10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

I was fortunate to have a colleague from our sister church in Rincon, GA come for a visit to our church yesterday. I got to sit back and soak in the awesomeness of Scripture as Pastor Mike preached from Matt. 14-22-33. It was a blessing. Since I had a break I decided to post an article I read last month. The original post is found here.

 If you’re a shepherd or have a shepherd’s heart, you’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement. I’m not saying these things control us. You’ll often hear me say it’s okay to have feelings – God gave them to you, but don’t allow your feelings to control your actions. Times do get rough and tough for me, but I keep going. That’s my mindset, that’s the way I’m made, that’s the right thing to do. I am content right where I am. I have no aspirations to go anywhere or do anything other than love my wife and shepherd the people God has charged me with. So here we go. Read on. The article posted in its entirety.

From Matt Boswell, Pastor/Elder of Redemption Church in Duvall, WA.

mb-postsWhen Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a few things I either lacked the clarity or courage to share until this season of life. I want to share the 10 things we as pastors don’t really want you to know about us. Now in doing so my aim is not to rat out my fellow pastors. Nor am I doing this so congregants sleep with one eye open regarding their leadership. My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this:

  • Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges.
  • Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations.
  • People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.

Therefore I give a glimpse into what we as pastors don’t like to admit about ourselves.

#1. We Take It Personally When You Leave The Church.

It’s just a straight up fact. We pastors eat, drink and sleep the local church and with that have a deep desires to see it thrive. Therefore when you leave to another church because…

  • you’re bothered by a recent decision, but didn’t ask about it…
  • the new church has a bigger and better kids wing, youth group, worship team, building space, (fill in your blank)…
  • your friends started going there…

… it hits us personally.

For us it feels disloyal, shallow or consumer driven. People affirm that church is a family, thus when you up and leave because the church down the road has Slurpee dispensers, a fog machine or it’s just cooler, well it jams us pretty deep.

#2. We Feel Pressure To Perform Week After Week.

The average TV show has a multimillion-dollar budget, a staff of writers and only airs 22 weeks out of the year; that’s what we feel we’re up against. Where the pressure is doubled comes from the previous point. We know there are churches near by with a multimillion-dollar budget or a celebrity pastor who have the ability to do many more things at a much higher level. From this a sense of urgency is created in our mind to establish the same level of quality, option and excellence to meet the consumerist desires of culture.

Now if this were exclusively in the hopes of reaching new people this wouldn’t be so bad, but increasingly pastors feel the need to do this just to retain people who may be stuff struck by the “Bigger and Better” down the way.

#3. We Struggle With Getting Our Worth From Ministry.

When the numbers are up, the complements are flowing and the people are lively we feel great. When everything is level, it feels like it’s in decline. When things are actually in decline, it’s a full-tilt tailspin in our soul. We almost can’t help but equate the growth of the church with our ability/inability to produce growth. Therefore if there is any appearance of waning we feel defeated and wonder how long before the church board wises up and trades us to another team. The “Idol of Ministry” comes on and off the shelf pretty regularly in a pastor’s office.

#4. We Regularly Think About Quitting.

This comes in two very different forms.

One form is the variation of perhaps leaving ministry all together. While there are some really great things about vocational ministry, there are also less enjoyable realities such as: pastors’ families are noticed (i.e. judged) routinely, pastors’ purchases are observed (i.e. judged) overtly and pastors’ words are weighed (i.e. judged) consistently. Therefore the ability to hide among the masses and not be noticed is very appealing.

The second form comes with the desire for a change of scenery. Pastors are shepherds, thus we love greener grass even more than sheep. To leave for a bigger budget, better building or a place with less difficult people (yeah, we get delusional sometimes) stands out as lush Kentucky Bluegrass when contrasted with the dusty patch of ragged earth called “our current church.” This “Greener Grass Gawking” usually occurs when we become too proud (“My gifts are better than this place”) or too insecure (“I stink and just need to start over”) and flows from #3.

#5. We Say We Are Transparent – It’s Actually Opaque.

Today pastors are generally more open about their struggles than previous generations, but we still sense there is a threshold that is not to be crossed. People want open, honest and real, but not too much. Generally churches want just enough so they feel safe with you, but not so much that it spoils the expectations they have of you. Unfortunately the threshold is a blurry line by which pastors never know how much is too much until its too late. After a couple of infractions we learn that opaque is safe – even if it’s isolating.

When pastors’ wives are polled on how it feels to be the spouse of someone in full-time ministry the #1 answer is one profound word, “Lonely.” They are around hundreds of people every week, but they never feel they can let their guard down because they know people have opinions on how a pastor’s wife should be. Now I know people say they don’t, but literally every church I have served in has shared unflattering stories of the previous pastor’s wife. Many of these stories came from the spiritually mature leadership who considered the pastor and his wife to be their friends. The real irony comes in when later in the conversation I would be told, “But don’t worry, we don’t have any expectations on your wife. We just want to love on her.” Right! Now I don’t blame people for this natural human tendency, but being aware of how things are keeps you relationally opaque. And it’s not merely pastors and their wives who insulate. Pastoral families at large feel alone because there is a certain level of unknown expectations buried like landmines through the field of the church and so there is a constant mode of mostly transparent.

#6. We Measure Ourselves By The Numbers.

Numbers don’t matter! Yeah right. No matter how badly we want to slap that bumper sticker on our Ford the reality is that numbers matter to us. And they matter to us it part because they matter to God. The problem however goes back to #1-3. The absence of growth in our churches can cascade into an internal turmoil by which we begin to scrounge for “The Next Big Thing” that will bring “Radical Growth” “Guaranteed.” So we read books on how to be a “Deep & Wide, Vertical, Purpose Driven, Radical Reformission, Creature of the Word, Big Idea, Center Church.” Then we jet off to a conference with thousands of other pastors who are seeking to glean the secret of success. And what is the first question we ask one another between sessions? “So, how big is your church?” Yep, we measure ourselves by the numbers.

#7 We Spend More Time Discouraged Than Encouraged.

Occasionally people say to me, “Must be awesome to get paid to study the Bible all day.” Every time they do I think to myself, “Must be awesome to be able to give someone the finger on the 520 without people saying, ‘The pastor at Redemption Church flipped me off today during rush-hour.’” I’m not fully sure why that is the comment that flashes across my mental dashboard, but I think part of it stems from what I perceive to be the tone of the comment. Rightly or wrongly I infer they are saying, “Must be nice to have such a cush gig as a paid quiet-time.” In all honestly it is pretty awesome to be paid study the Bible, but it’s a major downer when people:

  • tell you – after 2 minutes of un-investigated reflection – that your 30 hours of study and 2 collegiate degrees were wrong.
  • tell you that they just couldn’t stay awake today during your sermon, but no offense. (How about I fall asleep at your kid’s graduation and we’ll call it even.)
  • tell you how you should have also said…
  • tell you how Pastor So-N-So says…

Aside from these particular examples I find that for most pastors it generally feels like the boat is taking on water more than racing with the wind – regardless of size or rate of growth. Lead pastors particularly suffer from this since much of their job is to focus on seeing things get better, which often translates into focusing on the broken, lacking or unfilled parts of the church more than enjoying what is right and working. Many of the most faithful and fruitful pastors in history have suffered deeply with anxiety and depression for the same reasons.

#8. We Worry About What You Think.

We’re human and we want to be liked. Therefore when we know we’re going to do or say something people won’t like, we worry about it. Now when I say that I don’t mean to infer that it causes us to avoid the hard things. There are some of my fellow pastors who avoid challenging topics or decisions out of fear of people, but most of the ones I run with still choose deliver the mail regardless of the popularity of its message. Yet we still worry about how you may take it.

#9. We Struggle With Competition And Jealousy.

We like to hold ourselves above the petty fray and reiterate, “It’s all about the Kingdom,” but in reality pastors are a competitive bunch. As soon as one pastor asks another, “How big is your church?” the game is on if the two churches are within 20 miles of each other (past 20 miles we lighten up a lot and think each other is pretty cool). Within 20 miles however we begin to assess one another’s style, focus, message, sophistication and marketing. We gauge to see if it’s a “Goldilocks Church” – not to deep, not too shallow, but just right (like us). If you’re too deep we benchmark you as internally focused. If you’re too shallow we brand you as consumer-driven. If however we conclude that you too are a “Goldilocks Church” we then figure out how our church is still better than your church. If you have lame amenities, we critique that you will never grow until you reboot that 70’s sanctuary. If you have awesome amenities, we criticize that you grow only because people are shallow and care more about stuff than Scripture.

Yes we know it’s not right. We know that it’s ego driven, but we still fall victim to it. We believe our church is the best church ever and we can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see it.

#10. We Feel Like We Failed You More Than We Helped You.

Most pastors will never be famous. Most churches will never break the 100 mark. Yet we all entered ministry to change the world and reach the masses. With this we know it is the expectation of churches that we accomplish this very thing. Every job posting reinforces the idea with the sentence, “We are looking for a man that will take our church to the next level.” Then when the next level isn’t hit in the way anticipated or within the timeline envisioned – we feel like we failed you. This is especially true in light of the reality that we are our own biggest critics. We came in with expectations higher than anyone in the church. You look to us for direction and when we feel like we failed to produce we feel like we failed you.


Another Contrast

BurgeYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the triple edged dagger of death as Jude described the creepers with three additional terms found in verse 19. The creepers cause divisions, they are worldly minded, and they are devoid of the Spirit. That’s the reason they act and think the way they do – because they do not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them. This morning Jude gives us yet another contrast.

Jude 20 tells us, “But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.”

And we’re back to the beloved. Verse 20 contains a very pointed two part command. Again, in contrast to the creepers, the church ought to remember the words the Apostles spoke. There is a slight shift though. In vs. 17-19 Jude emphasized how the creepers turned things upside down while the next verses provide some exhortations for his readers. Jude’s readers – us, are to be, “building yourselves up.” It’s present tense, this is what we’re to be doing right now. Building is an interesting word and there’s more to it than meets the eye. Here it is a verb so we’re not talking about a structure, but something we are to actively be engaged in. It presents the idea of a process. The process must begin with a foundation that is planted on solid ground. I recently discovered a series on the Science Channel called Strip the City. It analyzes how engineers and architects and other experts construct and develop our world’s cities in some very challenging areas. In Dubai for example, the skyscraper Burge Khalifa stands 2717 feet tall and has 163 floors. What’s even more incredible is that it appears the building is built on sinking sand. The key to holding up the building is the foundation. It contains numerous concrete columns that go all the way down to bedrock. A concrete pad is then placed on top of the columns and the building is built upon that. The building is held up because it is actually built upon rock.

The idea of building on a foundation is found elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul said the only suitable foundation for the church is Jesus Christ. In Eph. 2:20 he said the church is built upon the, “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.” Peter spoke of believers as living stones that are built into a spiritual house. (1 Pet. 2:5) In 1834 it was Edward Mote that penned the now famous words, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

So what do we build on? Jude says, “building yourselves up on your most holy faith.” Look at what Jude said back in v. 3. He wrote, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about out common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the which was once for all handed down to the saints.” It is not a universal faith, not some faith or one particular faith: it is THE faith. The is THE faith that was handed down once and for all. Jude is talking about all that the Apostles and Prophets talked about, the teachings, the doctrine, and the theology of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the center, He is the focus. Notice who has the responsibility of building. It’s not the pastor, the Bible study teacher, the Community Group leader, the children’s church teacher, the church leader, the mature in the faith, the willing, or those with special gifting or ability. Absolutely those people can and should help. We have this idea that it’s someone else’s responsibility; someone else needs to do something. We work hard at school, or sports, our jobs, even our hobbies, but when it comes to Jesus, well that’s another story. We’re in an age where we seem to outsource everything from visitation, to outreach, to evangelism, to Bible study and prayer; it’s always someone else’s job. Jude says you keep yourself in the love of God; it’s your responsibility.

Remember the shift in the American church. People wrongly conclude the church exists to serve them. The church has become a place that you go instead of a living, breathing organism. No, the church is the vehicle through which we serve, the vehicle that we drive to fulfill the mandate to make disciples. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not getting fed.” Well then how about do something about it. When you’re hungry, you seek food. If you have a little one, they may cry and scream, and whine for nourishment. Why don’t we see that same drive for the nourishment of Scripture? We build ourselves on our most holy faith. It is holy because it comes from a holy and perfect God. The growth takes place in our minds and heart as we grow in our understanding of Scripture which causes us to grow in our understanding of the Trinity which causes us to live out our faith with authenticity.

The second command of this verse is that we are to be, “praying in the Holy Spirit.” This will likely cause some anxiety with people. Some will break out the secret prayer card, but if we compare this verse with other Scripture, we’ll see this should be our normal, fervent prayer. Paul said in Eph. 6:18, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” The context of Ephesians is not secret prayer languages or speaking in tongues. Chuck Swindoll said, “Noise and crowds have a way of siphoning our energy and distracting our attention, making prayer an added chore rather than a comforting relief.” The Holy Spirit is an essential element of our relationship with God through Christ.

The responsibility for individual spiritual growth rests primarily with the individual. Yes, others can and should help. A building cannot be built without a builder. The foundation of our lives must be built on the unchanging Rock of Jesus Christ. Only then can our faith be built higher and stronger so that when the storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes of life come, nothing can shake the building that is built on the rock that is Jesus Christ.

Don’t be a Victim

TruthYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us that false teachers and false prophets were already among us. They’ve introduced heresy into the church and they even deny that Jesus is the Christ! The best way to combat false teaching is to be a student of God’s Word. This morning Peter elaborates on what these false teachers do.

2 Pet. 2:2-3 warns us, Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

Now that is truly disturbing. Don’t underestimate the impact false teachers can have on a congregation, a Sunday School class, small group, or other teaching type venue. Don’t think, well they’re just one person. The wrong person in a key position can cause damage that is very difficult to repair. This can also occur in one on one relationships. Peter says, “Many will follow.” He’s talking about Christ followers. Not just a few people will be deceived, but many. False teachers are like an infection. Unless treated, their heresy will spread. You need an antibiotic to cure an infection. False teaching needs the antibiotic of Scripture. You don’t go around pointing out the falsities: that takes too much time. You simply speak the truth in love.

What are the people following? They follow after the sensuality of the false teachers. Sensuality means behavior completely lacking moral restraint. The false teachers embrace licentiousness – a license to sin. If it feels good do it, after all, everyone else is. Most people are glad to follow someone like that. So what happens as a result? Here’s the progression. A false teacher teaches something contrary to God’s Word. A Christian falls for the false teaching because they’re too trusting, too naive  too gullible, too spiritually immature, or too ignorant to spot the error or too lazy to find out the truth. Acts 17:11 speaks about the Bereans that were more noble than the Thessalonians because they searched the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught lined up with God’s Word. You can’t know everything that’s in the Bible, but if you are an active student of God’s Word, you’ll know the character of God, you’ll have the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, and you will, at the very least, be able to conclude if something just doesn’t sound right.

That’s bad enough, but Peter says, “Because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned.” The way of the truth Peter refers to is the Gospel.

  • In Ps. 18:21 David said, “For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.”
  • Is. 35:8, “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.”

Scripture is filled with verses that expect holy living. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jo. 14:6) How can a life not be transformed by the power of the Gospel? It can’t and that’s why the world points out inconsistencies and contradictions in Christians. “The way of the truth is maligned.” Maligned and blaspheme come from the same word. Unbelievers see our behavior and conclude, “What’s the point of following Christ if we all act alike?”

What motivates these false teachers? It’s just one thing. It’s not a desire to selflessly shepherd the flock. It’s not a desire to see others live authentically for Christ. It’s not the desire for people to discover truth for themselves and then live a life that reflects the glory of God. In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko declared that, “Greed is good.” That’s the same motivation these false teachers have. When we think of greed, we tie it to money, but it’s also a desire for power, or food. The Scriptures are filled with warnings regarding teaching and money.

  • Rom. 16:18, “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”
  • Paul told Titus these rebellious men, “Must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” (Titus 1:11)
  • Paul told the church at Corinth, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 2:17)
  • The love of money is the root of all evil according to 1 Tim. 6:10.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” Their greed drives them to, “Exploit you with false words.” They’re snake oil salesmen. They make stuff up that sounds good, sounds spiritual, but is not consistent with God’s Word. They are present in the religious sphere today. Like David, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel among others, we ask, “How long will the wicked prosper?” Peter is clear, “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Don’t assume that since you don’t see judgment, God somehow approves of false teachers. A day is coming in which they will be judged. At the very least, they will be taken care of on judgment day. All their made up stories will be exposed, but it’s still best to be a student of God’s Word right now so you don’t fall victim to their slick words.

Don’t be fooled by people that will tell you what you want to hear.

The Elder as Overseer

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter introduced us to the concept of elders. We saw that elders act as shepherds in the church. We learned that he feeds the sheep and provides protection for the flock. This week we’ll see additional aspects of elders.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

The first thing we’ll look at is the elder as overseer. Overseer comes from the Greek word episkopeo. It means to exercise oversight or to be a guardian. Back in 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.” The word episkopos is also translated bishop in the N. T. Peter is thinking of the shepherd in terms of watchful care over his sheep. The idea of a bishop being an office set over presbyters (elders) and deacons does not appear in the N. T. Peter describes the work of elders as that of a guardian. In addressing the presbyters at Ephesus, Paul said, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  (Acts 20:28) Clement I was pope from 88-97.  In his writings, he used the terms presbyter and bishop interchangeably. Later these terms would take on a new meaning in a class of clergy that was above deacons. It is very interesting to see how some denominations establish a hierarchy of clergy offices. We don’t see this in Scripture.

The elder is a shepherd and he is an overseer.  The real issue is not necessarily the organization of the office, but the nature of the elder. In Heb. 13:17a we are reminded to, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” Authority is given to the elders of the church. The exercise of that authority is supposed to be in service to the Lord. It is ministerial, not imperial. The New Testament picture of an elder is that of the shepherd, watching over and guarding his flock which is modeled after the good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep. The elder does not rule under compulsion.  No one should force him. He rules, “Voluntarily according to the will of God.” 1 Tim. 3:1 says, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” This is a general statement that the office is an honorable one. In the past, a minister was a man to be respected, a man that had high standards of character, a man of integrity. Only recently has the office of pastor or minister taken on a new meaning in society. In the early church, they appointed elders only after they had prayed and fasted. The idea is that the Lord would show them whom to appoint because the elder serves according to the will of God. The elder does not serve for “sordid gain.”    He is not in the ministry for the sake of money. He should not seek bigger and bigger pastorates because of the lure of bigger and bigger salaries. The elder serves with “eagerness.” Remember that in the context of Peter’s letter, persecution was the norm, trials for Christians abounded, and more fiery ordeals were on the way. There is every reason to believe that some might be hesitant about taking on the responsibility of overseeing the well being of the flock. Even today, in many parts of the world, giving yourself in the service of the Lord can come with a high price. Remember Christians are severely persecuted in: Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Belarus, Nepal, Yemen, and Jordan.  There are many others. The idea of serving with eagerness and willingness takes on a whole new meaning.

The elder exercises pastoral oversight, not “Lording it over those allotted to your charge.” He is not a dictator.  Lording it means exercising dominion over. You younger folks probably don’t remember Jim Jones. He was head of the People’s Temple. He was most famous for leading 914 people to commit suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. You might be thinking, “That was a cult.” A dictatorship begins when anyone ascends a religious throne and draws obedience to himself rather than the Lord. That’s not the way the elder is to be. The elder is to, “Be [an] example(s) to the flock.”      He is not the lord and master; he leads by example. He doesn’t talk about obedience; he demonstrates obedience in his life. He is not a, “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy. Remember that the elder is a servant to the Lord. He serves Jesus by serving the people. Yes, he loves the people and cares for the people and is the guardian of the people just like the shepherd. But the elder is looking forward to the day, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, [to] receive the unfading crown of glory.”

The office of elder is more than meets the eye. He’s not just the preacher. He feeds and nurtures the body of Christ, he provides oversight, and he is an example for all.

The Elder as Shepherd

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter encouraged us with the fact that more trials are coming and we ought not be surprised about it. But he also said that judgment is coming and it will begin with the house of God. As we move to Chapter 5, Peter begins addressing a group we haven’t seen to this point.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter talks about the elder as a shepherd and mentions the term elder here for the first time. He addresses the elders who are among you in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He counts himself among them as a fellow elder. Peter exhorts them. This is an interesting word. It means to encourage or address in a manner of comfort and instruction. It was not a word that describes sternness or a command to obey. Peter says, “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder.” Peter was an elder like those he was addressing. He did not approach them with the authority of his apostolic office. He did not use these words because he was the head of the church; or because, he had any pre-eminence over the other elders. Remember Alexander Haig? He was the Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. After the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, Haig was quoted as saying, “I’m in control here.” Do you think Peter would he have used this language if he was the “head of the church” on earth?

Peter wanted the elders to understand that he was one of them, not over them, but a fellow elder. He speaks with humility and compassion. Remember, he just told them, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Peter is concerned about the order and government of the church as well as submission and devotion. It is with this background that Peter speaks with the elders, those who are leaders, administrators, and judges in the church.

Let’s look at the term so we can get a better understanding of what it means. Eldership in the N. T. church followed the example that the Lord established for Israel. Gen. 50:7 speaks of elders in the house of Joseph. Elders of Moab and Midian are mentioned in Num. 22:7. Abraham’s servant is mentioned as having charge over “all that he owned” in Gen. 24:2. During the exodus from Egypt, the elders of Israel formed a definite group whose authority was recognized in Ex. 3:16-18. The ordinance of Passover was given to Israel through the elders as recorded in Ex. 12:3. Moses structured the government of Israel to include judges to govern groups ranging in size from 10 to 1000. 70 elders of Israel were granted a vision of God in Ex. 24 and were later filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied in Num. 11. Elders continued in a governing fashion during the exodus, through the exile period, and after exile. Each Jewish community had a council of elders or presbytery as mentioned in Luke 7.  In Chapter 20, Luke also mentions, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” in the temple confronting Jesus. When Christ made atonement for sin on the cross, His sacrifice eliminated the need for a priestly office, but the government of elders continued. Paul distinguishes the gift of rule and the gift of teaching when speaking of the functions of the office and ordained elders in the churches he planted. Administrators as well as teachers served the church. Jesus spoke of scribes that seemed to indicate these men were specially gifted in teaching and preaching. The ministry of teaching elders is emphasized in the New Testament, but Peter seems to emphasize the governing aspect of elders and likens an elder to a shepherd, a term that means feeding as well as oversight.

Elder comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which means elderly. Some denominations are governed by a group called the presbytery or elders. There are several words for the office of pastor that are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Each describes a different function of the office. Here, Peter concentrates on the shepherding aspect of an elder. Peter exhorts the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherd comes from the word poimaino. Peter knows about this word first hand. It is the same word that Jesus used to describe Peter’s responsibility to His sheep in John 21 when He called Peter. 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 the elder is shown as a shepherd leading his flock rather than a cowboy driving them. Sheep do not respond well to force and neither do the people in God’s flock.

It takes a special man to shepherd the flock. It can be discouraging and disheartening when the sheep don’t follow the lead. But you don’t quit. The sheep need proper nourishment.

Pastor – Teacher

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?