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Section One

Introduction

1.1 Every Born-Again Christian Has at Least One Spiritual Gift.  Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ has received a spiritual gift from the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, page 1796). Please recall also that one spiritual gift may have a variety of ministries (“διακονιῶν”), with a variety of spiritual effects (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, page 1796). Therefore, if you have the Spiritual Gift of Service, that single gift may result in a variety of ministries and spiritual effects.

1.2 Meaning of the Term “Pastor.” The term used to describe the gift of pastor in Ephesians 4:11, page 1830 describes a person with the Spiritual Gift of Pastor. He performs specific services to the church. This spiritual gift received much attention in the New Testament, and we have a collection of Pauline works described as the Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Many passages in the New Testament describe the work of pastors. We will focus primarily upon the use of the Spiritual Gift of Pastor.

1.3 Service and the Spiritual Gifts. All believers must know and use their spiritual gifts. All believers, not just the pastors and church leaders, perform the work of service (“διακονίας”). That “service” must continue until all the saints attain the unity of the faith and achieve spiritual maturity. That “service” also protects believers from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, and the craftiness of deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:12-13, page 1831). While all believers must perform the work of service, only some believers have the Spiritual Gift of Pastor, bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon some, but not all, believers as gift of grace which works according to His power (Ephesians 3:7, page 1829).

1.4 The New Testament Diversity of the Term “Pastor.” The Greek term translated here as “pastor” has diverse applications in the New Testament.  As you read through these varying uses of the term “pastor” and related words, please keep in mind that I interpret these passages below as examples, on the one hand, of spiritual activities all believers will do at times; but, on the other hand, the person with the Spiritual Gift of Pastor in the forms described below will have a special gift from God to edify believers and build up unity in their ministry as pastor.  Let us explore some of those uses to gain insight into the different ways God gifts people to serve in His name and in His ministry to the Body of Christ. We will see below that the Spiritual Gift of Pastor involves different major areas of ministry. We will look at them one at a time.

Section Two

The Ministry of Pastors: Foundations

2.1 Pastor: Basic Meaning.  Pastor has a broad range of meaning in the New Testament. It includes a person who serves as a guardian, leader, and servant.

2.2 The Office of Elder and The Spiritual Gift of Pastor. Many believers assume that the term “Pastor” and “Elder” mean the same thing. In some cases, pastors promote themselves as the only “Elder” within a local assembly. Many people fail to understand the proper roles of “Pastors” and “Elders.” We must study the Word of God to distinguish the office of “Elder” from the spiritual gift of “Pastor.”

2.2.1 The New Testament Church Offices. The New Testament refers to “Overseers,” “Elders,” and “Deacons.” For our limited purpose of understanding the Spiritual Gift of Pastor, we will look briefly at the terms “Overseers,” “Elders,” and “Deacon” to see how they should function within the church. In passing, we note that the “Deacons” hold a spiritual office in the church, and so they must meet spiritual qualifications to be in charge of a spiritual ministry. Please keep in mind that the seven men in Acts 6:5, page 1709, were men full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. They were put in charge of the task of being sure that the Hellenistic Jews and Hellenistic widows were served food properly. Notice that we see no indication that any of those seven men ever served a single table. Instead, we do see that Stephen had a vital preaching ministry, which resulted in his martyrdom (Acts 7:1-60, pages 1710-1713) and Philip (assuming it was the same man as in Acts 6:5, page 1709) preached in Samaria (Acts 8:4-40, pages 1714-1716; he was later known as Philip the Evangelist, (Acts 21:8-9, page 1742). So often today people have no idea what a deacon did in the New Testament. Among other spiritual activities, they were known as preachers and evangelists.

2.2.1.1 Overseers.  In Acts 20:28, page 1741, Paul addressed a group of men from Ephesus as part of his farewell tour before leaving for Jerusalem. Paul knew that they would no longer see his face (Acts 20:25, page 1741). Paul described a group of believers attending the local assembly at Ephesus as “overseers.” These overseers were men were looking over the flock.

2.2.1.1.1 The Duties of Overseers. These “overseers” (“ἐπισκόπους”) had very specific duties. First, they had to “be on guard” (“προσέχετε”) for (a) themselves and (b) for all the flock of God (Acts 20:28, page 1741). They had to “be on guard,” meaning they had to be vigilant, watchful, careful. It conveys the sense of spiritual acuity in spiritual perception.  Second, they must shepherd (“ποιμάνατε”) the church of God. Jesus instructed His apostles to shepherd the flock with eagerness, providing examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4, page 1899).

2.2.1.1.2 Elders. Paul directed Titus to appoint “elders” in every city in Crete (Titus 1:5, page 1865). This term “elders” here indicates that these appointed men held a special church office. Please take note that the term “elders” in the New Testament may refer to old men, forefathers, members of the Sanhedrin, and other uses.  If you compare the term “overseer” in Titus 1:7, page 1865 with the term “elder” in Titus 1:5, page 1865, they appear to refer to the same people. Furthermore, the qualifications of the “overseer” in Titus 1:7-9, page 1865, seem to be virtually identical to qualities of an “overseer” in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, page 1856, especially when compared to the office of deacon, with its qualifications, listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-12, page 1856. Therefore, we see that “elders,” also known as “overseers,” perform the work of shepherding the flock. As we saw in Acts 20:28, page 1741, the work of overseers included acting as a pastor to the flock. Notice that pastor is not an office, but the work of shepherding that “overseers” perform for the flock.

In 1 Timothy 5:17, page 1858, we read about the elders who rule well. Those elders who rule well should be given double honor. Notice that the term “elders” is plural and so indicates that each local assembly of believers should have a number of elders, not just one. Furthermore, we learn from 1 Timothy 5:17, page 1858, that not all ruling elders work hard at teaching and preaching. We know that one qualification for being an elder is that the man must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2, page 1856). When we combine 1 Timothy 5:17, page 1858,  with 1 Timothy 3:2, page 1856, we see that although every elder must able to teach, not every elder will work hard at teaching and preaching. Some elders will have other primary ministries, such as exercising church leadership, without preaching and teaching. Consider the spiritual gift of “leadership” for a moment. In Romans 12:8, page 1775, we read that “he who leads, with diligence.” We see that “leadership” is a distinct spiritual gift. Hopefully, every group of elders at a local church has someone who has the spiritual gift of leadership to provide guidance and vision for the future of the various ministries. Notice that “leadership” is a distinct gift in the list of spiritual gifts (see the study of the Spiritual Gift of Leadership). In contrast to the one-man style of leadership prominent in many churches today, Jesus taught that the local assembly should have a plurality of preachers and teachers, and the leadership would be provided by men with that specific spiritual gift of leading.

Deacons.  In passing, we note the the “Deacons” hold a spiritual office in the church, and so they must meet spiritual qualifications to be in charge of a spiritual ministry. Please keep in mind that the seven men in Acts 6:5, page 1709, were men full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. They were put in charge of the task of being sure that the Hellenistic Jews and Hellenistic widows were served food properly. Notice that we see no indication that any of those seven men ever served a single table. Instead, we do see that Stephen had a vital preaching ministry, which resulted in his martyrdom (Acts 7:1-60, pages 1710-1713) and Philip (assuming it was the same man as in Acts 6:5, page 1709) preached in Samaria (Acts 8:4-40, pages 1714-1716; later known as Philip the Evangelist, (Acts 21:8-9, page 1742). So often today people have no idea what a deacon did in the New Testament. Among other spiritual activities, they were known as preachers and evangelists. To highlight the plurality of ministry with the local church, let us take a closer look at the spiritual gift of pastor.

The Spiritual Gift of Pastor. In Ephesians 4:11, page 1830,we read about the distinct spiritual gifts of “pastors” and “teachers.” 1Some people may argue that the terms “pastors” and “teachers” refer to the same individual. In support, they often cite the Granville Sharp rule of New Testament Greek grammar holding that two nouns connected by “and” (“καί) refer to the same thing. The problem with this approach is that Granville Sharp limited his rule to singular nouns, not plural nouns as found here in Ephesians 4:11, page 1830. It seems that these gifts here do not refer to the same person who is always a pastor and a teacher. Therefore, we may understand that not all pastors are teachers. Yet, all elders should be able to teach, but this requirement does not mean that the every elder has to have the spiritual gift of teaching. These distinct spiritual gifts help us understand the work of “pastors,” and how not all pastors hold the office of “elder.” We should be careful to remember that every elder must perform the work of a pastor regarding the care of the flock, but not every elder has the spiritual gift of “pastor” just like every elder does not have the spiritual gift of teaching. I pray that every group of elders has a person with the spiritual gift of leadership. It would also be nice to have an elder with the spiritual gift of evangelism. As you can see, we could wish for a group of elders with a variety of spiritual gifts to provide leadership and pastoral care to the local assembly. Please recall, however, that the basic point is that the local assembly of all believers carry out the work of ministry, using their spiritual gifts, and neither the pastor nor the elders perform all the work of ministry. Consider for a moment 1 Thessalonians 5:14, page 1850. In that verse, Paul commanded the entire congregation of believers at Thessalonica to perform three ministries to the other saints: (1) admonish the unruly; and (2) encourage the fainthearted; and (3) help the weak. In addition. all the saints must be patient with one another, especially when performing their ministries. Therefore, the saints use their spiritual gifts to perform specialized and diverse ministries within the church. The pastors and teachers equip the saints for the work of performing their individual ministries.

The Plurality of Leadership. As you can see from the preceding section, the New Testament never promoted or recognized a one-man style of church ministry. Paul always traveled with a team, just as the Holy Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-2, page 1724; compare, e.g., Philippians 1:1, page 1835; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, page 1846.) As we read above, Paul wrote Titus to appoint “elders” plural in every city. This plurality of leadership in the New Testament will safeguard against The Pastoral Heresy by limiting the desire to be the greatest among the flock. The pastor will no longer be the sole focus of attention, and he may not be the only preacher in the church. In fact, all the elders ideally will be known for their strong work of serving the local saints, and some of them will work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17, page 1858).

References │ Page Numbers Below Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Some people may argue that the terms “pastors” and “teachers” refer to the same individual. In support, they often cite the Granville Sharp rule of New Testament Greek grammar holding that two nouns connected by “and” (“καί) refer to the same thing. The problem with this approach is that Granville Sharp limited his rule to singular nouns, not plural nouns as found here in Ephesians 4:11, page 1830. It seems that these gifts here do not refer to the same person who is always a pastor and a teacher.
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