On Oversight Work
Henry Cummins, Bow, Devon
In dealing with this great subject the principal aim is to throw out practical suggestions which are intended to exercise the hearts and consciences of God's people, so that we may all betake ourselves with greater diligence to the holy business into which we have been, called; and that some who have assumed positions as overseers, without the Divine qualifications and call, may reconsider their course, and seek the mind of their Lord as to what He would have them to do.
We now turn to the word OVERSEER, generally translated Bishop. This is from the Greek word Episkopos. This word is from Epi—over, and Skopos—“to look after, visit.” This term is used in Phil. 1.1, 1 Tim. 3. 2; Titus 1. 7; Acts 20. 23 , and the qualifications are found in 1 Tim. 3. The word Episcope (i.e., visitation) also occurs in Luke 19. 44; and 1 Peter 2 12; and the same term is found in Matt. 25. 36; where Christ said, “I was sick, and ye visited me.” This therefore is suggestive of some of the work of one who is an overseer in the Church of God. To visit fellow saints as under shepherds, that we may comfort the feeble-minded: support the weak lift up the hands that hang down: and the feeble knees: to make straight paths for the feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way: but let it rather be healed (Heb. 12. 12, 13).
Let such as are ambitious to be “on the oversight,’’ get alone before the Lord, and examine every motive that actuates them, and ask themselves whether they are doing the work that the place they seek demands. If we but waited upon God more diligently about matters relating to our moral and spiritual fitness for His work: and yielded ourselves to the teaching and enabling of the Holy Spirit, we should not have such sorrowful spectacles of self-assertion, and schism, in the churches of God.
Brethren would not enter into this sphere of service, with the teeth of self-will sharp enough to “bite and devour one another.” But the process of waiting upon God and seeking the mind of Christ for His work, would so humble our souls; and prove to be to us a kind of spiritual dentistry, to file down the pride, arrogance, and perverseness of our wills, which are so often the cause of strife, and weakness, and which mars rather than helps the work of true shepherds in the church of God. They would have no desire to rush into prominence at public meetings; but do much more effective service in the church.
The true spirit in which all this service should be done is enjoined upon us in 1 Peter 5. 2-4, “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.”