#1 “Protecting the church from bad leaders”

from book, Elders As Divine Gifts by Gaylon West

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"So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one" (Ezekiel 22:30, NKJV).

When Jesus ascended, He gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8). One of the gifts was “pastors and teachers.” Their purpose as the name implies is “to shepherd.” This included three roles is specified as “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (verse 12). These activities can be labeled under 1. teaching, 2. benevolence, and 3. evangelism.

In Acts 20:28, when Paul spoke with the elders (presbytersG4245) of Ephesus he described their authority with two terms: 1. overseers (episkoposG1985) and 2. shepherd supervisor (or pastors, feeders, poimainoG4165). “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (#1), to feed (#2) the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

In my book Elders as Divine Gifts I outlined three work functions for the elders of the church of Christ. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1, ESV2011). The KJV has the word "work" instead of "task."

Their task includes:

  1. Feed and water the flock (i.e., church)

  2. Keep the flock together

  3. Protect the flock from threats

Let's address the #3 task or work. The Bible term pastors (Greek, poimēn:shepherds”) is from a root meaning “to protect”.i Jesus' gift to the church is the office of elders who are to protect the congregation over which they are overseers.

There are three sources of potential harm to the flock. Threats can arise (1) from the leaders themselves, (2) from among the flock, and (3) from outside the church. This article is on the potential harm in the selection of elders.


Leaders can purposely or accidentally cause trouble in the church. Usually it is because of doctrinal problems but it can be their demeanor or reaction to any situation. One church in central Florida had let their preacher “go” in favor of hiring another man who had moved into the community. The change had been made. One of the elders got up at the end of a Sunday morning sermon by the “new” preacher and announced that the former preacher was no longer welcomed in the assembly and that he should find another church to attend. There had been no disciplinary action against the former preacher. The church growth had reached 150 plus. After the shocking incident the congregation dropped to 25 in attendance. The congregationhad been destroyed.

One Biblical example of a bad leader is Diotrephes who was domineering. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 1:9).

Continued: The litmus test for selection as protection...

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Throw Out the Lifeline website.

iPhillip Keller. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. Daybreak Books, Zondervan, 1970.