The Baptist Pillar ©      Brandon Bible Baptist Church     1992-Present

"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Taskmaster or Overseer?

Pastor John Reaves, Sr.

"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." I Pet. 5:1-4.

Within the religious or Christian circles today we seem to have so much extremism. Webster gives this definition for extreme: "Outermost, utmost, farthest; at the utmost point, edge, or border."

We have extremism concerning salvation. At one end we have easy-believism, "Say this little prayer after me and be saved." Then at the other end we have, "Man has nothing to do with his salvation." Both groups ignore certain verses pertaining to the truth.

II Pet. 3:9 deny both, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." God is "...not willing that any should perish,..." That takes care of one extreme. The verse also says, "...but that all should come to repentance." That takes care of the other end.

We also have extremism concerning separation. One group says, "Dress code, that’s legalism." The other side says, "You have to have your hair one quarter of an inch above your collar, dresses to the ankle, head coverings, etc." What you end up with is modernism and Phariseism. Neither are right. The Bible just simple says, I Ti. 2:9-10, "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."

And yet concerning our subject at hand, pastors, we also have extremism. On one end we have puppets, completely controlled by the church and its boards. He has no freedom to lead the flock. On the other end we have the dictator, taskmaster. He is absolute authority. In reality the dictator is the cause of the puppet. When a dictator gets through with a church, mishandles the funds, gets the church in debt, runs off good people, etc. When he finally leaves, the church says, "Never again." They get one they can completely control. Again neither side, or end is right, the puppet or dictator-demi-god.

A pastor, what should he be? What does the Bible say? Is the pastor to be a taskmaster, dictator, or is he to be an overseer? Let us take a look at both.

The Taskmaster

Strong’s gives this definition for taskmaster: "Captain, a head person, keeper, lord, master, ruler,..." Many pastors today seem to get the idea that they are supreme ruler. What they say goes, no debate. They take the verses like Heb. 13:7, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation," and Heb. 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you," to try to justify their dictatorship. They begin to think, "I am the Lord, and there is none else."

The first place the word taskmaster or taskmasters appears in Scriptures is in Ex. 1:11, "Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses." What did the taskmasters do? They afflicted them with their burdens. The word burdens means, "That which is borne or carried; a load. Hence, that which is borne with labour or difficulty; That which is grievous, wearisome or oppressive."

You see a taskmaster assigns someone a task, a definite amount of business or labour. They burden them with some task, and they require them to perform it. No wonder God’s people today are getting weary in well doing. Many pastors are taskmasters, they are assigning tasks, requiring church members to perform, burdening them down with a heavy load.

What ever happened to believing that Christ is the head of the church? Eph. 5:23 says, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." Christ is the head of the church not the pastor. Don’t get me wrong. I am for pastoral leadership and pastor lead churches. I am definitely against deacons and trustees controlling the church. The pastor is to take the oversight and to be obeyed.

Heb. 13:17 says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." and I Ti. 5:17-18 does says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." But pastors need to realize that even as the Holy Spirit leads them to accept a certain pastorate at a certain church, so too must the Holy Spirit lead in all aspects concerning the operation of the body, the church.

I do not appoint Sunday School teachers or assign God’s people certain tasks. Nor do I appoint someone to be a Sunday School teacher just because they are qualified. That would be like appointing a pastor to a church just because he meets the qualifications. There must be a calling, a working of the Holy Spirit in the heart. If Christ is to be in control, He must be allowed to place as He sees fit to those positions in the church. After all it is His body.

When it comes to Sunday School teachers, I want who the Lord wants in these positions. I do as that first church did when they were in the process of replacing Judas. In Acts 1:23-24 it says, "And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen." They appointed two, but the bottom line was, "...shew whether of these two thou hast chosen."

We as pastors are not to assign a task but if the Lord works in someone’s heart and they get a burden from the Lord, the task is not wearisome or oppressive. It is a joy and they don’t become weary in well doing. Like I mentioned earlier it is the taskmasters that lay heavy burdens on the people, which results in deacon and trustee controlled churches. When a church gets rid of a taskmaster they say, "Never again." The next pastor that comes to fill the pastorate does not have a chance in leading that church in the manner in which the Lord would have him to lead.

In Webster’s definition of taskmaster he says, "One who imposes, commands, or impress forcibly, a task, or burdens with labour." A taskmaster, one who commands, demands. But you won’t find a shepherd or a pastor, one of God’s anyway, like that in the Bible. In our text we read, "Neither as being lords over God’s heritage,..." I Pe. 5:3. Remember, part of the definition; Strong’s, for taskmaster is, "A keeper, captain, a head person, lord,..."

A pastor is not to lord over God’s heritage, the church. A good example of where this lording over will lead is found in I Kings 12:1-16:

"And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.

And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;)

That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.

And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.

And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.

And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;

And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents."

Rehoboam thought he could be over God’s people by lording over or by a heavy hand, a taskmaster if you please, but what he ended up doing was splitting the nation.

Today we have many churches being split as a result of this lording over, commanding, and demanding. Jer. 50:6 speaks of this kind of sheered or pastor, "My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place."

I know of some pastors who tell their people when they can go on vacation, if they can get married, what to eat, and not to eat, etc., etc., with no Scripture to back it up.

It is religion that brings people into bondage. Jesus warned of what religion will do in Mat. 23:4, "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."

It’s religion and false prophets who bring God’s people into bondage. In II Pe. 2:15-19 we read:

"Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage."

They promise liberty, John 8:36, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," but they are brought into bondage.

These taskmasters are well described in Isa. 56:10-11, "His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter." Notice, "they all look to their own way,..." What about God’s way? I can assure you, based upon God’s word that, "Liveth and abideth forever," God’s way is not for pastors to be taskmasters, or to lord over His heritage.

So what is the pastor to be if not a taskmaster?

The Overseer

In Acts 20:28, we find a charge to the pastors, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." It says, "... the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,..." Strong’s gives this definition for overseer, "a superintendent, officer in general charge of a (or the) church..." So much for deacons or trustees in charge.

But it says the pastor is placed in the position as overseer by the Holy Ghost, he is the superintendent. The word superintendent means, "one who has the oversight and charge of something, with the power of direction..."

The Holy Spirit does not make pastors taskmasters but He does make pastors overseers. You see the difference is the taskmaster commands, oppresses, and drives, but the overseer gives direction. Just like the conductor of an orchestra, he directs and leads all the musicians and it results in them being one.

The taskmaster, you see, is out of place. They are behind the sheep, yelling, commanding, driving the sheep. That is why so many pastors cannot see any good in their sheep. They are behind them and not out ahead leading them, giving direction.

With Christ as our example, look at John 10:1-5:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." "...He goeth before them..."

Pastors, shepherds, are to lead the sheep, give them direction in the way they should go.

Our Great Shepherd is not a dictator or a taskmaster, on the contrary, Psalm 23 says, "...he leadeth me beside the still waters," verse 2, and verse 3 says, "...he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness..." Isa. 40:11b, speaking of the Lord says, "...and shall gently lead those that are with young." Gently, that does not sound like someone who imposes a task, or burdens one down with labour.

It sounds like someone who cares. John 10:11-14 says, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." The one who is not a real shepherd does not care for the sheep.

The very word, "pastor," speaks of care. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gives this definition for pastor, "A shepherd; one that has the care of flocks and herds. A minister of the gospel who has the charge of a church and congregation whose duty is to watch over the people of his charge, and instruct them in the sacred doctrines of the Christian religion."

There is no doubt that the Great Shepherd cares for us. I Pe. 5:7 says, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." And of course, to care for or to take care of the flock speaks of taking care of their needs, like feeding them. Again in Acts 20:28, " feed the church of God..." The number one task of overseer is to feed the flock.

I Pe. 5:2 says, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [to overseer] thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." Jesus asked Peter three times, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?..." and three times Peter replies, "...I love thee..." Our Lord’s reply, "Feed my lambs,...Feed my sheep,...and Feed my sheep," John 21:15-17. Our Lord still says to pastors, "If you love me, you will feed my sheep."

But today we have pastors spending more time out of their pulpits than in them which results in ignorant sheep. The end result of ignorant sheep is spelled out in Hos. 4:6a, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:..."

Pastors are to be busy at taking care of the sheep but today we have many shepherds as found in Ez. 34:2-3, "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock."

When our Lord saw the sheep as sheep without a shepherd, what did He do? Mk. 6:34, "And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things." "Because they were as sheep not having a shepherd," the first thing He does is "...and he began to teach them many things."

Overseering has a lot to do with feeding. In Exo. 17:9-13, we have a beautiful example of a shepherd, of which Moses was:

"And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword."

Notice every time Amalek began to prevail, what does Moses do? He lifts up the rod of God and the children of Israel prevail. From Moses’ vantage point he could over see the battle that raged and when he saw the people of God being defeated, he lifted up the rod, the Word of God, and they prevailed.

As pastors, when we see the people of God being defeated we are to stand behind the pulpits and, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." II Tim. 4:2.

Remember the difference between a taskmaster and an overseer? A taskmaster is one who imposes or commands a task, or burdens with labour, he drives the sheep. The overseer goes out ahead, he leads the sheep, gives them direction. The way he does that is with the Word. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Ps. 119:105.

You see, pastors are not to drive the sheep down the path but as I Pe. 5:3 says, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." We are to go out ahead of them and set the example. But I am afraid many pastors are poor examples with their finances, families, and faith. I Ti. 3:5 says, "(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)"

Not only are they poor examples, but they are also neglecting their main responsibility to the flock, to feed them. They get all caught up in the mechanics of the ministry and then feed the sheep canned food (sermons out of books), and they wonder why the sheep are not growing. I have had pastors tell me, "It only takes me a few hours to get a message." It does not take long to open a can.

Shame on pastors who shirk their responsibilities by letting deacons teach their adults and by singing for 45 minutes, but preach for only 20 minutes. No wonder the sheep are ignorant. I have been in so-called strong Baptist churches and the sheep could not even tell me why they are Baptist, or even why they use the KJV 1611. Shame, shame, shame.

Many pastors have become like the shepherds in Nah. 3:18, "Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them," and like those in Zec. 11:17, "Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened."

There is a strong warning to those kind of shepherds in Ez. 34:7-10:

"Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them."

I am afraid that behind many pulpits in North America we have taskmasters, they demand, command, and drive the sheep but these are not what the Lord gives the church. Jer. 3:15 tells us what kind of pastors He gives, "And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." That is the kind of pastors God wants the churches to have.

Remember where the shepherds were when Jesus came into this world? Luke 2:8, "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."

Let me close this message with a few warnings concerning shepherds, pastors.

"For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered." Jer. 10:21.

"Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD." Eze. 34:9.

"Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." Eze. 34:9-10.

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Heb. 13:17.

May God give us pastors according to His heart, which shall feed the flock.