From the earliest days of the Church, congregations have possessed leaders. The offices of presbyter and deacon were already emerging at the time the New Testament was being written. Along with Saint Paul himself the Pauline churches were guided by local shepherds.
In Acts 20 Paul gives instruction to the Ephesian elders (or overseers) about their duties as leaders of the flock. He instructs them to defend the flock against false doctrine. Paul himself had to fight false teaching in the congregations he established.
Primary among all the duties of the clergy is to defend the faith of the church in word and action. Not to do so is a betrayal.
Our witness to Christ is not only a failure but also a betrayal if the content of the kerygma (message) that we speak is tainted with falsehood. The leader must preach the truth; the leader must preach Christ. If he/she does not, he/she is a wolf in the flock. The pastor must always remember the vows taken at ordination.
Pastors, then, must instruct their congregations through preaching and teaching so that in the people’s witness they may reflect the truth of the Christian faith. Witness is toxic when its content is poisoned by any of the many heresies the church has had to do battle.
Michael G. Tavella
April 20, 2020
Johannes Bugenhagen, 1558