We now turn to the 4th Ministry Gift that is listed in “Ephesians 4:11” that of the Pastor.
The Greek word “poimen” is translated “Pastor” in Gift listing, it is however also utilised in another forms (which also corresponds to the outworking of this ministry. It is also translated as, “Shepherd” “one who tends sheep or cares for flocks” 16 times in the New Testament – “Matthew 9:36; 25:32; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 2:8-20; John 10:2-16; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25”.
What is The Ministry Gift of a Pastor?
If we were wishing to crystallise the role into a profile we could do so by saying “One who is to protect and guard the Body of Christ entrusted to them; give direction, protection and correction as they lead lives that are often sacrificial in many ways; run to the rescue when there is genuine need; encouraging, praying for and bringing comfort to the believers that are in their care”.
The “Pastor” is first and foremost a believer and disciple but one who has a special aptitude to love, feed, train, and correct those whom God has entrusted them with, and as with the other Ministry Gifts will someday have to give an account of them.
In the Old Testament the equivalent Hebrew word is “ra’ah” and finds its derivation from the meaning “to tend a flock”.This Hebrew word is translated “Pastor” 8 times in the Old Testament “Jeremiah 2:8; 3:15; 10:21; 12:10; 17:16; 22:22; &. 23:1-2” and as “Shepherd” 63 times.
The responsibility of the Shepherd was to watch over the sheep, to provide protection and to see that his Sheep were fed. So, a spiritual “Pastor” sees to it that his sheep are provided substantial and nourishing meals, providing those whom he is responsible for with spiritual food.
Ministry of Pastors
God, by His sovereign will sees fit to “Gift” some believers as instruments through whom His power flows as a “Shepherd” to others. It is not their own wisdom or mental ability that they rely upon but they seek God’s will and are led by the Holy Spirit to minister to those whom God has entrusted them with.
It is interesting to note that the name “Pastor” is never used in Scripture as a title. Rather, it is a function or a role of service to the Church.
The Pastor is defined as the one “in control” of the sheep”. This would seem to emphasise the idea of the Pastor as the “Leader and Overseer”.
Peter, however, distinguishes between “Shepherd” and “Flock” by declaring that the Elder should be “an example” to the flock of what a true disciple of Christ ought to be “1 Peter 5:2 and 3” – “I urge you then to see that your “flock of God” is properly fed and cared for. Accept the responsibility of looking after them willingly and not because you feel you can’t get out of it, doing your work not for what you can make, but because you are really concerned for their well-being” “J.B Phillips”.
Why am I emphasising this? Well! It’s because an Elder, is more like “a guide” himself mindful of the coming of the “Chief Shepherd” to whom he or she is accountable.
In “1: Peter 5: 1-4” we read “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away”.
The word “poimen” translated “Pastor” which I mentioned earlier is used only in “Ephesians 4: 11” elsewhere in the New Testament, other words are used such as “shepherd”, “elder” and “overseer”. Why is this significant? Well I believe it is because it manifests that a comparison of these ministries should be made.
A Pastor (in the sense of a Ministry Gift) is not simply a leader presiding over a local church, but has a Body-wide expression of ministry. As one of the five-fold ministry, a Pastor is, more accurately a “Pastor of Pastors” a “Pastor of Elders” beyond the local body. A Pastor’s emphasis in ministry is in relationship networking.
An Elder is not a particular type of ministry, it is rather a Leader within a Body of Believers – “To the elders among you…Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers…“1 Peter 5: 2”. The word “elder” –“presbuteros” refers to any leadership ministry.
An Elder true, may be one of the five or an “overseer” – “episkopos” – over a local Church. But whether a person is a Pastor (one of the five-fold ministry) or an overseeing elder (in charge of a local body), both are called to be Shepherds.
The example of the Chief Shepherd “John 10: 1-16” is to be followed by both and a Shepherd’s ministry is to Feed“Verse 9”; Protect “Verse 12”, Guide “Verses 3-4” and Love “Verse 15” the Sheep.
The 23rd Psalm gives a beautiful picture of God in the role of pastor, while “Jeremiah 23” and “Ezekiel 34” are rather scathing critiques of false shepherds who were not caring for God’s people. Juxtaposing these positive and negative records gives us a sense of what true shepherding of God’s people involves: –
As protectors of the sheep, Pastors must be willing to enter into the “cosmic conflict” between good and evil, alerting people to the assaults of the Evil One.
It was the first work of Jesus to cast a demon out of a person shortly after announcing his ministry in “Luke 4”, so a Pastor must be willing to enter into “spiritual warfare” on behalf of his flock in the same manner as a natural Shepherd would fight the “Bear or the Wolf or the Lion” who would destroy the flock.
However, it is really important to recognise that there needs to be a balance in place. Instead of focusing only on the Devil, a Pastor should place more emphasis upon building up the believers in Christ so they will be strong enough in themselves to resist the Devil.
What hinders and limits the “Saints of God” is not primarily the Devil it is in fact the sinful nature. When Jesus called for“freedom for the prisoners” he was identifying the spiritual enemy that imprisons souls, and in “John 8:34” he identified sin as a tyrant – “Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will” “The Message”. Pastoral care therefore must have a concern for liberating all from this tyranny.
We live in what is termed the “postmodern world” and as a result many object to the idea of “sin” as an antiquated one, the Christian caregiver (and especially the Pastor and Evangelist) must never take his or her sight too far off this spiritual malaise that continues to tyrannise humankind. Sin should be viewed through the tempering lens of the Gospel of Christ.
The Pastor’s Co-Relationship
The role of the Pastor and the characteristics of his nature, character and calling place him or she in a unique position of leadership among other Gift Callings and his or her success will be determined by the quality of their relationships.
- Why is it that some Pastors flourish wherever they go, while others with superior theological and practical training continually fail?
- Why do some insignificant events end up touching people in significant ways?
- Why do people leave Churches with vibrant and exciting programs while others remain loyal to Churches that seem to have very little to offer?
- What makes the difference?
I believe it is down in a significant measure to the health of the relationships they forge and the degree of learning how to live out love in “right relationships.”
In this respect Pastors who possess strong relational skills and work at establishing healthy relationships will thrive. Pastors less adept at building relationships will continually struggle even though they engage in the same best practices as their colleagues.
The quality of relationships is the key. Leadership is not a matter of using certain skills and implementing particular practices, nor is it about being right. Leadership (and especially Pastoral) leadership is relational.
The Pastor therefore in the context of our thoughts, for instance, would remind the Apostle, Evangelist, Teacher, or Prophet to consider the importance of cultivating and maintaining healthy relationships and not just dispensing information, accomplishing goals, delegating authority, or dispensing moral judgment.
In order for relational ministry to be successful a Pastor (or come to that any Ministry) will have to adapt his or her way of“being” and I say being because it is part of the outworking of character and personality, to the needs of the other, and not minister from personal judgments and preconceptions, habits, personal comfort, or personality style.
This flexibility however is not “immediately implemented” it comes only through clear self-awareness, the result of much“soul work or soul searching”. In biblical terms, this is part of the individual’s process of “sanctification”.
To avoid these areas of personal reflection and the evaluation of his or her inner motives, will make the Pastor vulnerable to seeing the person cared for as a way to bolster his or her own ego, or as a waste of his time.
He or she could also be susceptible to trying to control a person to prevent the congregation from becoming uncomfortable with someone whose problems cannot be swept under the rug.
If we wish to maintain a scripturally faithful view of the Ministry Gift of the Pastor and his or her Pastoral ministry we also need to recognise the relationship he or she has with the other “equipping minitries”.
Invariably, the “Pastor” is assumed to be the default title for the leader or overseer of a faith community and popular terminology has solidified this assumption. We have seen however that the Gift Role is never referred to in the sense of a title and if we do so we do not give adequate consideration for the similarities and differences of function between the Pastoral and the other ministries.
If we fall into this trap, much will be lost of the integrity of the Pastoral Ministry as such, and in addition the clarity of its relationship to the other functions that ought to be operating in a healthy faith community.
Christian Church history shows that the collegial relationship of leaders as an “eldership,” which functions more like a “Body of Elders” than a hierarchy with one leader over the others, is the ultimate goal of each local faith community.
The Pastor’s Role
In my opinion the Pastor’s function is to exercise his or her authority to empower the congregation to act for themselves, rather than assuming the power to act for them. Perhaps one way to view the Pastoral role is that it provides a caring context for all of the “local Church” (Body) ministries to function in love, and to ensure that the outcome of all programs, activities, teachings, outreaches, committees, and functions is greater connectivity and community among the parts.
I do not believe that this opinion is “out of synch” with Biblical Theology because this calling to facilitate the growth of others for the work of ministry is clearly articulated as the purpose of all the “equipping ministries” as described in the following verses: –
It is a fact that all Christians, are called to be faithful Disciples of Christ in the world and also to “make disciples” meaning we are to help and assist others to become disciplined followers of Christ, in response to the Great Commission of“Matthew 28:18 – 20” – “Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” “The Message”.
This commission provides both the “Christian” and all the Ministry Gifts and especially the Pastor an agenda that secular caregivers do not have, which is both a limitation and an opportunity.
The Christian Pastoral caregiver cannot be morally neutral and affirm all sincere choices as being in accordance with God’s Word. Rather, he or she has to gently remind those Christians who come to him of the benefits of obedience to their heavenly Father.
The Pastor can be thought of as a “caretaker of the moral life of the people”, which is vital to the preservation of the very notion of Christian pastoral care.
The Pastor Gifting will find itself operating in many varying contexts, people are as different as the colours of the rainbow and thus the approach in any “faith community” needs to be adapted, whilst not compromising in respect of the outworking of the truth of doctrine.
As an example a totally “non-directive approach” would not be appropriate for a faith community with definite expectations for biblical behaviour and who hold a common doctrinal platform for what is held to be Christian ethical behaviour.
Yet members of such communities, who already have a sense of appropriate and ethical behaviour but need support to put it into practice, might find great comfort in being heard and having companionship in the midst of struggles.
It is a fact which cannot be denied that faith communities are often the haven for the psychologically disturbed people, and even when they are taught “right doctrine” this does not translate into “right living” but in these scenarios the Pastor needs to show the love and grace that he would discover in Jesus.
The Pastoral Ministry to people is made possible by the working of the Spirit of God upon the individual. Jesus “Went Out” in the commencement of His Ministry with the Holy Spirit upon Him, this therefore implies that without the Spirit, no genuine proclamation, deliverance or individual growth and maturity will happen.
Pastoral care in the Christian context requires the caregiver to be one led by God’s Spirit. Potential care inspired by the Spirit should be seen as a continuum, ranging from “active listening” and a “non-directive approach” on one end to a“confrontational and interventional approach” on the other.
What will determine which way choose will not be found within the Pastor as much as within the needs of both the individuals involved and the community of which they are a part.
When Jesus proclaimed “the year of the Lord’s favour” in the context of our thoughts together and because the Gospel is a universal message to all humankind, and the acceptance of the sinner complete and total in the promise of Christ. The Pastor therefore is to represent complete and total acceptance of the personhood of those to whom he or she ministers.
This acceptance does not mean they will condone unhealthy behaviours or compromising moral standards. It simply means that God’s loving ways are followed, and in particular how He has accepted sinners on the basis of their faith in Christ, not their repentance from their sins.
The Christian Pastor operates in the hope that loving acceptance empowers people with the courage to face their needs, and to be healed, changed, and grows to be all that they are called to be by the God who loves them and gave His only Son for them.
A Word of Warning
Traditionally, Pastors in the Church have ministered on their own this has caused the Churches for which they are responsible to be lazy and disinterested. The Pastor on his own tends to end up with well-fed, well-looked after sheep who are content to be passive and upstretched, but who lack any clear sense of direction and motivation to do the work to which God has called them to do.
Pastors are often so busy that they find it difficult to maintain their own spiritual growth and this tends to be passed on to those they lead. Pastors need to guard against this so that their own spiritual life and that those for whom God has made them responsible, does not suffer
Pastors also need to be very careful serve God with the right motivation, because they are in a position from which they could easily exploit their people for money or to gain power. Pastors need to guard against this and look only to the Lord for their provision and their position “1 Peter 5: 2-7” – “I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people. So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you”.
Of all the “Ephesians 4:11” ministries, Pastors tend to have the most long-term input into a local church.
However, they are still God’s gifts to His wider church and He may ask them to move on and carry out their ministry in another Local Church setting. This is often difficult for a true Pastor to do, because they become emotionally attached to their people.
Just like all the other “Ephesians 4:11” ministries, Pastors need to have a global church view and understand that they need to be carrying out their ministry in the place to which God has called them. This is the only way that the whole body of Christ can be enabled to carry out God’s will and become those mature sons of God which God wants all His children to be.