Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. — Acts 20:28
By Reg McQuay
This is a powerful text, part of the Apostle Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders. The term "overseers" comes from the Greek and is used in the Christian Testament to also refer to elders. In this verse and others, Paul is giving a Biblical job description for church leaders, whose responsibility is to manage the local church. But it is not simply a management assignment; Paul confers on them the responsibility for the spiritual condition of the church.
I have served as an Elder at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church for three terms, and each time I find that I continue to grow as an individual and as a follower of Christ. There are three points I would like to make about my experience.
The first part of this job description as described by Paul states clearly: "Take heed of yourselves." Jesus made it clear that we need to be as good on the inside as on the outside. In Matthew 23:27, he rebukes the Pharisees, whom he condemns as hypocrites. They were like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness on the inside. If I am to care for the spiritual condition of the church, I first need to be certain that all is well with my soul.
Our spiritual lives do not run on auto-pilot. It takes reading and understanding the Bible, as well as prayer. And even as I learn more, there seems to be more I want to learn.
The second point I want to reference is responsibility for the spiritual condition of the church. Paul refers to the church as a flock and tells the leaders that their job is to shepherd this flock. We know from words that Jesus spoke that a shepherd will genuinely care about every person in the church.
I believe this is the area that has personally caused me the greatest challenge. Don’t get me wrong—it isn’t that I don’t care about all of our members. Rather, how do we ensure that the church is providing for their spiritual needs?
We all have our idea of what church should be, and we individually favor particular services or groups and see these as important,because they meet our needs. But for others, their growth within the church may come from many different venues. As leaders, we need to ensure that we are meeting the needs of everyone. This has represented growth for me—to understand and appreciate the many ways in which ministry can happen.
And third is an appreciation for my fellow Elders and church officers. Each brings so many talents. It is worth noting that throughout Paul's letter, he refers always to the "elders"—the plural, rather than singular. The elders come together as a group. And the task is not simply to put forth our own ideas or agendas, but to cooperatively seek the mind of the Lord for the church.
I am constantly amazed at where the Holy Spirit leads us. But as a good friend often says, doing church can be a messy business. I am ever conscious of the task entrusted to us—to shepherd God’s flock.
Reg McQuay has been a member of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church since 1997. He serves as an Elder in the Officer Class of 2019. Reg shared this testimony during closing worship at the annual Officers Retreat on Saturday, May 19.