The Ministry of the Pastor

“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, . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV)One of the spiritual gifts Paul mentions in Ephesians 4 is that are of pastor together with its associated gift of teaching. A good pastor must also be a teacher, though the converse is not true. The original Greek word translated pastor is shepherd. A shepherd leads his flock and cares for them. He heals their wounds but he also feeds and waters them. The pastor shepherds the flock of the saints by leading them and imparting spiritual vision. He counsels them when they are emotionally and spiritually sick and hurting.

The pastor feeds and nurtures the saints entrusted to his care through the use of the gift of teaching, specifically teaching the word of God and applying it to daily life. Perhaps more than the other gifts, that of pastor/teacher is involved in the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. The pastor expounds the word of God. He helps the saints to learn the truth of God’s word and to develop spiritual discernment so that they can tell the truth from the lies that the world proclaims and preaches. Their teaching and example helps saints to grow in purity and spiritual discipline into the likeness of Christ. Their teaching helps the saints to discover, develop and utilize their spiritual gifts. 

John Stott says this about Paul’s teaching here: “The New Testament concept of the pastor is not of a person who jealously guards all ministry in his own hands, and successfully squashes all lay initiatives, but of one who helps and encourages all God’s people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts. His teaching and training are directed to this end, to enable the people of God to be a servant people, ministering actively but humbly according to their gifts in a world of alienation and pain. Thus, instead of monopolizing all ministry, he actually multiplies ministries.” (John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1979)

Thus we see that God’s purpose in giving us pastors is that they may equip all us who are believers for our ministry. They build us up in faith and so we can then build up our brothers in the household of God and also witness to those outside the church. By discovering and using our gifts we can change the world just as saints of the past did. 

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