Question: Are the elders appointed by God?
Answer: Acts 20 clearly says that the Holy Spirit has placed men to be overseers over the flock. Therefore, elders are appointed by God. What the apostles did merely expressed the intention of the Holy Spirit.
Question: How should the elders be supported? Is the support for the elders the same as the support for the workers?
Answer: There is no difference between the two. In the Bible, there is no such thing as a worker giving up his salary and becoming a special supported class. Although Peter gave up his fishing, Paul remained a tentmaker. There is no difference between a worker with an occupation and a worker without an occupation; there is no distinction of class. If an elder is gifted and is so busy with the affairs of the church that he has no more time to take up an occupation, he should receive double honor from the brothers. If an elder is not that busy, he can hold a job to support himself and also take care of the church affairs. This is true not only with the elders but with the workers as well. Those who are gifted can hold a job, and they can also do their work, as long as their job does not interfere with their work. I also hope that I can do my work while holding a job. I am not saying this because I am poor and have nothing to eat. Living by faith is not something that makes one holier than others. Yet some consider this to be something extraordinary and super-spiritual. The reason Christians pay too much attention to those who live by faith is that the faith of Christians has become degraded. Actually, there is nothing strange about this matter. The very early churches did not consider this to be something strange. Actually, every believer should have faith, and every person who is holding a job should live by faith. I have often thought that those brothers who are engaged in business have a greater faith than I have. If they do not have faith, how can they open a shop, put in capital, and order the merchandise? How do they know if people will buy the merchandise?
In the Bible the elders are brothers, the gifted ones are brothers, and those who do not have any gift are brothers also. Among the brothers, there are only distinctions between gifts and positions; there is no distinction between having and not having a job. Such a distinction in support is a concept brought in from the denominations. Those who hold such a concept have forgotten that Paul was a tentmaker. For this reason, we should completely eradicate this concept from among us. If a pastor in a denomination, on the one hand, serves as a pastor and, on the other hand, holds a job, others will misunderstand him. But among us, we should not have such a concept. This kind of concept is a poison left behind by the pastoral system of the denominations.
The Catholic Church says that after a man is ordained, he becomes holy. He will have an indelible mark on him, and it will distinguish him from other, common people. But Catholicism has forgotten that the apostle Paul continued to hold a job of making tents. We workers can give up our job when we are busy and go back to our jobs when we have time. There is nothing wrong in doing this.
Question: Can an evangelist start a school by himself?
Answer: Yes, he can. A person can start a business or a school by himself. Paul might have started a business of tentmaking. But he did not involve all the believers in Ephesus in this tentmaking business.
It is wrong for a church to run a school, hospital, or biscuit factory. It is all right for some brothers to join together to start a school, hospital, or biscuit factory. But it is a big mistake if we run a school under the name of the meeting in Hardoon Road. It is not wrong for a few brothers to start a school together.
Question: Is it true that in the whole Bible, pastors are mentioned only in Ephesians 4?
Answer: Yes, this is true. The word pastor or shepherd (as related to the church) is mentioned only in Ephesians 4. [Editor’s note: This is according to the Chinese Union Version Bible.] Pastoring or shepherding is a gift and is for the building up of the whole church; it is a gift that God has given to the whole church. The elders, on the other hand, are appointed by the apostles for the purpose of managing a local church (known as the so-called congregation in the denominations). Yet the apostles cannot appoint gifts; they have never appointed any prophets, evangelists, or shepherds and teachers, because these are gifts given by God. Suppose I am the owner of a factory. I can appoint foremen and assistant foremen because these are positions. But I cannot appoint anyone to be a concrete worker, because a person may not know how to do concrete work. Therefore, an apostle can only appoint men to offices, that is, to the eldership; he cannot appoint gifts, such as prophets, evangelists, or shepherds and teachers, because the matter of gifts is entirely in God’s hand. God appoints them, and God gives these gifts. No one can usurp or fight for them. If you see someone who is good at preaching, and you want to be the same, it cannot be done. This is because 1 Corinthians 12 says that gifts are not appointed by men and are not obtained according to human will; they are distributed to all respectively even as He purposes (v. 11). Pastoring is a gift of the Holy Spirit and is given to the church by God through the Spirit. If we see anyone with the gift of pastoring, we cherish it. But we cannot ordain a man to be a pastor, just as we cannot ordain a man to be a concrete worker. We must not force the pastors to become priests, the intermediary class. If anyone does this, we will surely oppose it. But this does not mean that we are opposed to the pastors or shepherds that are recorded in the Bible. We are opposed to the “pastoral system” that is in the denominations. This is why we have to be careful not to bring the things invented by the denominations into our midst.