So far in our study, we’ve looked at apostles and prophets and evangelists. Now we come to the last of the equipping gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11. Like evangelist, this is a gift that many people are familiar with. Many people have in their mind what someone with this gift looks like and acts like. Today we’ll look at the pastor-teacher.
So what is a biblical pastor? The difficulty with defining pastor is similar to that of the evangelist. The word pastor only occurs once in Scripture. Pastor comes from the Greek word poimen that means a shepherd or a herdsman. A shepherd is someone who feeds and tends the sheep because there’s more to taking care of sheep then simply feeding them. Teacher is the word didaskalos which means instructor.
Most Bible scholars believe this gift is pastor-teacher: one gift not two. If it were two gifts, it seems likely Paul would have said in Ephesians 4:11 that he game some as pastors and some as teachers. So a biblical pastor is a shepherd and an instructor. The gift of pastor-teacher is a speaking gift and is to be exercised, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
There are some other terms the Bible uses interchangeably for the office of pastor.
- The first is elder – from the Greek presbuteros; this is someone who presides over an assembly of believers.
- Next is overseer – episkopos, meaning a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done right. In some translations, episkopos is translated bishop.
- And of course there is pastor from the Greek word poimen meaning herdsman or shepherd.
What does a biblical pastor do? I can hear some folks out there saying, “Nothing, why doesn’t he go out and get a real job.” Bless their hearts.
In Psalm 23, David characterizes God as a shepherd. Before we look at that, let’s check out some cool sheep facts. (I bet that’s something you never thought you’d)
- Sheep have a strong instinct to follow the leader even if it is a bad decision. If one sheep decides to run off a cliff, the others are likely to follow.
- Sheep love to stay together. If a sheep gets separated from their group, it becomes very agitated.
- Even though they are not generally considered the smartest animals in the animal kingdom, research has shown that sheep can recognize 50 companion sheep for about two years.
- Sheep can recognize the face and voice of their shepherd.
- Sheep are fairly skittish. If a sheep is startled, it will run away. Other sheep will run too not wanting to find out what it was that scared the first sheep.
To fully understand the responsibility of the pastor, let’s read Psalm 23. There are several things we can glean from this Psalm. David says the Lord is MY shepherd. Some would believe that by simply admitting that since God is their Shepherd, they’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of His care without forfeiting their own foolish ways. Not so. Listen to Paul: Ephesians 4:22 ff says, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Paul is very clear. You can’t claim to be the Shepherd’s and live the way you used to live. The shepherd provides for the sheep in a way that the sheep will not want. The shepherd knows what the sheep need. The shepherd leads the sheep, he does not drive them. The shepherd provides instruction by guiding to the paths of righteousness. This Psalm is so rich in describing the care of a shepherd for his sheep, but I lack the space to fully dig into it here.
Let’s check out how Jesus describes the work of the shepherd in John 10:1-16. Make no mistake about it. The shepherd is not a hired hand. Too often in the church today, the office of pastor has been reduced to a person that is led rather than is the leader, he is guided by a board rather than the being the one who guides. He is told what is best for him rather than the pastor instructing what is best for the flock. A prospective pastor needs to have numerous wickets checked before he can even be granted an audience with a church search committee. If you don’t believe me, check out one of numerous church staffing websites. As a pastor for the last year and a half, I have some significant experience in tis area. I want to share a couple of real, actual want ads for the position of pastor. These are real.
- Our next pastor is a committed follower of and an effective witness of Jesus Christ. He is a person whose life bears testimony of divine calling and gifts for ministry, and one who joyfully accepts his responsibility convinced of God’s leadership and the enthusiastic affirmation of the church.
- Our next pastor has strong preaching, teaching, communication and leadership skills and is a persuasive communicator of the Gospel.
- Our next pastor has pastoral experience and he has graduate theological training in an accredited seminary.
- Our next pastor will lead our church to reach our community for Jesus. He will provide leadership in evangelism, outreach, missions, education, and missions projects, and emphasize the need for qualified persons to respond to God’s call to missions and ministry.
- Our next pastor will spiritually nurture and care for the congregation. He will, in cooperation with the deacons and lay leadership, equip others in the Christian life, encouraging believers toward Christian maturity.
- A significant number of years in ministry, including experience as a Teaching or Senior/Lead Pastor, with a demonstrated ability to oversee a large lead staff and lay ministry teams at a church of 500+ in attendance.
- Here’s my favorite: To work with the committee on committees to select, enlist, and train qualified persons for all committees of the church.
The pastor is not a hired hand. Look at Peter’s instruction to the pastor in 1 Peter 5:1-4. Peter exhorts the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherd covers two aspects of an elder’s responsibility. The first is feed which represents the real aspect of feeding. It is providing nutrients. For the shepherd, it means leading the flock to green pastures. It means making sure the flock has everything necessary to ensure their physical well-being. The second aspect of shepherding addresses the care, guidance, and protection of the flock. A shepherd was to offer proper food for his flock and to govern it. We call this exercising the office of pastor. It means, as a good shepherd provides for the wants and needs of his flock, the pastor of the church is to furnish food for the soul so the faith of believers may be strengthened. Notice again that the elder is shown as a shepherd leading his flock rather than a driving them.
The pastor is an overseer. Overseer is the word episkopeo. It means to exercise oversight or to be a guardian. In 1 Peter 2:25, Peter said, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd [poimen] and Guardian [episkopos] of your souls.” Peter is thinking of the shepherd in terms of watchful care over his sheep.
So what about the teacher aspect of the gift? The gift of teaching is different than the gift of pastor – teacher. 1 Timothy 3:2 says that the pastor should be, “apt to teach.” In the pastoral sense, it seems appropriate to use Titus 1:9: “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” The pastor should be able to handle the Word of God with enough skill to take care of someone who might introduce teacching or doctrine that is not in accordance with the Scriptures. Incidentally, if you look at each of the passages that speak to the pastor’s qualifications, this is the only one that does not specifically address a character trait. So why has the church complicated the process of issuing a call to a pastor? I have my opinion, but that’s for another post.
So this is a pastor. He is someone entrusted to nurture and care for God’s flock. He exercises his gift in obedience to the Lord’s call and is not called by man. He is appointed by God and qualified by God who has a deep down passion to guide followers of Christ to green pastures, to safety, to comfort, to truth, and to righteousness. So the term elder emphasizes who the man is, bishop emphasizes what he does, and pastor emphasizes the man’s attitude and character. Biblically, all three terms describe the same man that feeds and leads the church. As those who rule in the church, there is no higher authority than the pastor – teacher, but their authority over the church should not be by force, but by example. Hebrews 13:7: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” 13:17 goes on to say, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
So you have to ask yourself: How do I know if I have this gift?
- You’ll be drawn to it – you may be doing it already.
- You’ll have ability in this area.
- Other people will notice if you have this gift.
Why is it important to know my gift or gifts?
- It directs me to God’s specific will for my life.
- It helps set priorities for my life.
- It helps you accept your place in the body of Christ.
- It helps identify area of training and devotion.
How can I exercise this gift today? Do you have to have the gift of pastor – teacher to pastor a church? It would seem so. If you have this gift, do you have to be a pastor? NO. That’s not what the Scriptures teach. You can exercise this gift as a Community Group leader, a Bible study teacher, a Sunday School teacher, or a host of other things. Titus instructs the older women to teach and encourage the younger women – isn’t that shepherding? Sure it is. You can act as a shepherd when you hear of a friend that has strayed from the truth. Don’t confuse the gift of pastor-teacher with the office of pastor. While God grants gifts to men and women without regard to gender, the qualifications for the office of pastor are clearly stated in Scripture as belonging to men.
Maybe you’re a pastor or other leader in the church responsible for some form of shepherding and you ask yourself, “What do I do with sheep that won’t follow?” Is there such a thing as a rebel sheep? Therein lies one of the pastor’s biggest challenges. Let’s continue with the shepherd metaphor because it’s a good one. In herding sheep, occasionally a shepherd has to deal with a sheep that continually wanders from the flock. There is something he can do to prevent wandering. He would break the sheep’s leg and then carry it. Now I don’t want you to go out and start breaking the legs of your congregation, but you can see the parallel. The shepherd’s staff had a curved end and a straight end. Remember David said, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Sometimes the shepherd provides not only guidance, but correction as well. Sheep can be hard to lead, but don’t give up or quit.
God’s people need loving guidance that is grounded in the truths of God’s Word and by men chosen and qualified by God to lead. Have you been called to shepherd?