Why the Church? Part #3

Posted: February 7, 2013 in Pastor Posts

In the previous post, we found out what the church exists for. It is to be a place for disciple-making disciples to gather and bring glory to God. Therefore, in light of the Biblical view of the church, what is the role of the pastor? Paul summarizes the role of pastor in Ephesians chapter 4:

He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:10-13, ESV).

The first section of this passage once again establishes the authority of Jesus. He then appoints different roles or offices and then gifts certain individuals to perform these tasks. The word translated “shepherd” is the word from which we get “pastor”. One commentator states it this way,

Paul turns from itinerant to local ministry. “Pastors and teachers” are grouped together in such a way as to suggest that the two roles are regarded as complementary and often coordinated in the same person. Pastors (literally, “shepherds”) probably included presbyters and bishops; they were entrusted with the nurture, protection, and supervision of the flock. Teachers are linked with prophets in Acts 13:1 and follow them in the list contained in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11: Ephesians through Philemon).

Therefore, what is the role of these pastors/teachers? Paul gives a list of results that these ministry roles are to produce. I must note that these results are all in the context of these descriptors, “the saints” and “the body of Christ,” meaning the church. Pastors are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Saints is just another word for believers or followers of Jesus, disciples. Pastors are to equip disciples for doing ministry. What is the work of the ministry? Jesus tells us in Matthew 28, it is making disciples. Therefore, if the church is disciple-making disciples who are gathering to encounter and glorify God, pastors are there to give disciples the tools to make other disciples. Since disciples are to make other disciples by teaching them the commands of Jesus, pastors are to equip disciples by teaching them what to teach, and helping them develop the skills needed to teach what needs to be taught. To really simplify it, pastors are the top tier of disciple-makers who specialize in training disciples to be disciple-makers.

Secondly, Paul tells us that pastors are to build the body of Christ by establishing and maintaining unity. This is easier said than done. However, we see Paul, the first church planter, constantly teaching unity. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul speaks repeatedly about unity, even calling out two women whose disunity was affecting the entire church (Philippians 4:2, ESV). In this sense, pastors are coaches who must work with individuals but also maintain and protect the unity, and therefore the effectiveness of the team. It has been said that NBA coaches must manage egos more than manage the games themselves (HoopsWorld: The Art of NBA Ego Management). This can often be similar in the church. Shepherds of the people of God must manage people and their pride (the heart of every sin) to keep unity in the church.

Finally, Paul tells us that pastors are there to help disciples to attain, “knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood [and womanhood], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” This harkens back to Jesus’ command to teach all that He had commanded. Helping disciples have knowledge of Jesus and His teaching results in spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness. That is the end goal. Pastors are to present to God the disciples under their care as spiritually mature and Christ-like. The author of Hebrews puts it this way, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you”( Hebrews 13:17, ESV). Pastors will be required to give an account on how they did at equipping disciples for their disciple-making calling, establishing and maintaining unity of the body, and the maturity and Christ-likeness of the disciples under their care.

It is no wonder that many of the early church fathers attempted to run from their calling rather than embrace it. The irony is that today, many men run into ministry instead of running from it. I believe that this is due to the fact that we have a flawed view of pastoral ministry. Without a distinct and unshakable calling on one’s life, who would sign up for this job? It is a high calling. Paul states of overseers, a term the New Testament renders synonymous with pastor, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1, ESV). We already noted that teachers are linked with pastors in Ephesians 4:11. James, the brother of Jesus states, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). This high calling and high standard for pastors carries over from the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 34, God indicts the leaders of Israel for their selfishness and wickedness with these words:

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them (Ezekiel 34:7-10, ESV).

It is no coincidence then that Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, ESV). This stark contrast between the wicked shepherds of Ezekiel and the Good Shepherd was not lost on the New Testament writers as they utilize the same Greek word for shepherd when describing the role of pastor. As I said in the last blog post, no pastor should relax with the understanding that Jesus is responsible for building His church. Jesus is the ultimate authority and is therefore responsible for His church. However, He delegated the earthly side of this responsibility to pastors. Therefore, it should be with fear and humility that men enter the ministry, as they will be judged by Jesus according to the standard set by Jesus for how to shepherd those for whom they have been made responsible.

Written by Pastor Dave

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