Objections to the Christian Faith from the Unchurched and De-Churched
Tue Dec 02, 2014
Craig Groeschel: We Innovate for Jesus
Tue Oct 14, 2014
Mark Driscoll: Revelation
Tue Oct 07, 2014
RESURGENCE LEADERSHIP #034: JOHN PIPER, WHY I TRUST THE SCRIPTURES, PART 2
Tue Sep 30, 2014
Resurgence Leadership #033: John Piper, Why I Trust the Scriptures, Part 1
Tue Sep 23, 2014
The Church Needs All Kinds of Leaders: Prophets, Priests, and Kings
The church needs more than just preachers. A team of overseers in a church is most effective when they complement one another in the roles of prophet, priest, and king to fulfill the Great Commission.
As I discussed in my last blog post, the Bible is very helpful in providing practical guidelines regarding the qualifications of an overseer. But these guidelines are not meant to be a means of achieving God’s approval.
A passage like 1 Timothy 3:1–7 can easily transform into a legalistic checklist, but these guidelines are meant to help us rely on God’s grace and recognize the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of an overseer. His stamp of approval is much more important than whatever might (or might not) be on your résumé.
Prophets, priests, and kings
Jesus not only qualifies overseers in the church, but provides the job description as well. Two key passages in Scripture offer specific guidance for overseers in the church.
The Apostle Peter writes to the overseers of the early church:
In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul addresses the overseers of the church at Ephesus:
The big idea is that Jesus is the good shepherd: he puts overseers in place to protect and care for his flock. God promises great reward for those who fulfill this task faithfully: “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4). Talk about significance!
Jesus not only qualifies overseers in the church, but provides the job description as well.
Three offices of human leadership
The Old Testament describes three offices of human leadership: prophets, priests, and kings. Theologian Wayne Grudem describes the function of each: “The prophet spoke God’s words to the people; the priest offered sacrifices, prayers, and praises to God on behalf of the people; and the king ruled over the people as God’s representative.”
These three roles carry over into the New Testament with the ministry of Jesus. Grudem continues, “As prophet [Jesus] reveals God to us and speaks God’s words to us; as priest he both offers a sacrifice to God on our behalf and is himself the sacrifice that is offered; and as king he rules over the church and over the universe as well.”
The Old Testament describes three offices of human leadership: prophets, priests, and kings.
Some even see evidence of this triad within the Trinity. Theologian John Frame writes, “Generalizing, we gather that the Father is the supreme authority [prophet], the Son the executive power [king], and the Spirit the divine presence [priest] who dwells in and with God’s people.”
Prophet, priest, and king in church leadership
Frame and others have suggested that a similar model is effective for organizing overseers of the church. This is not something that the Bible mandates, but I do believe there is great practical wisdom to be gained from this model of leadership.
Jesus is the perfect chief prophet, high priest, and King of kings, and as image-bearers of God and disciples of Christ, each of us will reflect aspects of his character in different ways. He provides the church with men and women who can lead, and their specific abilities will usually tend toward prophet, priest, or king.
Jesus is the good shepherd: he puts overseers in place to protect and care for his flock.
Of course, all leaders in the church must perform bits and pieces of each area, depending on the situation. In general, however, each leader will be stronger in a particular area, and a team of overseers in a church is most effective when they complement one another in the roles of prophet, priest, and king to fulfill the Great Commission:
- To a prophet goes the work of proclaiming the news of the kingdom, so that more people can receive it and be baptized. He is the primary leader, the main Bible preacher, and the visionary. If a church has just one paid employee, it’s the prophet.
- To a priest goes the work of caring for the people of the kingdom, making disciples, and teaching the family of God how to enjoy new life in Jesus. The priest is a counselor, a midweek class teacher, or a small group leader. A church typically has more than one priest, usually serving as unpaid volunteers.
- To a king goes the work of managing the kingdom, wisely stewarding the resources God has provided so that the church can grow until eventually the good news reaches all nations. The king administrates all or some of church business and operations. At a small church, the king is probably a volunteer, while a larger church might employ multiple staff to cover kingly functions.
We need kings
Between prophets, priests, and kings serving in the overseer role, in which area do you think most churches come up short?
A church doesn’t exist without someone preaching the Word of God. Indeed, the book of Acts shows that the church was born when Jesus’ disciples started preaching. We’ve got prophets: they’re called lead pastors, senior pastors, and vision pastors.
As image-bearers of God and disciples of Christ, each of us will reflect aspects of his character in different ways.
By definition, the church is a bunch of sinners who recognize their need for a Savior. When a large group of broken people gathers together, the counseling caseload and discipleship needs are obvious and rather urgent. We’ve got priests: they’re called counseling pastors, discipleship pastors, and small group pastors.
Unfortunately, it’s usually not until the church reaches a crisis point before anyone starts looking around for a king—like when the budget is shot, the staff is bloated, the new building needs a fundraiser, or the lead pastor is burning out.
What are your gifts?
God has entrusted to his church the sacred work of his kingdom: the Great Commission. With the right help, we can make the most of the opportunities, the time, the money, and the people God has given us to accomplish what he has entrusted to us. The church needs more kings. At my church, we call them “executive pastors.”
Toward which office do you and your gifts lean? Do you see a need in your church’s leadership team? Are you a lead pastor (priest or prophet) who needs an executive pastor (king)? Are you a king who hasn’t—until now—seen your place in church leadership?
Start asking questions. Start evaluating. And start serving—the people of God need you.