WATCH DRURY WRITE A BOOK.  – THIS IS A TEMPORARY POST   Writer’s first draft of a book to be published by The Wesleyan Publishing House. as  an introduction to the ministry.  This web-posted copy is an early draft of the manuscript and not intended to be used as a final document.  While the editors will catch  minor errors if you see something significantly wrong or missing drop Keith Drury a note at   © 2003 Keith Drury


A Minister’s Family Tree

Is this notion of a minister or priest a new one or does it have biblical and historical support?  If I am headed into the ministry to whom will I look to in the Bible and through history as my models? Who has gone before me that I can read about and learn from?  To whom can I look to for guidance and as a model of what it means to be in the ministry?  What exactly is my ministerial "family Tree?" 


No matter where you are in the world you will find a religion and as part of that religion you will also find a class of people serving as priests or ministers or religious leaders of some kind. These priests and ministers serve the masses by bringing the people and God together. Put most simply, the priest or minister "represents God to the people and the people to God."


Christianity holds this in common with other world religions. We have a long line of ministers and priests in our family tree. While present ministry is certainly more important than digging up the roots of our ministerial family tree, it is still worthwhile to know our ministerial lineage. We do not take up the calling to the ministry lightly—we join an impressive line of people before us who represented God to the people, and the people to God.  Many of the following "titles" overlap, which reminds us how, God always raises up spiritual leaders for his people.  The titles and work may overlap and shift through the generations, but God always calls out spiritual leaders for His people.


The Patriarchs

Of course the Patriarchs did not have a minister--they were the ministers. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job dealt directly with God. They had no synagogue, no temple, no priests, not even any part of the Bible. As the head of the household/tribe the patriarch served as the clan's priest. Sometimes they also represent God to the people outside their clan. Noah represents God to a corrupt world, providing an "escape" for the people who might have repented. Abraham intercedes on behalf of the city of Sodom, representing the people to God. However, the patriarchs were not completely on their own without other priests. While Abraham felt competent to officiate at his own sacrifices, he still pays a tithe to Melchizedek(Genesis 14:17-20). Melchizedek was a priest of Salem (later to become Jeru(Salem). Presumably Melchizedek was a local priest representing God to the people and the people to God—remember this is in a period long before any temples or the Ten Commandments. So while the Patriarchs were do-it-yourself priests, at least Abraham related to yet another priest—Melchizedek. When you sense a call into ministry today, you can trace your ministerial lineage back to these patriarchs--the line includes all the Patriarchs and Melchizedek. When you are ordained you pick up the mantle of the Patriarchs, you pass on what God is saying to the people and take up the calling of interceding for your people



Moses provides a transition between the Patriarchs and the priests. Jacob's son Joseph had been sold by his brothers into slavery and was shipped off to Egypt. His entire clan eventually joined Joseph—first as honored guests but eventually they were enslaved. Hundreds of years pass before Moses becomes the leader of the combined clans—“the Israelites" or "children of Israel." When the call came to Moses he had been living with a "Priest of Midian."  Moses returned to Egypt to serve as a sort of Super-Patriarch—spiritual and administrative leader for an entire people. God called him to lead the people—not just militarily and politically, but also spiritually. Moses represents God to the people as He receives and presents the Ten Commandments as their rules for living. The first five books of the Bible—the Pentateuch—are seen as the "Books of Moses."  These books present God's detailed instructions to the people. This was not just God's instructions to a single person as happened with Abraham ("Take your son up to the mountain and sacrifice him"), but here God spoke to all the people Moses represented God to the people. But he also represented the people to God in his prayers and intercession for them. As Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom, Moses was the mouthpiece for the people to God—remember how he begged God to spare the lives of the Israelites?  When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of Moses—speaking for God to the people and interceding for  the people to God.


Priests and Levites

But Moses was not a solo priest for long, his brother Aaron emerges early in the story as a kind of grandfather of the priesthood. A portable church was constructed and "the Tabernacle" emerged where collective worship and sacrifice occurred, not just for families, but for an entire people. One particular tribe of that nation—the Levites—was called to serve as priests and assistants to the priests.  These Priests and Levites of old became ministers not by being individually called but by being born—It was an inherited calling—you were a priest or Levite by being born the child of a priest or Levite. When Israel worshipped and sacrificed the Priests and Levites guarded the Tabernacle and officiated at these sacrifices. When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the Priests and Levites as you lead worship and officiate at sacraments like baptism, communion, and rites like marriages, child dedications or funerals


Judges & Kings

When Israel finally entered the Promised Land they lost Moses and were ruled to some degree by Judges.   Later, Saul became the single national King initiating the line of Kings in Israel. These Judges and Kings were often both military and political leaders, but some had a spiritual leadership function as well, especially David the second king of Israel, and Solomon who constructed the permanent Temple in Jerusalem. Other later kings like Hezakiah were Priest-Kings. The Priests and Levites still officiated at the Tabernacle and later the Temple, but the Judges and Kings also provided some spiritual leadership. When you are ordained you will take up some of the administration mantle from the judges and kings.  This administrative function is mostly focused on managing the church, though sometimes a Minister gets involved in local or national politics or leadership.


The Prophets

Wouldn't you think that a King looking out for both temporal and spiritual things, along with host of Priests and Levites officiating at the Temple would be enough? Yet another class of God's representative arose. In fact they came before the kings, Samuel being the first. Samuel was called by God to represent God to the people, as a kind of priest-prophet. He anointed Saul and later David as king. In this act he was representing God's selection and approval. Samuel is at the beginning of a long line of prophets. Who need prophets? Why did this new class of representative of God arise?  Weren't the Kings and Priests enough? Apparently not. Perhaps as leadership of the nation of Israel increasingly specialized, the existing leaders focused mostly on what was at hand. That is, the kings focused on political and military leadership more than spiritual leadership. The Priests and Levites focused especially on "representing the people to God" primarily by officiating at Temple worship and sacrifices. Who would represent God to the people? Who would speak for God—not just lead worship? God apparently raised up the prophets to do this. They wandered about speaking for God, predicting, and scolding, encouraging and heartening the people. They were ancient preachers.  Today's worship service often includes two parts: the upward focused praise and prayer from the people to God, and the downward focused Scripture and sermon oriented from God to the people. The prophets specialized in this second part: representing God's word to the people. Thus we have a long series of books in the Old Testament produced by these prophet-preachers representing God to the people: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Maham, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the prophets—accepting the call to preach God's word to the people, even when it is not popular to the hearers.



The Scribes studied and copied the Word of God—the Torah. They were students of the Scripture and carefully transmitted and multiplied it for the people. While the Scribes may not be in our direct family tree, they do represent the careful study of Scripture and urgency that God’s word would multiply. When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the Scribes in a commitment to study and multiply the Scriptures in your own heart and mind and in the lives of your people.



A Rabbi is simply a teacher. Rabbis drew around them people interested in study—these people were called “disciples.” Jesus was a rabbi and gathered around him disciples whom he taught. When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the Rabbis for you are not called just to administer and preach, but to teach your people.


Synagogue Elder

While the priests officiated at the one national Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews also had a multitude of "local churches" by the time of Jesus—called a “synagogue.”  Probably born in the Babylonian captivity as a means of preserving and passing on the faith, the Synagogue idea was brought back to Israel on the return from captivity. Here a "congregation" of local people came to pray, read and study the Scriptures. The Synagogue was a local place of prayer and Bible study. The size of the town determined the organization of the Synagogue. If there was one rabbi, he would be the Synagogue Ruler. In a large synagogue there may have been a college of “elders” presided over by a "chief of the synagogue" –a president or presiding elder. When you are ordained, you will take up the mantle of the Synagogue ruler as you either solo-lead a congregation or perhaps you will become one of a staff of elder/leaders of a local congregation.



Jesus had lots of disciples. From that larger group of followers he called out twelve to serve as Apostles—to "be with Him." These were His inner circle—His designated successors—to whom He gave authority to multiply the church and make decisions in His name. He even promised them they would do greater things than He did! After Christ ascended the Apostles took up the job of leading and ruling the church. They assumed the delegated authority from Christ Himself, and thus were respected and obeyed in the early church. They also received His Commission to propagate disciples and eventually they took the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and eventually to the uttermost parts of the world. When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the Apostles in authority over Christ's church as well as their commission to make disciples of all nations.



At first the Apostles did everything—including the daily distribution of food for the widows in Jerusalem. They eventually realized that they were “spread too thin” and their focus was too broad.  Moses had a similar experience long before.  His father-in-law Jethro had confronted him: “The work is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:18).  Both Moses and the Apostles eventually received help from others.  In fact, God prompted the Apostles to develop a new class of church workers—“deacons” (simply called "the Seven” at first). These workers took on the management work of food distribution so that the Apostles could give themselves more whole-heartedly to prayer and ministry of the Word. While some churches still ordain deacons as a second class of ministers, many evangelical churches have “trustees” or “deacon boards” of laity who handle the building, management, and construction matters, freeing up the pastor to deal with preaching and teaching. Some denominations have ordination for deacons as a sub-category of ordained service.  In others the deacon's work is really a lay ministry.   Either way, when you are ordained you will take up some of the mantle of the deacons too—for much of the modern pastor’s management and organizing work in evangelical churches is “deacon’s work.”


Prophets and Teachers

In the church at Antioch there were "prophets and teachers" which were a New Testament version of the Old Testament rabbis and prophets. These were a group of leaders God had given the church.  They preached and taught the people, producing strong Christians with strong faith.  Paul and Barnabas were in that group.  The prophets presented the gospel with authority and sometimes warned, foretelling future events and even chastised and scolded the people like the Old Testament prophets.  They were, in a sense, "preachers."  The teachers trained and built up the people so they would be strong and solid in the faith.  Together they could take a great tag team approach to both preaching and teaching.  When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of both the preacher-prophet and the teacher-trainer as you answer God's call to both preach and teach the people.



Originally the work of “Bishop" was probably simply the chief pastor of a local church.  Eventually the bishop became a regional church leader supervising other ministers and churches.  The work of Bishop is still here today and is still called a “bishop” in some denominations or a “district superintendent."   When you are ordained you will take up some of the mantle of bishop even if you never become a district superintendent or general superintendent of your church—for in the modern world every minister has a great affect on other ministers and thus serves as a trainer and improver of fellow ministers.



The local spiritual leaders of the New Testament church were sometimes called “elders.”   Some denominations still call their ministers "ordained elders."  Elders presided over a congregation and were looked to for wisdom and guidance.  At first they were probably older than others, but the whether from age or insight, they were looked to for wise leadership.  The elder “presided” over the church service and was thus sometimes also called the “president.” When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the elder for even though you may still be young, you will be looked to for wise answers and insight based on all of history.



The early church had a special category for widows—they were sort of the first century "nuns."  Specific instructions were given for these women for a house-to-house ministry.  When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the widows, for you will not be able to "go to work" at the church building all the time—your ministry is with the people, from house to house as well.


 Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor-Teachers

Paul listed four categories of the equipping ministry repeating some of the above list but adding two not mentioned yet, the “evangelist” and “Pastor-teacher.”   The evangelist may have been one called to wander from church to church in order to reach the lost and spread the good news of the gospel, and the pastor-teacher was most likely the local elder given care of the flock as a shepherd to lead, teach and train the people in obedience.  When you are ordained you will take up the mantle of the evangelist in your task of winning the lost; and you will take up the mantle of the pastor-teacher in becoming fixed to one group of people committed to helping train them in godliness.


At the end of a long line…

When you are ordained you will stand at the front of a long line of people God has set apart to build a holy people.  Your family tree is a wonderful one.  There are thousands who have gone before you serving God and His people… representing the people to God, and God to the people.   What a great family tree we ministers have!  To know those who have gone before us helps us to remain faithful to our own calling.



Follow up study and application


To Share:

1. Of all those listed in our “ministerial family tree” which role is most attractive to you?  Prophet/preaching?  Priest/intercession/leading worship?  Or, what other role?  Why?


2.  Tell about a minister you know by describing their work as most like one of the categories from the tree—that is, “He’s mostly kind of like an elder because…” or “She’s mostly sort of an evangelist because..” or “She’s kind of like a priest because…” 


To Discuss:

3.   God seems the keep changing through history how he gets ministers and what they do or are called.  Why is this?   Might God change these things again in the future?  How?


4.  Is it important to use the same terms as the first century church did?  If so, which terms would we use from the Bible’s terms?


To Do:

5.  Make a chart organizing all of the “ministerial family tree” with a column for the terms and another one for a description of what their work included.


6.  Make an actual family tree of ministerial heritage in this chapter including all of the limbs and branches up to today’s ministers—and you.