The Biblical text of Ephesians four is probably one of the most important Scriptures describing a pastor’s “job.” Clearly in the New Testament, more emphasis is placed on the character and qualities of godly leadership of elders or pastors than their exact responsibilities. Perhaps this is why Christians who study the Bible will mostly agree on the character qualities desired in a pastor, but may disagree on what they expect out of him as their under-shepherd. This is why a passage like Ephesians 4:11 is so helpful. The text says, “He gave some to be. . . pastors and teachers for…” It is nice when the Scripture tells us that God gave a gifted role for a particular job and doesn’t keep us guessing. It helps us clear through the cultural and traditional fog which has indeed clouded our understanding of pastoral responsibility. That responsibility can be summed up with the phrase, “for the equipping of the church.” The use of the word “equipping” demands an intended purpose and result. The purpose of Pastoral equipping of the church is for the church to “do the work of service,” and the result is that the church would “build itself up in love.”
How then should a pastor equip the church so that that church can do the work of the ministry thus building itself up in love? Allow me to provide some suggestions as to what this looks like.
1. A pastor should be a good teacher of God’s truth. This is the easiest Pastoral responsibility to identify in the Bible. In fact, this responsibility is written right here in the Ephesians 4 context. Verse 15 indicates that it is by the speaking of the truth in love that the church grows up in Christ, our head. In giving qualities of godly character for elders in both the letters to Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), that they have the ability to teach is mentioned (and expanded on in Titus). When providing Timothy with parting words (2 Timothy 4:2), Paul commands him strongly to “preach the word.” I Peter 5 commands the elders taking oversight over the flock of God to “feed” the church.
By “good” teacher I do not mean to imply that he is a great orator or that everyone likes his sermons. What I mean is that he is faithful to teach God’s truth in a systematic way clearly deriving from the text and context what God has written, explaining it in an understandable way and then providing implications as to how God’s truth affects the church’s heart, mind and behavior. A word used to describe this kind of teaching or preaching is “exposition.” Of course, any effective teacher is only going to communicate what he also is passionate about, and the same applies in this teaching context. If you have a pastor who labors tirelessly to teach you God’s Word in an accurate, understandable way and his desire actually translates into ability to do so, then do not trade that for a flashy, program hungry, celebrity style leader no matter what results may seem to come. Honor your pastor who is a good teacher of God’s truth, for most of God’s pastoral servants labor in obscurity in this life, but will be made known in the life to come.
“…he is faithful to teach God’s truth in a systematic way clearly deriving from the text and context what God has written, explaining it in an understandable way and then providing implications as to how God’s truth affects the church’s heart, mind and behavior.”
2. A pastor should be an ardent protector of God’s church. One of the first tactics used by Russia when she attempts to take over another border country (ask Georgia or Ukraine), is to implant moles into government positions and injecting insurgents within that smaller nation’s military to stir up unrest. The enemy of the church, Satan, is similar. This is why Peter, Jude, John, and Paul are very clear in much of their letters to warn about false teachers who teach other doctrine. Paul goes so far as to say that even if an angel preaches another doctrine let him be cursed. The church is constantly under siege by false teachers and doctrine which deviates from the main and plain teaching of the Scripture. The false doctrines fall on both sides of moralism/legalism and licentiousness/antinomianism. How can a pastor protect the church from false doctrine? There may be a time and place to name names and call out obvious wolves, but it is not that simple because people come and go, wolves appear and disappear. There has to be a principled determination that true doctrine will be taught clearly and contrasted with false doctrine without fear. True doctrine is that which is taught in the Bible, not necessarily the soap box issue that the pastor loves to harp on. The surest way to protect the church is by warning them of the presence of false teachers and then equipping the church with both the critical thinking skills to test all doctrine against the Scripture and to make very clear the true and correct doctrine of the Scripture. When a wolf sniffs around a flock whose eyes and ears and Bible are open, and who are equipped to contend for the faith logically, articulately, and critically; most of the wolves will prowl somewhere else. The prey is too difficult, they are equipped.
Sometimes as protector, pastors must lead the church to purge out unrepenting sheep in wolves’ clothing as well. This is probably the most difficult part of the job. The only times that I have openly wept before the congregation are those gatherings where we agree as a whole church to deliver an unrpenting professor to the realm of Satan, praying for their reconciliation. Corinthians is clear that this decision is not the pastor’s alone, but rather the whole church, yet he is the one equipping the church to do what is necessary for the spiritual safety of the whole flock.
“…pastors must lead the church to purge out unrepenting sheep in wolves’ clothing as well. This is probably the most difficult part of the job.”
3. A pastor should be preparing the next generation of leaders. Paul told Timothy that the things that Tim had learned from Paul were meant to be transmitted to others, not just for their obedience and consumption, but so that they would be equipped to “teach others also.” A pastor who is not using the teaching ability God has given him to replicate himself to some degree in the next generation is failing in his role to equip the church. God intends the church to perpetuate from generation to generation. Sadly many “great leaders” and “big men” within Christendom fail to do this. This may be partly due to the fact, that what makes men “celebrities” within their denominations or circles of fellowship is the stated or unstated assumption that no one else can do this as well. An equipping pastor is seeking to work himself out of a job. That is not to mean that he cannot continue to pastor on into his senior years, yet knowing when to step back and push young men forward is a grace that must be cultivated.
I believe that one of the reasons we have seen a decline in young servants in the ministry (some could debate this point), is because we have tended to farm out the preparation for ministry to colleges and seminaries. I am for ministry seminaries. I support and pray for several, but it is still the responsibility of the church to equip her ministers to fee the flock of God. Through mentorship, personal discipleship, education, financial support or possibly other creative means, pastors must do all within their ability to identify possible elders and to put their should strength to training them to be equip God’s people to do the work of the ministry. Although I am for Bible colleges, it seems to me that churches of significant size should be able to bring on staff (not necessarily paid) qualified teachers to train young men to lead churches now and into the future. Maybe this is a more significant way to build up the church rather than spending inordinate amounts of money and time on programs and non-ministerial staff that seem to mostly cater to the “felt-needs” of seekers.
Part 3 of this series will focus on the hardest part of pastoral equipping that is to be done, a pastor’s responsibility to be a godly example and illustration of the Word he teaches.