In the New Testament Church, the “elders” were not necessarily the oldest members of the fellowship, but those recognized as worthy of authority. In this new paradigm, a world turned upside down by the revelation of Jesus Christ, leadership was no longer bestowed by tribe, status, or class, but by a direct “calling” of God open to all. It was their commitment to Christ, dedication to the gospel, and availability to the spiritual, physical and administrative needs of the church that identified those who would be chosen to lead.
While there were no schools of theology or credentialing committees to ordain leadership back then, today, we would call these people the clergy men and women that dedicate their lives to pastoring, teaching, leading and equipping God’s people. The clergy not only engage in rigorous study and preparation in order to acquire an official degree or qualification, but further seek vocational service to God. It is by no means an easy path. Indeed, many that are called cannot complete this journey – distracted, deflated, defeated, deluged on all sides.
Not only are the ordained called to ministry, but their spouses also accept the burdens and joys of sharing in the calling. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, it is not only the pastor that prays and goes, but a spouse that provides support, offers advise, cares for others in the household, makes it possible for the pastor to fully focus on the need of the hour. Fair or unfair, the pastor’s spouse is perceived as a reflection of that leader – they can enhance or distract from the ministries’ effectiveness. The pastoral partnership is truly one made in Heaven.
As Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy and his church, it is right that we honor these tireless workers, who are “on call” 24×7 for the work of the Lord and the needs of the Church. God chooses His shepherds and the flock should be thankful and rejoice!