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THE WORK OF AN OVERSEER

by Dr. C. L. Cagan.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, May 26, 2018

“If a man desire the office of a bishop [overseer], he desireth a good work” (I Timothy 3:1).


The Greek word translated “bishop” in our text is episkopos. It means “overseer, supervisor” (Strong’s Concordance #1985). It means “a man called by God to keep an eye on the flock” (Helps Word Studies). The highest overseer is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop (episkopos) of your souls” (I Peter 2:25). The people are called “sheep” and the “Shepherd and Bishop” is Christ.

In a local church the shepherd, the bishop, the overseer, is the pastor. The pastor holds the office of bishop, the overseer. Our text says the office of pastor (overseer) is “a good work” (I Timothy 3:1).

The Greek word translated “pastor” in the Bible is poimen. The word means “shepherd.” Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd (pastor, poimen)” (John 10:14). The sheep – the Christians – hear Jesus’ voice and follow Him. Christ said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

In a local church the shepherd, the poimen, is the pastor. The Bible says that Christ “gave some...pastors (poimen)” (Ephesians 4:11). Some men are given the gift of pastor, of shepherd, of watching over the sheep and taking care of them. The ministry of the pastor is to “oversee” the church and be the “shepherd” of the people.

The gift and the work of the pastor is different from any other position in the church. Many people get names on evangelism. Some people telephone them and arrange a ride for them to come to church. I type the sermons and do most of the paperwork in the church. All of those things should be done, but that will not build a church. It will not take care of the people.

Even good preaching will not build or save a church without the work of a pastor. A man can be a good speaker. He can preach the Gospel. That is good, and it should be done. But without a pastor the church will fail.

Why? Because we live in a fallen world. Since the Fall of Adam, the whole human race – all of us, even Christians – are cursed with a sin nature. The creation itself is cursed because of sin. Things don’t get better by themselves! They can get worse – and they do! It’s easy for a church to run down. It’s easy to backslide. It’s easy to make mistakes. That part is easy. No guidance required! But people and churches do not by themselves get better and stronger. The sin nature doesn’t want that. The world doesn’t want that. The Devil doesn’t want that. That’s why we need God, not just to be saved, but to live the Christian life. That’s why we need a gifted shepherd, not only to help us find Christ but to help us live our lives.

The pastor looks over – sees over – the church. He thinks and prays about the church. How is the church doing? What state, what shape, is it in? What do the people need to hear? Teaching the Bible alone will not help the people. Teaching the Bible alone will not build a church, or save it. What do the people need to hear? Should he lead evangelistic meetings? Should the pastor lead a special emphasis on revival? Should he talk about prayer? About evangelism? About commitment? How is the church lacking? What problems and dangers does it face? A good pastor knows the state of the flock (see Proverbs 27:23).

A pastor knows the sheep – the people in the church. He knows the problems in their lives. He knows what they are thinking. He knows what they need. And a pastor gets involved with the sheep. He doesn’t teach them and let it go at that. He is close to the sheep. He guides them. He keeps them from going astray.

Isn’t that what sheep do without a shepherd? They wander here and there. They get lost. Soon they are eaten! The Bible says the Devil “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). The Apostle Paul warned that “grievous wolves [shall] enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Lions and wolves will eat up the sheep if they can. That’s why the sheep need a pastor to take care of them, to protect them, to keep them from wandering away.

Teaching the sheep will not help them. They’re sheep. They’ll go astray. It isn’t enough to teach something once or twice and think, “That’s done. Now they’ll do the right thing.” No, they will not! They’re sheep. The shepherd oversees – looks over – the flock and takes care of them. He doesn’t just teach into the air. He looks at each sheep. He takes care of each one. He takes care of it when it is sick or injured. He keeps it from wandering. He keeps the lions and wolves away.

Without a pastor – an overseer, a shepherd – the church will fail. A church cannot be built without a pastor. A church cannot grow without a pastor. A church cannot be kept and saved without a pastor.

Without the work of the pastor, people will not come into the church. They will not stay. They will come for a while and then leave. They can be taught the Bible. They can be taught theology. But they will still leave. Why? Because their real problems and sins and needs were not dealt with. The things that were really going on in their lives were not taken care of. So they will leave because they never really came in.

Without the work of the pastor, the church will decline and fall apart. The Devil is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Grievous wolves will come in, not sparing the flock. And the sheep, the people in the church, will go astray. They can make mistakes. They can take their lives in a wrong direction. They may do terrible damage to their lives – and to others – and to the church. They don’t mean to do wrong. But they’re sheep. It’s in their nature to go astray. Sheep can make wrong decisions about where to live, what to do in school or work, or who to marry. They mean well, but they can make mistakes. That’s why they need the help of an experienced and gifted overseer. That’s why the church needs an overseer, a shepherd, a pastor.

The work of an overseer is the real work of the ministry. It’s what actually wins people and keeps them. It’s what really helps people. It’s what brings them in. It’s what helps them with the big problems and decisions and temptations in their lives. It’s what changes their lives. It’s what builds up the church. It’s what keeps the church from declining and falling apart. This is what only the overseer can do. This is what makes the difference between wisdom and error, between life and death – in the church and in the lives of the people. The work of the overseer is the real work of the ministry.

All of the other work of the church – all the “machinery” of the church – can be done, and done well. People can get names. We can bring visitors. We can even have good preaching. But the church will fail without a pastor. As Dr. Lee Roberson said, “Everything rises or falls on leadership.”

The pastor of our local church is Dr. Hymers. He has been in the ministry for sixty years. He has founded two churches. He has gone through trials that would make most men quit. He has taken our church through a horrible split. He has great experience and wisdom in understanding our church and in taking care of people. Over and over again I have seen him accomplish things that would be impossible by regular “machinery” alone. I have seen him used by God to get people converted who seemed like impossible cases that would never be saved. I have seen him used to counsel people and overcome tremendous problems. I have seen him guide people into fruitful and happy lives. Thank God for our pastor!

And what do I say to you? You’re not the pastor. But you can help the pastor and support him. He can’t be everywhere. He doesn’t see everything that happens right away. Therefore, if you see or hear something that might be wrong, tell the pastor. If you’re not sure it’s wrong, but it might be wrong, tell the pastor. If you can’t get hold of the pastor right away, tell me. I talk with him every day and I will tell him.

Don’t fix it yourself. Don’t assume the pastor already knows about it. He may not. Don’t assume that someone else is taking care of it. If you see or hear something that might be wrong, tell the pastor! This is all the more true for deacons and leaders in the church. It’s your job to be a servant and helper to the pastor. Don’t do nothing. Don’t put your head in the sand. Don’t let things go wrong without saying something. Don’t just do your regular assignments and let everything else go. And don’t “fix” the problem yourself. You can make mistakes too. If you see or hear something that might be wrong, tell the pastor.

The overseer, the shepherd, the pastor, is a gift to any church. Our pastor, Dr. Hymers, is an especially great gift from Christ to our church. There is no question about that! Help him. Back him up. If you see or hear something that might be wrong, tell him. I pray that you will do it. Amen.


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Trust and Obey” (by John H. Sammis, 1846-1919).