And he is the head of the body, the church (Colossians 1:18, NIV)
Twice in each of his letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians, the Apostle Paul says that Jesus is the head of the church. Not just our founder, but our present, living Head. He it is who leads us; we belong to Him, as a human body goes with a human head.
There are many implications of this wonderful fact – for instance, our security. He has our backs! But there is also nothing like recognising that Jesus is the head of the church for putting pastors in their place.
It is easy to slip into thinking that a pastor is the head of the church he serves. Casually, we use terms like “his church” or “his people”. Gifted pastors are put on pedestals. A church’s identity becomes built around the pastor and his personality – which is problematic when a pastor moves or retires. It also obscures the miracle of changed lives which a local church exhibits. What is in reality a supernatural work of God is attributed to human skill, and we lose our ability to see the good hand of the Lord.
In this context, recognising that Jesus is the head of the church puts the pastor in his place. It should also be a great relief to the pastor that, in the end, the government will be on [Christ’s] shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). He can prayerfully commit the church to its unfailing leader.
The fact that Jesus is the head of the church also puts the pastor in his place in another sense: it points to what the pastor’s job is. He is to be a preacher / teacher of Christ’s word, for this is how the Lord Jesus rules His people.
Has it ever struck you as odd that the earthly leaders of churches are supposed to be preachers? Hospitals are run by chief executives, who are not normally medics. Schools are run by head teachers, who once were classroom teachers, but now no more. So why aren’t churches led by people whose main skill set is that of the CEO? What are we doing having them train at theological colleges, when they should be doing MBAs? Why do they have to devote so much of their time to opening the Bible with people?
Answer: because the Lord Jesus is the head of the church. He rules and saves by His word. If we are to give this practical expression, those appointed to earthly leadership of churches have the responsibility to ensure that His Word is taught, understood, trusted and obeyed, and that it is allowed to shape all the attitudes and policies of the church. (And that way, beautifully, people are built up, and many are equipped for the works of service which are part of a living church – Ephesians 4:12.)
That’s why, when I was ordained, the Bishop presented me with a Bible, not an Excel spreadsheet!
The pastor who knows his place, and Who the real Head of the Church is, will do all they can to ensure that Jesus’ words really are faithfully heard. Please pray for that.