What Are the Biblical Standards for Spiritual Leaders?

The Bible explicitly and implicitly delineates certain standards that must be met before one can assume leadership roles over the people of YHVH. Israelites should know what the Word of Elohim demands of leaders, and should expect leaders to meet those biblical standards. If they don’t, Israel should reject such individuals.

These standards must apply to leaders over and within congregations. Many individuals who are in ministry are not associated with a congregation, so it may be questioned whether these standards should apply to them as well. It seems self-evident that the same biblical standards that apply to leaders within a congregational context should also apply to itinerate minsters, while not connected to or holding leadership in a local congregation, yet they minister to local congregations, and therefore, are perceived to be leaders and elders within greater Israel by those they teach. Therefore, we take the approach that these ministry standards apply to all leaders within the spiritual body of Yeshua whether they are connected to a local body or not. The body of Yeshua is a interconnected, and all must be playing by the same rules, and be held to the same standards. 

We draw, furthermore, from the whole counsel of YHVH’s Word (i.e., Genesis to Revelation) guidelines for leadership qualifications. YHVH’s standards of righteousness for his leaders has not changed over the ages, for he has not changed. His character is inviolate and immutable, and what he requires of those whom he has appointed as servants over his people has not changed and is based on his character, which defines his standards of righteousness.

Prevalent Non-biblical Standards for Leadership

Within the Christian church and, as an offshoot of that, within the Messianic Israel, Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots movements, there are many non-biblical standards that, in the eyes of many people, qualifies a person for leadership roles within the body of Yeshua. These “qualification,” in fact, may or may not meet YHVH’s standards of leadership. Some of these “qualification” include:

  • Self-appointment resulting in the formation of a “successful” ministry. 
  • The use of ecclesiastical titles, the earning of academic degrees.  
  • Popularity among men. 
  • Oratory and public presentation skills.
  • Professional-looking packaging of persons, ministries, websites and materials to merchandized. 
  • The size of one’s following, mailing list, ministry, or all the material trappings associated with the ministry.
  • Length of time in the ministry.
  • Acceptance among peers and within the church.
  • Financial success.
  • The number of books published, the number electronic media one has been on. 

The Bible nowhere indicates that any of these criteria necessarily qualify one to be in a leadership role. In fact, the biblical record clearly shows that usually the more popular (among men) and successful (by  worldly standards) religious leaders were, in fact, more unpopular with YHVH. Yeshua, for example, when addressing the religious leaders of his day, emphatically stated that that which is highly esteemed (uplifted, eminent, exalted, influential or honorable) of men is an abomination (a foul thing, detestable or idolatrous) in the sight of Elohim (Luke 16:15). Why is this? Because YHVH looks at the heart of man, not on the outward appearance of things (1 Sam 16:7; Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8). YHVH sees the true content of a man’s character, which is often hidden under the false facade of appearance.

Biblical Standards of Leadership

What are some of the more obvious biblical standards that must be applied to all spiritual leaders in our day? Those leaders who reject any of these criteria we reject them as not meeting the biblical standards of leadership. The following is a list of criteria that one must meet in order to meet the qualifications of biblical leadership.  

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Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Company Explained

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be apostles. Did the so-called five-fold ministry offices cease after the New Testament era, or do they continue function in the body of Yeshua to this day? In our day, most people agree that the ministries of the evangelist, teacher and pastor are still in operation today, but many say that the offices of apostles and prophet have ceased to operate. Yet in verse 13, we read that these offices would operate “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah…,” which hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all these ministry offices are still needed today.

He. It must be kept in mind that Yeshua is the epitome of and over all (authoritatively) ministry offices that follow in this verse. When we ascended to heaven, he spread his own abilities out, as it were, among those he called to be leaders over his spiritual flock below (see Eph 4:8). Collectively, these ministry offices should be doing the work that Yeshua himself would be doing were he here on this earth presently.

Apostles. In addition to the twelve original apostles (including Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), here is a list of the other apostles, which might be called Yeshua’s ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8):

  • James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19)
  • Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
  • Paul (e.g. Acts 14:14)
  • Apollos (1 Cor 4:6–9)
  • Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1 and 2:6)
  • Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25)
  • Titus, and other un-named apostles—at least two (2 Cor 8:23)
  • Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7)
  • Yeshua is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (Heb 3:1)
  • Including Judas Iscariot, this makes a total of at least 26 apostles who are mentioned in the Testimony of Yeshua. 

With this list in mind, it now becomes logical to divide the apostles into at least three categories or level. Yeshua is the Chief Apostle. The original 12 that Yeshua appointed (minus Judas Iscariot) and possibly Paul would be the next tier. They are the foundational apostles. Yeshua mentions that the 12 apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel and that the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem are named after the 12 apostles (Rev 21:14). It seems that Yeshua commissioned these foundational apostles in direct, face-to-face encounters. After this come the lowest tier or ascension-gift apostles (Eph 4:8), which are all the other apostles.

Apostle Defined

Apostolos means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, apostolos originally was a military or naval term relating to an expeditionary force that was sent out or dispatched. It came to be applied to a band of soldiers, or colonists and their settlement as well as to the commander of the expedition or an admiral. A common feature of all the definitions of the word was its passive character. In none of the definitions is there any suggestion of initiative on the part of the apostle. The word denotes the quality of being sent. In the New Testament, apostolos always denotes a man who is sent with full authority and is synonymous with the Hebrew word shaliach as is evidenced in John 13:16. Here is a legal term relating to one who is lawfully charged to represent the person and cause of another. This meaning is confirmed by the juxtaposition in this verse of the Greek words doulos/kurios and apostolos/pemptsas. Here the servant (doulos) stands under full jurisdiction of his master (kurios) and derives from him all that he is. Apostolos also denotes the “commissioned representative of a congregation” (Acts 13:2ff). Finally, the term signifies the “bearers or proclaimers of the NT message.” The latter meaning applied to not only the original twelve apostles that Yeshua commissioned and sent out, but to the first Christian missionaries or their most prominent representatives (Acts 14:4, 14). According to Paul, the apostles (1 Cor 12:28f) aren’t officials of the congregation, nor the chief of such officials, but are officers of Yeshua by whom the church is built (ibid. vol 1, p. 407ff). 

Attributes of an Apostolic Ministry 

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So You Want to Start a Hebraic Congregation?

Over the years, many people around the world have asked for my advice about starting a Hebraic home fellowship or congregation. I tell them all the same thing: I learned to pastor through the school of hard knocks with guidance from no one, although I sough it to no avail. Sadly, I had no one to mentor me. As a result, I made a lot of mistakes and learned by trial and error. Therefore, I’m happy to advise people in any way I can, so that they don’t make the same mistakes that I made. That is the purpose of the following article.

My wife and I started and pastored a Hebraic congregation in 1998 that met in our home for more than two years. When we outgrew our home, we rented a church building for another 15 plus years until the fall of 2016. 

As a result of our experience, dozens of folks have asked my help in mentoring them in starting Hebraic fellowships. To date, I have put nothing in writing on this subject until now. Perhaps some of the questions and suggestions below will be of value to those people daring enough to start a fellowship.

A Word to Those Desiring to Start a Fellowship

Before giving instructions to Timothy about the qualifications for being an elder, Paul had this to say about those desiring to serve as leaders in the congregation of the saints:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. (1 Tim 3:1)

Desiring to start a fellowship is not a bad thing—especially if the Spirit of Elohim is leading you to do it. If not, forget it. What’s not of YHVH will fail. If  the Spirit is directing you, and you’re not being led by the dictates of your own carnal heart, then there are some things you need to consider first before launching out.

Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

Before starting a fellowship, one must ask oneself some hard questions. One must first count the costs; it’s going to “cost” you more than you think. Are you willing to pay the price?, Yeshua taught his disciples.

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Wimps and Bullies Versus Godly Shepherds

Shepherd w- sheep 33398025

1 Timothy 3:3, Violent. This passage (vv. 3–7) lists the qualifications of an elder or leader of a congregation. One of the of character traits that he is not to posses is that of being a brawler (KJV),violent (NKJV) or pugnacious (NAS). What do the words brawler, violent or pugnacious mean here? It is the Greek word amachos meaning one who is by nature “a fighter, brawler, contentious, quarrelsome, one who causes strife, or one who is combative.” In modern terms, he’s a bully. Perhaps you remember the neighborhood bully from your years as a school child. An elder, overseer or shepherd of a congregation is not to be such a person. This is what Paul had in mind when he gave these instructions concerning the qualifications of an elder.

So let’s now explore this issue a little further. Is there ever a time when spiritual leaders may need to resort to forceful words or even to forceful actions to protect YHVH’s spiritual sheep? What, for example, did David mean when he asks the following question in Psalm 94:16?

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

What did Yeshua mean when describing a good shepherd versus an evil hireling shepherd when he said that unlike the evil shepherd, a good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep and protects them from those who come to kill, steal and destroy the sheep? He says that the good shepherd defends the sheep, Continue reading


 

The Fivefold Ministry Explained

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be apostles. (See notes at Exod 28:1.) Did the so-called five-fold ministry offices cease after the New Testament era, or do they continue function in the body of Yeshua to this day? In our day, most people agree that the ministries of the evangelist, teacher and pastor are still in operation today, but many say that the offices of apostles and prophet have ceased to operate. Yet in verse 13, we read that these offices would operate “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah…,” which hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all these ministry offices are still needed today.

He. It must be kept in mind that Yeshua is the epitome of and over all (authoritatively) ministry offices that follow in this verse. When we ascended to heaven, he spread his own abilities out, as it were, among those he called to be leaders over his spiritual flock below (see Eph 4:8). Collectively, these ministry offices should be doing the work that Yeshua himself would be doing were he here on this earth presently.

Apostles. In addition to the twelve original apostles (including Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), here is a list of the other apostles, which might be called Continue reading


 

A Pastor Is a Herder of Sheep

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be …pastors. The word pastor is the Greek word poimen (pronounced poy-mane) occurs 18 times in the NT and is translated in the KJV as shepherd (17 times) and only once as pastor (pl., Eph 4:11). Poimen literally means “a herdsman, esp. a shepherd or one who cares for sheep.” In the Near East, it was the duty of the shepherd to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep, to defend the sheep from attackers, to heal the wounded and sick sheep, to find and save lost or trapped sheep, to love them, and to share their lives with them thus earning their trust.

Shepherd w- Sheep 33398033

The TDNT summarizes the role of the shepherd in this manner: In the Gospels, the shepherd’s sacrificial loyalty to his calling is depicted with loving sympathy using true-to-life pictures. For example, he knows each animal by name (John 10:3, 14, 17), seeks the lost sheep, is happy when he finds it (Luke 15:4–6), and is prepared to hazard his life to protect the sheep form the wolf (John 10:11–13). Yeshua even uses the shepherd as figure for Elohim in two parables (Luke 15:4–7; Matt 18:12–14; Ibid., vol. 6, p. 490).

As noted, only once in the NT are congregational leaders called shepherds (Eph 4:11). The absence of the article before teachers in the list of church offices (Eph 4:11) indicates that pastors and teachers are to form a single leadership group as it relates to ministering to the individual congregations, yet there’s no indication in this verse of pastor being an ecclesiastical title (Ibid.)

The verb poimainein, a derivative of poimen, gives some indication of the work of the pastor in the congregation. By definition, poimainein indicates the leadership responsibility of feeding, nourishing, tending, leading, ruling and cherishing Elohim’s flock or church (1 Pet 5:2; Acts 20:28; John 21:16) as a shepherd feeds his flock.


 

New Video: The Five-Fold Ministry Explained

In this video, Natan Lawrence explains the ministry offices of Ephesians 4:11 with special emphasis on the ministry of the apostle and prophet. He discusses how these, along with the other ministry offices should function in the local assembly and how the modern church has often missed the true intent of these ministries.