Recently I came across an excellent article by Frank Viola encouraging men called to pastor and shepherd people not to dominate, control, or exert "authority" over their flocks. The entire article can be read online, but I thought a pertinent section spoke biblically and directly against some of the practices of pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention. If we pastors could all catch the spirit of what Frank writes below, 95% of church problems would be resolved. Frank Viola writes:
"In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders, “Be on your guard for yourself and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Notice what he says: “You, elders, are among the flock, and the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Not over the flock; among the flock. Among the flock! Among the flock to do what? “To shepherd the church of God.” Not to control the flock, but to care for it. To serve it. The elders are overseers, not overlords! The word “overseer” means one who looks out for the good of the saints, not for his own personal interests. Yet because overseers care for the saints, they are called shepherds also. And a shepherd (pastor) is simply a metaphor, it is not a title nor an office. In the first-century churches, all the brothers and sisters take care of one another. All of them take care of one another! But the shepherds are the older, wiser ones that do it best. They are the examples for everyone else. Let me put it this way. Every brother and sister is to do what a true shepherd/elder does. The elders are but examples to all. Now hold on to your chair. Get ready. It’s going to be heavy, brothers. Look at Acts 20:33. I want you to read very slowly verses 33 to 35. Follow this: “I, Paul, have lusted after no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you elders know that my hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you, elders, must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Now, brothers, let’s get the scene. Paul, an apostle sent by God, spends three years raising up a church in Ephesus. Before he leaves, he acknowledges the older brothers, the elders. He says to them, “Take care of God’s people if there is a problem.” He did not say, “Lord over them. Control them. Do all the teaching and preaching.” Nor did he say, “You are their leaders. They must obey you.” He didn’t say that. Four years after the church in Ephesus is planted, Paul meets with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. He says them, “Brothers, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift to care for the Lord’s people. They are the flock of God; not your flock. It’s the flock of God, purchased with His own blood. You are among them, not over them. Brothers, when I was with you I worked with my hands. I paid for my own needs, and I also paid for the needs of the men I trained. By doing this, I gave you an example. Elders, shepherds of Ephesus, remember my example. That I did not take anything from God’s people! I gave to them! I did not take from them! Follow my example.” And that is what an elder is, brothers. He is a person that gives! He doesn’t receive! Brothers, think about this. Just think about it."