Sunday 12-12-10

Shepherd 2




The Elders: 

Emmanuel, the Shepherd.mp3



 WARNING: Each of the lessons in this series are longer than normal due to the depth and accuracy needed to cover this subject.

Average duration is 1.5 hours per recording.

Our church went through an amazing transformation at the end of 2010. By the Lord’s direction, we switched from a solitary female Pastor led group to a all male elder led New Testament church.

The change did not come easy!

This is our story…

In June of 2010, I (Pastor Mark) was infrequently attending a bible study in Sarasota, FL. led by a man who had conducted a series of weekend getaways where men and women (on separate weekends and different leadership) could encounter the love of God in a deep and impactful way. I had attended one of these weekends in May of this year and that is how I came to attend this man’s bible study.

Everyone addressed this man by the prefix “Pastor”, yet many times I discerned a bit of a condescending tone in his voice when he would mention the term Pastor himself. Following one meeting I decided to confront him about this evident token of disapproval for an office in the church by which title he was regularly addressed.

He told me that he had no problem with pastors but that he though that it was seriously out of balance to have Pastors recognized as the single most important and influential gifting in the church when the Bible only mentions them one time in the whole if the New Testament.

I said that I would have to look into that (fully expecting him to be off his rocker). To my surprise he was right…at least partially.

My research

When I did a word search for the English word Pastor in the KJV, I found a single reference in my New Testament found in Eph. 4:11,

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers

Now I had been to bible college and knew enough Greek to know that the terms “pastor and teachers” were governed by one article in the Greek which actually turned these two words connected by a conjunction into a single hyphenated word…”Pastor-teachers”. This means that in this passage the meaning is that Pastors were a class of teacher…pastor-teachers.

However, I did NOT know, nor did I expect that the term only appeared once in the whole of my New Testament! I took this as a challenge and decided to do a study. Little did I realize then, that this study would take months of painstaking research, interviews with note-worthy teachers and ultimately culminate in a radical change in my life!

As I looked of the word Pastor I found that it was the Greek word ποιμήν poimēn and simply means shepherd.

Then I did a King James Concordance search on this Greek word to discover that it actually appears 18 times in the New Testament, only translated into different English words – now this was encouraging!

Then I read these references and discovered that all of them (save the one in Ephesians) were NOT in reference to my traditional understanding of the word – Pastor.

I will not go into the details of the study for needless to say it would take a copious amount of time to do so. Furthermore this series of recorded teachings are the original teachings I took our church through once we made the change and so they will reveal to you the pathways this study took me through.

The results

In the end, we discovered a rich and deep calling in the New Testament to which we were previously unaware due to our lack of study, our blind adherence to modern church traditions and mostly due to our bias.

Before this, our “church” had been led by a female for many, many years beginning LONG before it was an established norm in the western world. I knew all the arguments by heart and was ready on a moments notice to rake anyone over my “theological coals” should they make the mistake of challenging us on this point, and this I did many times (to my shame).

So, as I said earlier, this was not an easy decision, and only those who know me very closely have any idea how agonizing the journey was for me.

In the end, God showed me beauty where I had only seen bigotry and ugliness.

I encourage anyone who listens to our story through these recordings to not make the mistake of defending  your “take” on New Testament theology concerning women or Pastors.

Just lower your guard, listen to the teachings, look up the scriptures in their contexts and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Freedom is yours if you will only allow Him to protect your heart and simply believe His Words are true and they are good.


Pastor Mark

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!