? That sounds a little bit old fashioned, but it's true. Not prosperity, not good ideas, not good programs, not growth, not success, not confidence and not talent. It is easy for a church to only depend on yourself with wonderful programs and good committees and take all the credit. But who do you really need to thank? Do not rob God of His glory!

Well the last priority for the pastor is, no self-interest. And Paul uses himself as an example. Verse 33, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” Paul is saying, you have to remember in all your ministry, look at it as a giving ministry, not a receiving ministry, right? God does not bless the ministry of a man who is more concerned about money. Matthew 6:24 says, “You cannot serve God and mammon (money).’

Paul would go and do anything, for anybody, anytime for nothing. Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” He says in verse 34, “Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.” Paul always took care of himself so that he was not a burden to the others, he lived to tell people about the gospel of Jesus.

Verse 35, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ That is probably one of the most interesting quotes in all the Bible. It's what we call agrafa. It is a quote that Jesus gave that nobody ever wrote down and Paul quotes it. If you look for that in the New Testament you will not find it, but Jesus truly said it.

In the ministry one of the great ways that our godliness is manifest is in our love of Jesus Christ, with absolutely no thought for money. And God takes care of you when all things are right before Him and you are the kind of man you ought to be. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

Verse 36-37, “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him.” They are all kneeling while praying. Do you know why they loved him? They loved Paul because there was a consistency between what he said and what he was daily.

Verse 38, "And they were sorrowing most of all for the word which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.” When he told them he wouldn't see them any more they just sobbed. And if the power of the Holy Spirit in me can come anywhere close to ministering the way the Spirit wants me to, then God will reward me with the love of the saints also. Let us pray.


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