THE WAY I, AS PASTOR, AM TO BE JUST TOWARD THOSE WHO WORK WITH ME
byPastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 24 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)
"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." I Timothy 5:17-20
If this lesson were heeded, it would solve many of the problems in our churches. There are people in every church who think that they have been chosen by God to discipline the staff members of that church. I believe that the Bible teaches that the pastor and the pastor only is responsible for the disciplining of the church staff.
When I first became Pastor of First Baptist Church, the pulpit committee met with me and asked me what things would cause me to leave a church. I told them three things over which I would leave a church if they were not followed:
(1) The pulpit is mine;
(2) The office of moderator is mine; and
(3) The staff is mine.
Churches all over America are having trouble with situations involving the church staff. We need to have an understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning this matter of handling the church staff.
1. Paul wrote to Timothy, who was the Pastor of the church. We can get into trouble when we try to apply Scripture to those for whom it was not meant. Paul was telling Timothy to give double honor to those elders who ruled well.
When our children were growing up and one of them needed to be disciplined, it was my responsibility to carry out that discipline. We never had a vote to decide what everyone thought we ought to do. It was my job to decide. I took the child alone to his room and carried out whatever form of punishment I believed was just. It was a private matter between myself and that child. When I was finished disciplining the child, I did not ask the rest of the family if they felt I did what was right. In fact, I did not allow them to offer their opinions either.
Similarly God has given the pastor the responsibility to discipline those who work with him. When God spoke through Paul to Timothy about the elders, He was referring to Timothy's staff. There are three words used in the Bible that refer to the same position of pastor of a church: (1) pastor, (2) elder, and (3) bishop. Some churches were very large and had several pastors. When Paul went to Ephesus, he called for the elders of the church, and they met together. He was not talking about the pastors in the area. He was referring to all the pastors of that local church. Paul was telling Timothy how to deal with his staff members. He was admonishing Timothy to treat them properly.
2. There were many elders. The word "elder" means "leader of the congregation." God raised up elders to help in the leading of the church. That is basically what we now call "assistant pastors" in our churches today.
3. All charges were to be directed to Timothy. They were not to be taken to the deacons or other church members. If a church member has a charge against an elder or pastor, that church member should take it to the pastor only and allow him to handle it.
4. Timothy was responsible for the action. This is a Bible principle. The pastor has the responsibility of disciplining his pastoral staff, and it is his sole responsibility to do so.
5. Timothy was to give double honor to those who ruled well. That is why I praise the men on my staff often! I am giving them honor. Every great work of God requires more than one man to carry out the work that must be done.
6. Notice the word "rule." That is a strong word. God expects the pastor to be the leader of the staff. That does not give the pastor the right to act as a cruel dictator. It does mean, however, that God has given the pastor the job of making decisions and leading the staff in the proper direction.
7. Timothy was not to receive an accusation against any elder unless it came from two eyewitnesses. The Bible teaches that even then we are only to receive the accusation, not to convict the individual as guilty until fully tried.
Preachers all over America are attacked by church members and mishandled because they are unjustly convicted by the church members. That is not the Bible method. The word "receive" means "to entertain or admit." Paul was telling Timothy not even to entertain an accusation without two eyewitnesses. That did not mean that the accusation was true, but that he should further investigate it. Second-hand accusations were not to be accepted!
8. Timothy was not to believe it just because there were two witnesses. He was only to receive it. The very basis of the Biblical legal system is that no one is to be convicted of a matter unless he has been proven guilty. The pastor of that church was to investigate it carefully without interference, and he was not to charge the person until he was certain the individual was guilty.
9. Timothy was to investigate it. If a church member thinks a staff member is not doing right, that person is not to go to another preacher or another church member and tell them. He is to take it to the pastor who, in turn, will investigate it.
10. Timothy was to judge. The pastor has the responsibility to make the judgment in any disciplining situation regarding his staff. That is a Bible principle, and it is time for our fundamental churches to operate that way. I would not pastor a church any other way.
Many years ago a man came to me and accused one of my assistant pastors of having some pornographic literature. I asked him if he personally had seen it, and he said that he had not. I told him that I did not believe it and that I would not even investigate it without two eye witnesses who come to me together. A deacon came to me with the same accusation, but again he did not witness it. I was accused of covering up a man's sins simply because I was being just and followed Biblical principles. Two days later, that pastor died. I was so glad that I had defended him and treated him justly. When I preached his funeral, I had the peace of knowing that I had treated him justly.
Many businessmen attend our church. I am not to interfere with the way they judge their employees, nor are they to interfere with the way I judge my staff.
11. Timothy was to rebuke false accusers. Paul was not teaching Timothy to rebuke all sinners publicly. He was teaching Timothy to rebuke the false accusers. Many preachers, especially young men, misuse this passage and do terrible damage to the church. The only sin mentioned here is false accusation. God was placing a double ring of protection around His servants to protect them from evil men who would destroy them.
A judge in a courtroom has the responsibility to make judgments. I may not agree with him all of the time, but I cannot interfere.
You may not always agree with how a pastor handles his staff, but you are not to interfere. Let's use God's plan of honor and discipline and prevent unnecessary tragedies of injustice!
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“I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years.” —Billy Sunday