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Confronting a Christian Leader (3): The Role of the Pastor

Updated on September 8, 2016
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Marcelo holds a B.A. in Bible, a B.S. in Education, and an M.S. in Education; has served as youth pastor; works as a group home supervisor.

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Have you ever asked your Pastor to help you solve a conflict with another person?

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Review

“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19, KJV)

In my previous post on Matthew 18:16, I explained that a Christian brother or sister who would confront another believer a second time over an offense should be accompanied by at least one witness; and if a witness cannot be procured, the Christian brother or sister should stop the process of accusing and confronting the other believer, especially if that believer is a leader in the church.

Consistent with Matthew 18:16, the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to ignore any accusations against an elder unless there were a total of two or three witnesses making the accusation.

In this post, I want to discuss the time when the we should involve our church pastor in the process of confronting a brother or sister in the faith.

When to Involve My Pastor

I believe the Pastor should be involved during the second step, during the time that there are two or three witnesses confronting the offender. Let me explain to you why I believe this.

The pastor of the local church is not specifically mentioned in Matthew 18:15-17. The people that are mentioned in the passage are (1) the offended and the offender during the first meeting; (2) the offended, the offender, and the witnesses during the second meeting; and (3) the offended, the offender, the witnesses, and the church during the third and final meeting.

Let us now compare those people from Matthew 18:15-17 to the ones mentioned in Deuteronomy 17:5-9. First, the accuser brings the transgressor to the gates before the people and before the witnesses; second, the witnesses and the people stone the transgressor (if he was found guilty); third, the people bring the matter to the priests and the judge.

The interesting matter is that in both scenarios (in Deuteronomy 17 and in Matthew 18), the witnesses should be presenting their testimony before someone, but that someone is not specified. In Deuteronomy 17, the witnesses present their testimony at the gates of the city before the person who investigated the matter and before the people, but someone else must be directing the meeting. I think Deuteronomy 19:12 sheds light on who is/are directing the meeting: that would be the elders of the city.

In Matthew 18:17, we are told that the witnesses have to be used so that “every word may be established.” That participle, the word established, seems to make the matter much more formal than a simple meeting between offended parties. The word seems to imply that someone was there to hear the testimony of the witnesses and make the thing official. Could this someone be the elder of the church? I believe it could be, and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be.

Thus, I think the Pastor should be present at the time when two or three witnesses will seek to confront the offender. The Pastor should be there to hear the witnesses, direct the meeting, and make the meeting official.

The Role of Timothy

“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19, KJV)

In support of my view that the Pastor of the church should be involved at the time when the witnesses are present, I want to take a look at Timothy’s role in 1 Timothy 5:19. In that verse, Timothy’s role is to receive or not receive the accusation made against an elder. Timothy is not to receive the accusation if two witnesses cannot be produced, but Timothy is to receive the accusation if two or three witnesses (the offended party included) can be produced.

Timothy seems to be located during the second step mentioned by the Lord in Matthew 18, during the time when the witnesses are giving their testimony.

On the other hand, Timothy’s role seems to be to receive or refuse the accusation. Nothing is really said about Timothy judging the whole matter by himself, and I don’t think he should.

Why Not Step Three

I mentioned previously that I think the Lord Jesus added the first step (Matthew 18:15) to the process of confronting someone; that the process was not originally found in Deuteronomy 17 or Deuteronomy 19. I think He did this because he was updating the commandment to be used by the church, and not just by the nation of Israel.

I have mentioned that believers should involve their Pastor during the second step, at the time the witnesses come forth to make an accusation. I think the Pastor’s role then is simply to listen to the witnesses, make sure that the accusation makes sense, and then ask the offender to repent.

I do not think the Pastor’s involvement starts in step three (Matthew 18:17) because the word church (assembly) is a collective word, and the focus of the Matthew 18:17 seems to be on the church’s role as a community or body of believers. Yes, the Pastor is part of that church, but he alone is not that church.

Helping the Pastor

I think, however, that a Pastor would do well to involve other church leaders in the process of hearing a difficult matter. Yes, there will be matters that are simple to mediate; but as the matter becomes more complex, other leaders in the church should become involved. Deuteronomy clearly states that when a matter was too difficult, it should be brought to the priests and the judge (this is still not step three; Deuteronomy really resonates more with the second step prescribed by the Lord).

This is an important matter to keep in mind, especially if anyone is concerned about the Pastor siding with one person or the other. The whole matter should not rest in the Pastor’s hands, but it should be addressed according to the biblical order. If a person does question the Pastor’s objectivity in the matter, then I believe the Bible is teaching that the Pastor should involve other church leaders that can help resolve the situation.

Every church member should have the right to be heard by a panel of church leaders if the Pastor cannot resolve a situation to their satisfaction.

Conclusion

In this post I have sought to address the role of the pastor in regards to church discipline, confronting Christian leaders, and resolving conflict between one person and another. My previous post did not really address the Pastor’s role, so I wanted to take time to address this important topic.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Have you ever asked your pastor to help you resolve a conflict with another believer? How did that go?

Do you think the author of this post has presented a compelling case of the role of the Pastor?

What is the process for mediation or conflict resolution in your church? Do you feel it is biblically based?

© 2016 Marcelo Carcach

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