Question & Answer Forum: If a Man Desire Overseership

Is it wrong for me to want to be an overseer?

What is an overseer and what does he do? This will determine Scriptural parameters for our desires. In Acts 20:17, Paul, from Miletus, “sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church.” When they came he addressed them: “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, wherein the Holy Spirit has set you as overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God, which He has purchased with the blood of His own … And now I commit you to God, and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build [you] up and give [to you] an inheritance among all the sanctified (Acts 20:28-32 Darby).

Overseership is not a position; it is a work carried out by a plurality of men who have been fitted by the Holy Spirit and who are set within a local church to care for it (1Tim 3:5). The work consists of gathering, guiding, guarding, and giving food to the flock of God. Their resource is seen in the words, “I commit (commend) you to God and to the Word of His Grace” (Acts 20:32). Surely, if one has been called and fitted by the Holy Spirit he will have a fervent desire for the work, similar to the desire of Titus, an apostolic legate, concerning whom Paul wrote: ‘’But thanks [be] to God, Who gives the same diligent zeal for you in the heart of Titus (2Cor 8:16 Darby). The “being fitted” will necessitate that the shepherd is a man of the Book because part of the work will be in giving food to the flock. When you study the Lord’s charge to Peter in John 21:15-17 you will notice that there are two words translated “feed.” The first one, in 21:15 and 21:17, is bosko, (see #1006) and means “to give food to, to feed, to pasture.” The second word, in 21:16, is poimaino, (See #4165-4168), and means “to feed, to tend, to shepherd, to rule as a shepherd.” This latter is a wider, more comprehensive word. We conclude that there can be boskowithout poimaino but the opposite is not the case – there can be no shepherding without feeding. Hence the injunction stands, “I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace.”

Is desiring overseership wrong? No! It depends on what is driving the desire. Consider the desire of James and John: “And there come to Him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying [to Him], Teacher, we would that whatsoever we may ask Thee, Thou wouldst do it for us … whosoever would be first of you shall be bondman of all. For also the Son of man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister, and give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45, Darby). Their desire was detrimental and also divisive because it was a desire for position rather than for the service of the Lord and others.

Paul wrote, “The word [is] faithful: if any one aspires to exercise oversight, he desires a good work” (1Tim 3:1, Darby). Having a desire to do the work is commendable. Having a desire for position is carnal and worldly.

Lloyd B. Cain