In Eph 4.11, we have the functions of the zekanim (elders). Others can do these functions as well, but that doesn’t make them a zekan. The purpose of these functions is to equip the believers in the congregation to do the work of the ministry. The ministry is the work of the people, not the zekanim. So, lets look at these functions.
These functions are not a “five fold ministry” as some teach. What we have is the concept of a zekan, who is an overseer, and the Lord will have him in different roles at different times. An apostle is called a “shaliach” in Hebrew and it means a “sent one.” We see Moses was sent in Exo 3.9-14 and Yeshua in John 6.29. This is an ancient concept and it is a synagogue designation for the one who got the scrolls. It also relates to a person who has been sent to do a certain task for the congregation.
We have an elevated view of what an apostle (shaliach) is and there may have been thousands of apostles (sent ones) 8n the First Century alone. Rom 16.7 names some apostles, including a female.
Prophets (“Nevi’im” in Hebrew) were watchman, led by the Lord to speak directly for him. They were seers, dreamers, had visions and were watchmen. Many were shaliachim (apostles) like Jonah, who was sent as a shaliach to prophesy.
Evangelists were called “M’basarim” because they brought the Basar (the gospel, the good news). The word also means “flesh or bread.” Their messages concerned the kingdom of God. It entailed much more than the concept today. Today’s “evangelist” comes and teaches about death and resurrection, believe and be saved, but in the first century, it involved much more than that.
Pastors were called “roehim” meaning a shepherd (1 Pet 5.1-4). Teachers were called “mor’im” or “rabbi” or even a “maggid.” Now, these two functons wre linked together as one because in Greek, our verse in Eph 4.11 has no conjunction “and” between “pastors and teachers” and should be understood as “teaching pastors.”
Now a zekan (elder) in a congregation would function in all of these. God would have him in different roles at different times. The Lord may send him to one place (a shaliach) and he may prophesy (a Nevi’im). He could carry the good news of the kingdom (as a M’basarim”) and all of them are shepherd (roehim)/ teachers (morim), feeding the flock.
All of these functions involved teaching. If you can’t teach, you aren’t qualified for the others as a zekan. So, what do we have here. A zekan (elder) is a noun (who he is). Prophet, teacher/pastor, evangelist and apostle is our verb (what he does/his function). The purpose is to equip the tzaddikim (saints). The attitude is 1 Pet 5.1-4. Zekanim (elders) cannot be a novice.
However, the same problems seen in 1 Cor 12.12-31 can be seen today because elders are not properly trained and do not know the Scriptures, so they can’t train the people. People have their own concept of an elder. Congregations hire them, so its their job. But, the zekanim were not paid, and it is their job to teach the people to do the work. Everybody should be able to teach the truth, visit the sick, help the needy and be scholars. But everybody wants to be the head and not the foot. We like to be the tongue, but not the toe.
Somewhere, this has got to change, but it won’t as long as churches ignore the biblical model of the first century congregations that the epistles were written from. It is this first century congregational model that the messianic congregations were built from in the epistles.
But, today, a proper foundation has not been laid, so everything that is built upon it will fail. What we have is everyone doing what they feel is right, hiring the wrong people to lead who aren’t qualified. As a result, congregations don’t know their role, members don’t know their role and how to “fit in.” We don’t have a Paul around to show us what he meant in his writings concerning these questions. We can go back and see the congregational structure of these congregations and their functionaries, but we will never have all the answers. Patience is needed as everybody learns, but people need to listen to those who are trying to restore the ancient paths.
Remember, there are at least three zekanim in a congregation, with one as a Nasi/Rosh Knesset. The American way is to have a chief pastor, an associate pastor, a minister of music, a minister of education, a youth minister, then some elders and deacons. But that is not the biblical structure of a congregation. And of course, Americans like to vote on issues because it doesn’t seem fair not to, but there was no voting on leadership. Now, lets say you may be a leader in your congregation who begins to see that what is happening is wrong.
So, you embark on studies that show you the Hebraic meanings of the Scriptures and you see how your Christian theology is way off. You know the Lord is leading you away from all of that calling and you set your face like flint to do it, learning God’s ways. Many will not understand you as you begin to share with them what the Lord is showing you, they will argue with you and leave.
Remember this verse in Ecc 1.18, “Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.” But, its not hopeless, we just don’t have the right model. Abraham didn’t go to just any mountain, he went to a specific mountain. He had a place to go. People want to know where to start. If you are in church leadership, get rid of the little Sunday school books that require no knowledge.
Don’t have teachers who don’t know the Scriptures and aren’t willing to learn. If they are willing, don’t use them till they have properly studied the Scriptures many times. Your staff will be cut to the bone by this time. Learn how to interpret the Scriptures by putting them back into their proper context and understand them the way the writers intended (which means their proper Hebraic context, knowing the idioms, phrases and concepts), learn how to look things up and use lexicons and concordances.
Now you need to train what is left of your teachers and members, if there are any! Where are you going to buy books and material that teach you about halakah, the Sabbath, Hebrew, the festivals, the Temple, gematria (numerical values used in Scripture), Jewish histories and good messianic material and teachings? Christian bookstores won’t even know what you are talking about, let alone what you need.
But, once you get these materials, can you even understand them? To do what the Lord says, you are going to go through a major upheaval and hassle. You will find that there are different immersions (baptisms-not just one like in Christian churches). You will find out that tithing is not what you thought. True, biblical worship and the festivals are different. Your family begins to worry and thinks you are wrong, crazy or both. The rug will get pulled out from under you among your friends. You can’t go to a school because they don’t know either. Maybe you are down to less than ten people. We were blessed to have twenty or thirty people after over twenty years of working in an area. Everything you thought you knew you have to learn again.
We are not telling you something that won’t happen because it will, it happened in our experience and still does. Church is easy, the hired man does the work and all you have to do is sit and listen, maybe participate in something once in awhile, but God’s ways are not like that. You are to learn the truth and not stop until you find it (Jer 9.23).
Ecc 1.18 warns us of the grief you will find. You won’t know what to do, and the majority of the people around you, or leading you, won’t either. You will feel like an abandoned child and you will have to make it on your own. Many congregations fail, but that doesn’t mean they were on the wrong path. You need patience to move as God moves you. You will need “chutzpah” to try harder and work towards the biblical models that are there. There is a price you will pay, but it is easy if you apply yourself.
Remember, children at the age of five can learn this stuff. After one year, you will be amazed at what you know. You weren’t a threat to the enemy going to Sunday school. Satan hated the Jews because God showed them his ways. Satan went to great lengths to “de-Judaize” the Scriptures and the faith once delivered. He invested a lot of time. He robbed the blueprints from the people. He “gentilized” the Gospels and Epistles, he made it “conflict” due to a lack of understanding with the Tanach. He did everything in his power to get the people to avoid the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings (the Tanach, or “old” testament). He didn’t want the people to know the festivals and God’s eschatological plan. He also taught the people to say “Those things are Jewish and done away with by Jesus” or “We are not under the Law” and similar sayings.
When you start moving into this, you better be ready. You say “I’m not afraid” but you will be. But you will overcome. You haven’t seen spiritual warfare until you move in the direction of the Torah and a first century understanding of the Gospels and Epistles. You will need to decide what you need to learn and find out how to accomplish it and develop a plan.
In Part 6, we will pick up here and discuss how to carry out what you will learn. Then we will continue to discuss more concepts concerning the congregational structure in the first century