“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:11
Let us now examine the most Biblically undefined office, the Pastor. This office over many years of church history has been run down, despised, overlooked, traditionalized, glorified, idolized, and even cherished, but always misunderstood. With God’s help, we will examine it and attempt to place it in its proper place of importance and honor. The office of a pastor is just one of the five Administrative Gifts. It is not mentioned above or below any other, but in conjunction with the others. All the Administrative Gifts are intended to work in unison. This operational unity of the Gifts is very important. When these Gifts are properly used, they have specific beneficial purposes (Ephesians 4:12–16). They are:
1. for the equipping of the saint.
2. for the edifying of the body of Christ.
3. for unity of the faith.
4. for the knowledge of the Son of God.
5. for us to become a perfect man.
6. for the fullness of Christ.
7. that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro.
8. so we are not carried about with every wind of doctrine.
9. so that we can speak the truth in love.
10. so that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
11. for the effective working by which every part does its share.
12. to causes growth of the body.
13. for the edifying of itself in love.
God did not say any one office or combination of offices, would accomplish all this. These five offices must all work together in unison in order to achieve the best God has intended for His Body. Many Bible scholars have improperly incorporated the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, and teaching aspects of the ministry into the job description of a pastor. While this is partially true, for a pastor must have ability to do them all, it is not true that the pastor is called to do them all. That is where the error lies. Because of this misunderstanding, many pastors try to be all things for their people; the result is that they usually fail, get burned out, discouraged and then leave. This overloading of responsibly also greatly dilutes their effectiveness. This ineffectiveness results in the church being improperly equipped with the power and direction needed for the work God intended. This responsibility overload can also be attributed to the laity not stepping up into the calling God has placed upon them. It can also be due to the Pastor’s inability to release control of any part of the ministry due to pride, arrogance, mistrust, lack of scriptural knowledge, insight, or in many cases a combination of all these factors. These pastors sincerely believe they are doing what is best for their flock, but they are sincerely mistaken. They are in fact doing the opposite by not allowing the implementation and operation of the proper apostolic order found in Ephesians 4:11. This is the main reason for the failure of many modern day churches to exhibit the omnipotent power and presence of God.
Another reason for the Church’s ineffectiveness is that the office of a pastor is not one born out of the natural extension of the will, intellect, abilities, qualifications, or principles of man. Nor is the position of a pastor or any position found in Ephesians 4:11 one that you can train yourself for, with the intent of one day becoming. No position is earned; it is a gift (And He Himself gave some, Ephesians 4:11). You do not train yourself to become a pastor unless you already know you are called to be a pastor. Otherwise, the results will be ineffective at best.
Proper Christian training comes by doing two things. First: Rightly dividing the Word of God, so that if God does call someone to ministry, in whatever position He might choose, he will then be empowered to be a workman of God (2nd Timothy 2:15). Second: Work hard at knowing God intimately and constantly work at aligning one’s lifestyle in accordance with His Word. Let us look at 2nd Corinthians 3:2 for why this is so important. This will help us to recognize and obey His calling. No matter one’s qualifications or how much he studies, work, and desires to obtain a position; it will not be blessed by God unless God appoints him. It is only the Christian that knows God intimately and has the appropriate lifestyle who will be absolutely certain that God has called him to a specific ministry. It is only once a minister places himself in the center of God’s will that his calling may truly be blessed of God. Non-compliance with these simple God ordained protocols has caused scriptural obscureness, inconsistency, lack of power, direction, and scriptural error to infiltrate the Church. Many churches have not chosen those whom God has called and appointed. They have relied upon a candidate’s earthly qualifications, training, looks, style, charisma or how that candidate fits into their personal agenda. The only way to receive all the benefits of God’s plan for the Church is to go back and properly establish the divine apostolic order which is based on men God has chosen, and not on man’s fleshly perception of a candidate (1st Samuel 16:7). But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
It is fully understood that major problems like, loss of funds, people, confusion, and even the collapse of some ministries may occur as a result of such restorative actions. However, this would only be a short-term occurrence. In the long run, ministries would be healthier, larger, and more powerful, with more people saved and transformed into the image of God. The Church would have more power than can be imagined. The world and the body of Christ would be better for it. The most important benefit of this action is that we would once again be totally in line with God’s ordained plan. God would then fill our houses of worship like never before.
In 1995, God called me to pastor a church in the Bronx. This calling came as a total shock because to this point in my ministry, teaching was my only calling. In compliance with God’s instruction, an application was presented to their board and all tests and criteria required were met. To my surprise, the congregation chose another brother. After months of prayerful reflection on whether it was my own misunderstanding, I received a phone call from the head of the selection committee of that church. He called to apologize. He said that the entire board knew that I was called to that position but because this other brother had a more liberal view of Scripture and had a more of an outgoing personality, they felt that he was better suited for church growth, and, therefore, they decided to choose him. Six months later that the church was down to less than a dozen people and the pastor decided to walk off with no explanations. They called once again to inform me of the situation and ask if I would consider taking over the church. After several weeks of prayerful inquiries, God’s answer came; my time had passed. I was to go to Israel, and upon my return, I was to teach at a Bible College. The church suffered six months of further hardship before God placed the right leadership in the church and started to restore the work there. The church has been doing wonderfully ever since.
Another reason for a church choosing the wrong man for the pastorate and the resulting ineffectiveness of the church is the improper interpretation of the Scriptures. Many well-meaning Bible studiers have wrongly used the listed qualifications in 1st Timothy 3:2–7, Titus 1:5–9 and 1st Peter 5:1–5 to define the position of a “Pastor.” Their argument is that the meaning of “episkopay” found in 1st Timothy 3:1 defines the work of an “overseeing ministry,” not the “office” of an overseer, and in their view, the Pastor is “the” overseeing ministry. To many this may seem to mean the same thing, but it does not. The overseeing ministry encompasses the entire gambit of ministry which makes this position the head of all things; one who has the only say or the final say in all matters pertaining to the ministry. On the other hand the “office of an overseer” is just one of a group of overseers who work together in conjunction with others overseers to direct the ministry. When proper Biblical hermeneutics are applied it becomes clear that this interpretation fits best with Ephesians 4:11.
Although it is true that 1st Timothy 3:2–7, Titus 1:5–9 and 1st Peter 5:1–5 list requirements needed to obtain a position of leadership in the church, there are several problems with using these scriptures to describe specifically the position of a pastor. One: These requirements come under the category of works, not gifts. There are many true men of God that fulfill all of these qualifications and have the desire to become a pastor or an overseer, but do not have God’s calling for the position. A pastor, like the other four administrative positions are Gifts. They cannot be earned! These Administrative Gifts can only be given by God, to the people whom God wills. Two: If you look closely at 1st Timothy 3:1 it specifically states what position is being described. It is not one of a Pastor but an Overseer or Bishop. Look carefully at what 1st Timothy 3:1 says. “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the office of a Bishop [overseer], he desires a good work.” Three: The Greek word “episkopay” simply means to investigate, inspect, or to visit, one with oversight, a superintendent or one in charge. It is a noun in the Greek and it is presented in the feminine voice, making the word generic, or meaning an “office” of a Bishop, which it is so translated in the ASV, ESV, KJV, and the RSV just to name a few. This Greek word is used only four times in the New Testament. It is translated in Luke 19:44 and 1 Peter 2:12 as visitation, in Acts 1:20 as “bishoprick” (KJV) which means office, and in 1st Timothy 3:1 as an office of a Bishop. Some other translations say office of an Overseer. It does not mean nor is it ever translated pastor. Pastor is the Greek word “poimen,” more on that in a moment. Now look at 1st Timothy 3:2. The word, Bishop appears once again. This word in the Greek is “episkopos.” “Episkopos” is the masculine form of the word found in verse one, which makes this word a specific person with the office of a Bishop. This form of the word for Bishop is used only five times in the New Testament (Acts 20:28, Philippians1:1, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:7, and 1 Peter 2:25). In all cases, the word is translated either a specific bishop or bishops, or an overseer, depending on what translation is used, but never is it translated as the office of a Bishop. This is extremely important to understand because neither Greek word “Episkopay” or “Episkopos,” is ever translated a pastor, feeder, or shepherd. And as stated earlier, the New Testament Greek word is “poimen” which is the Greek word used in Ephesians 4:11. “Poimen” means shepherd, or one that feeds. The word “poimen” appears seventeen times in the New Testament. While in Ephesians 4:11 it is rendered pastors, every other rendering is shepherd. Ephesians 4:11 is also the only place where the word “poimen” is used where it does not refer directly to the Lord Jesus Christ, making Christ the most accurate example of a true pastor found anywhere in Scripture. Every other rendering of shepherd refers directly to Jesus Himself.
Nowhere in the Bible is a description of the specific duties of a Pastor found, yet, today almost the entire ministry of the church revolves around this one office. How did a ministry that is mentioned only once in the New Testament and not described anywhere come to dominate the life of the Body of Christ as it has? We are not implying that a pastor is less important than any other God ordained position, but that the overwhelming desire to become a pastor over all other ministries has. The fact that a subject is not given much attention in Scripture does not necessarily reflect its level of importance either. For example, the Lord’s Supper is only mentioned three times in scripture (Luke 22:19, 1st Corinthians 10: 16; 11:25). Being born again is only mentioned once (John 3:7) and never defined, but is there anyone who would dispute their significance? The pastoral ministry is actually much more, not less, than what we now experience. It is also in many ways very different. Today the pastoral ministry has usurped much of the responsibility delegated to the other equipping ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11. For the most part, pastors now have complete and total operational and directional authority in the church, while at the same time there is no unity or cooperation with the other Administrative Gifts.
On the other hand, many pastors have had much of their responsibility usurped. This usurping has come mostly by the spirit of the world, or “secular humanism.” The pastoral ministry has been molded by man’s desire to reach as many people as they can, anyway they can. The larger the numbers the better it is for the business of church, and the prestige that goes along with a large ministry. This is not true in every case mind you, but anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time knows this to be true. The pastoral ministry has also been usurped by board members who elect a new pastor based often times on their own agendas or how a prospective pastor looks or speaks and even the doctrines he hold true. If we want to see the Church of Christ once again operating in the fullness of glory and power, and doing the work it was designed for (Ref. Ephesians 12-16, it is imperative that we design our churches according to the Lord’s complete operational method, which is outlined in Ephesians 4:11. We must choose our pastors by knowing the heart of God. Knowing the heart of God only comes through much prayer and fasting. All ministries are the manifestation of an aspect of the Lord’s own ministry. The position of a Pastor is one of those aspects. Therefore, by observing the ministry of Jesus who is our Great Shepherd, we can recognize that calling in others and ourselves. Jesus was God’s apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or shepherd, and teacher. A minister in one of those positions should become an empty and willing vessel, through which the Lord reveals Himself in order to touch the needs of His people. The Lord never did anything or went anywhere the Father did not order him to go. God’s chosen ministers should act in exactly the same manner. Our Spiritual authority comes by knowing our calling and its limitations. We must remain in the authority and position appointed to us. This is why the apostle Paul explained that he was careful not to go beyond the sphere of apostolic authority that God had appointed to him (Ref. 2nd Corinthians 10:13–14). Many ministries are suffering because they have obscured their positional boundaries. The Church is full of God called ministers who are limited in power and scope. This limitation comes because they have entered geographical areas without an appointment, or they have taken on spiritual jobs for which they are not called. When we stay within the jurisdiction that the Lord has appointed, the work becomes easy because He is co-laboring with us. When we go outside of jurisdiction however, the job becomes burdensome and saps us of our strength, and our anointing. If we discover the proper boundaries and responsibilities of our calling, and stay within them, the result will be an increase in our anointing and effectiveness.
The question now becomes “what exactly is a Pastor?” What exactly does the pastoral ministry entail? Paul’s Pastoral Epistles, which are first and second Timothy and Titus, contain the sum and substance of New Testament teaching on the subject. In these books, Paul lays out three general functions we can look to for information and instruction on what a pastoral ministry should be.
1. Pastors are to administrate worship services. This administration includes the order of worship, administering the sacraments, and preaching the Word. In this capacity, the Pastor is appropriately termed a “minister” (2nd Timothy 4:2–5).
2. A Pastor’s responsibilities spring out of the former. They include the feeding of the flock, the instruction of its members in all aspects of life, and bringing every soul to Christian maturity. Pastors or “under shepherds” must imitate the chief shepherd, who “calls His sheep by name” (Titus 2).
3. The pastoral relation with his flock passes naturally into what we have scriptural authority for calling, “the spiritual government of the Church.” Its ministers are called rulers, and all its members are bidden to obey them that have rule (1st Timothy 6:1–2; Titus 3:1).
4. Pastors are also commanded to be watchful (Hebrews 13:17; 1st Timothy 4:5). They must be on guard for any predator that might try to destroy the work of God in the flock.
5. They are to be gentle and affectionate (1st Thessalonians 2:7–8) treating every problem, whether large or small with the same decorum.
6. Pastors are also instructed to exhort, warn, and comfort their flock (1st Thessalonians 2:11; 1st Corinthians 4:14–15).
The Pastor’s spiritual authority includes the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of his flock’s lives. But he is not a sovereign ruler who cannot be questioned. The ultimate and final authority lies with God and His Word. That is why every believer is commanded to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2nd Timothy 2:15). So when the man of God who is both finite and fallible is in error or goes astray, we can come to his aide and institute counseling and corrective measures. That is why the Word of God also says, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2nd Corinthians 13:1) and gives us a method of dealing with sinful conduct (Matthew 18:15-17). On the other hand, if a man of God comes in his proper authority and makes a ruling that is based upon the Word of God, we must be obedient, even though that ruling conflicts with or impacts our life style. Remember, the Greek word “poimen” is also translated feeder. This translation reveals the basic function of the pastoral ministry. It is to feed the Lord’s sheep so that the Lord’s sheep can grow into the fullness of Christ. We may think that feeding the flock really means the pastor must also be a teacher, which is listed after the Pastor in Ephesians 4:11. However, the word teacher is a different Greek word than that of Pastor and is another gift all together.
The Greek word for teacher in Ephesians 4:11, is “didaskalos,” and it is more accurately translated instructor. And even though there can be a combination of these Gifts in any of the administrative offices, there are also many who are called and gifted to teach who have little pastoral ability, and many gifted with pastoral abilities who have little teaching ability. Therefore, there is little problem seeing them as distinct from each other. What is the difference then between feeding and instructing? Feeding has to do with providing the complete diet, while instructing has more to do with developing skills. At a university, for example, the chef would do the feeding, and the professors do the instructing. How much would a student learn and how healthy would he be if our churches did the same, and not allow professors to feed and chefs to train. Would we not have a much higher quality of spiritual food to serve and better instruction in every aspect of God’s Word and work, resulting in better quality disciples? Would not a concentration on only one aspect of the ministry leave the pastor more time to spend in the presence of the Master? Would not he then be better able to properly feed his sheep? Would you agree that the feeding of the Lord’s sheep is critical and should be given the highest priority? It would be unthinkable to give the King of King’s own household poorly prepared, or junk food.
In biblical times, as we can see in the story of Joseph in the pharaoh’s prison, the baker was one of the king’s most trusted servants. The baker was considered a most honored position. What chef then, who was given the commission to prepare the meals for the president, or any potentate, would not put his very best into each meal? Such a chef would probably scour the world for the best ingredients. He would hire only the best assistants. He would seek out only the best dinnerware on which to serve the meal. How much more should we put our best into what we serve the Lord or His bride? Serving the Lord’s bride is an incredible honor. Should not a pastor or any minister prepare every message they serve with more devotion than the greatest chef would? This type of dedication takes many hours and tremendous work and diligence. It leaves little time for all the other ministries, with which pastors burden themselves. Moses had this same problem didn’t he? What was Jethro’s advice to Moses? Moses recognized his father in law’s advice as godly for he immediately obeyed that Word of the Lord. Shouldn’t we in every aspect also consider obeying Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18:13–24)?
What about the story in Acts 6? Did not the apostles tell the church to choose seven men of good reputation to serve God’s people, men who were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom? What was the apostle’s reason for that decision? They said, “It is not reason that we [the apostles] should leave the Word of God, and serve tables...But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:2, 4 KJV). Didn’t that please the multitude (verse 5)? Again, shouldn’t we do the same? In Matthew 24:45–46, which is the Lord’s discourse concerning the last days, Jesus includes a challenging statement that is obviously directed at the pastoral ministry. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” Here we see that the ones whom the Lord calls to feed His sheep are “put in charge of His household,” because of the important need for His people having the proper spiritual food, the Lord has made a “faithful and wise servant” the ruler of His house. When was the last time you saw a manager of a company do everything? Never! He hires help to do the work. He oversees and directs the business in a way that is in accordance with the wishes of the owner. Also we see in Matthew 24:45–46 how critically important it is to feed the flock at the exact time necessary. The food should not only by pure, delicious and containing all the proper nutrients. It should also be given in due season. This insures a healthy body. The pastor is the manager over the Lord’s household. He is chosen and called because he is a faithful and wise servant. Note also, although he has been given authority over the flock he is still a servant not the potentate. It is his responsibility to make sure that the body he has been entrusted with is healthy and well fed. A “faithful and wise servant” is one who is found so doing (verse 46).
Before we close, let us look at one more section of scripture, John 21:15–17. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” In this section of scripture the Lord is giving three different instructions to Peter, first it was to feed the lambs, then to tend the sheep, and finally to feed the sheep. Notice the Lord made a distinction between the two words feeding” and tending. Most of us would agree that they are different. Feeding means to make sure proper food is available for the sheep. Tending denotes a watching over, for protection, nursing, and discipline. All these are typical of the modern pastor’s duties. It is also noteworthy that the Lord based Peter’s responsibility to the sheep on Peter’s love for Him. Not on Peter’s love for the sheep. Each command for Peter to take care of the sheep came after the question, “Peter, do you love me?” Understanding this makes it clear that the foundation of any ministry must be the person’s love for the Lord, not the sheep. If we love the Lord more than His people, we will love His people unconditionally. If we love the people more than we love the Lord, our duty shifts from obeying God to obeying the people. The result will be that the will of the people will inevitably outweigh the will of God. In other words, we become idolaters! Jesus is then reduced from a navigator to a spectator. In the pastoral ministry, many pastors will unavoidably be faced with problems that they do not know how to handle. This will also be true of any minister or Christian for that matter. Two things must happen:
1. Pastors must ask God and keep asking Him until the answer arrives. They must seek to find the answer in God’s Word, they must knock until the Lord opens the door and gives them help (Matthew 7:7-8).
2. They must seek counsel from other mature and wise brethren (Proverbs 24:6; 27:9). Jesus met the needs of all who came to Him. He did it by loving the Father first and foremost. His ministry emanated from that relationship. All ministries must extend from that same relationship.
If your relationship with the Father is strong, your ministry will be strong. If your relationship with the Father is weak, your ministry will be weak. The key to fulfilling one’s ministry is to love the Lord unconditionally, obey His commands, and earnestly seek to be changed into the Master’s image. Our goal is clear, and it is quite a journey back to the basic truths of Jesus’ instructions. Every journey no matter how long and hard, starts with the first step. Pastors must undertake that journey.
Pastors are not called to be all, and do all. They are faithful and wise servants that must supervise the feeding and tending of the sheep God gave them. Pastors must spend their time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. They are not to do every menial task set before them. Pastors must take the Lord’s yoke, not the ministry’s yoke. The Lord’s yoke is easy to bear. The ministry’s yoke will become unbearable and will eventually break them under its weight. Good shepherds must learn to align the Lord’s ministry after the pattern set down by Christ. We must look for and petition the Lord for all the administrative offices to come alive in one’s church and in the entire Body of Christ. Then once they are discovered, we must use them. We must not hold them back, but have faith in those whom God has chosen. As parishioners, we must discover our calling and fulfill it. We must hold up our pastor’s arms in prayer and in action. We must do unto him as we would have him do unto us. We must learn to give more than receive. We must seek rather to comfort then to be comforted, to understand rather than to be understood. We must bear his burdens, not be his burden.
In His love and service
Your Brother in Christ
Rev. Mario A. Bruni D.D.