According to 1 Timothy 3:1, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The Word of God declares the work of an overseer “a noble task.” And I agree. Overseers keep the Church of God of Prophecy running. They are key to shaping the vision of the Church, even its very future. Overseers have laid down their lives and continually sacrifice much so that the vital link between the local church and the greater body is maintained and prospers.
Placing overseers in the Church is not something the Church of God of Prophecy devised or even borrowed from another tradition. Scripture clearly shows that overseers were an integral part of the New Testament church. One example of this is Paul addressing them in his letter to the Philippians: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1).
Even the Old Testament highlights and utilizes the term overseer. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament for overseer means “turn attention to” (Genesis 21:1), “visit” (Judges 15:1), “appoint” (Genesis 39:5), or “commission” (Ezra 1:2). Similarly, the Greek word in the New Testament for overseer means to “watch carefully” (Hebrews 12:15), “inspect” (Luke 19:44; 1Peter 2:12), or “give oversight” (Acts 1:20). So, scripturally, we see the concept of overseer as one who gave attention to certain matters or persons, visiting, inspecting, and appointing. Protective supervision is the basic idea.
Each of our overseers excels in these things. They give oversight; they watch carefully, they visit, they protect. They hear the heartbeat of the Church and follow the 1 Peter 5:2 mandate: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” Daily, our overseers live out the instruction given to them in Acts 20:28: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
I have made a commitment to build up this vital team of leaders and encourage them. I try to address issues that are relevant, to be a friend they feel comfortable talking to. I want to always show that I am trustworthy and available to them.
From literature prepared by the Administrative Committee expounding on Vision 2020, comes these strategic goals for serving and equipping overseers:
Continue to affirm and value the vital apostolic ministry of the overseer.
“And he gave some, apostles . . . for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12). God calls and places anointed people at the table of decision-making. The apostolic ministry of the overseer is vital; he bridges the local church to the International Offices. Let us be diligent to honor those who administrate the work of the Kingdom.
Provide a breadth of educational streams to equip overseers in developing resources relevant to their region of ministry.
Overseers should have at their disposal every resource and tool available to insure that the needs of their region are fully met. Open lines of communication are imperative and must be utilized more than ever. A multiplicity of ideas and strategies should be offered continually through email, websites, and innovative learning opportunities. Effective ministry strategies should be sought by the general presbyter and shared with the overseers regularly.
Again, I agree! We have some sharp men serving as overseers who can pick up the torch and go with it. They believe in the core values of the COGOP. They have prayer conferences and internet prayer sites. They plan and implement opportunities for 24-hour prayer.
They work diligently in the harvest effort. We are averaging two new church plants a month in North America because of the work of overseers pursuing the core value of harvest. There are regions where talented, gifted men have even doubled church plants and have taken in multiple congregations.
Overseers believe in developing leaders and they are doing it. They have seen a shift from primarily being administrators or caretakers to being a leader of leaders. Oh, they still have the care of the churches and pastors on their shoulders as well as licensing issues and seemingly endless reporting, but they are focusing more energy than ever on mentoring emerging leaders, preparing them to take the reins. Overseers are developing schools of ministry to meet this need for leadership development. I know them. I see them striving for excellence. They have done great things for God and the COGOP.
In 1 Timothy 3:2–16, the qualifications of an overseer are clear: “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
What is my responsibility to these godly, noble men? To serve them. The presbyters endeavor to serve the overseers. We are on call for them. Our phones are on 24/7, even when we are travelling. We try to promote and help with financial needs when necessary. In North America, we invest $6,000 in every church plant. We make “harvest grants” in areas that are growing. We have supported those that are enrolled in the Leader of Leaders program. We supplement their expenses and training fees.
The presbyters also endeavor to support our overseers in “new field” work. A large percentage of our growth as a Church is in this area. It is a great challenge to connect with the many different cultures represented by the immigrants coming to this country.
I was a pastor for 28 years. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a great opportunity for hands-on ministry. The overseer works on a different level—different challenges, different types of problems. Some we haven’t even touched on, like lawsuits and legal matters. Suffice it to say, overseers need our support and encouragement. I hope to be a continual blessing to the overseers God has placed in my care.