from the archives
The role of pastor is perhaps the most prestigious within the American Church. Most of us have had a pastor at one point or another–the guy who speaks from the pulpit, or runs a particular ministry, or leads a home group.
The gift of pastor is often referred to as an spiritual gift of equipping, listed alongside teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists. In Ephesians 4:12 Paul writes, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”
I have always wondered, however, how it is that many pastors are actually confused with teachers and many teachers are confused with pastors.
The word for “pastors”–without delving into the historical evolution of that word–is by Greek definition, poimēn, which literally translates, “shepherd.” They are to shepherd their flock. They make sure people are enfolded into the flock, growing safely, and protected from the wolves.
Chances are that the person who you think of as your pastor today may not actually be fulfilling the role of pastor in your life. Chances are someone else very well could be. The question is: Who’s your pastor?
Here are some questions to help determine who your pastor might be…
- Who notices if you are not at church on a given Sunday and might even come looking (calling, emailing, etc.) for you when you’re missing?
- Who knows your current prayer needs?
- Who helps keep you accountable?
- Who is available to you at any time?
- Who is concerned with your spiritual health, as well as your spiritual growth?
- Who tends to the “young sheep” among your community, as well, as to the mature, gauging people’s spiritual needs?
Pastors are the people who the Lord has placed in our life who do most, if not all, of the above and more. Pastors need not be speaking from a pulpit or directing a ministry. It seems we have confused the office of pastor with the ministry of pastor.
American Christians, in particular, expect so much from our pastors, who are typically the people we come to see and listen to on a Sunday morning. However, this one person cannot possibly fill the role of pastor in the life of an entire congregation.
God listed “pastor” alongside four other gifts of the Holy Spirit for a reason. Wolfgang Simson, in The House Church Book, puts it this way:
“A pastor (shepherd) is an important member of a whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than part of the task of equipping the saints for the ministry. He has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.”
More than that, many believe that, in order for an individual to be our pastor, he is usually required to hold a seminary degree and/or have 4+ years of experience in ministry.
I have touched on the subject before, which is not biblical, that tells us that only those who are specially trained can serve. The disciples who followed Jesus were ordinary men and…wasn’t that the point?
Some were educated, but not all. They certainly were not considered to be the religiously superior of the day. They were simple men who happened to be called by the Messiah and were willing to serve Him wholly, even to the point of death.
“Religious professionals,” as Simson refers to them, can drive a wedge between the works of God and His people. The church is a church of ordinary people who God chose to become a royal priesthood, not just special people who are called to do special things. The church, as Simson goes onto explain, is made up of ordinary people “whom God has made extraordinary, and who, as in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume, or revolution.”
I am not opposed to seminaries, training, experience, or building a reputation before serving. My point, however, is that these requirements may not always be necessary.
An individual with the spiritual gift of shepherding, in love with Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, may be just as capable, if not more so, of shepherding a given flock. Sometimes, it is the most unassuming people who do the most powerful things–a carpenter’s son, for instance.
Who is your real pastor? How has God used an ordinary person in your life to do extraordinary things? How do you feel about “religious professionals”?
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