And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
– Jeremiah 3:15, Ephesians 4:11 (KJV, ESV)
“Pastor” is one of the most common words in Evangelicalism or Protestantism. I quoted the verses above to illustrate two things. Pastors are always mentioned in the plural and pastors are metaphorically, shepherds.
A human pastor (singular) is never mentioned in the Bible, outside of Jesus. It is always pastors, plural. The NT knows nothing (does not teach) about a single, solo, human pastor leading.
If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably seen a pastor having severe problems. Whether it is a stress-out, nervous break-down, falling into some sin that causes them to step down, or workaholism that adversely affects their health and their family’s well-being. A very large percentage of pastors quit or are fired, in a disruptive fashion, because of the job.
Pastors are shepherds. A shepherd and a good shepherd, has a certain skill-set or qualities. Jeremiah says that God wants shepherds or pastors that have his heart. There are some anti-shepherd passages in the OT, where God rebukes bad shepherds, who mistreated the people and malpracticed in their role as overseerers in Israel (Jer. 23 and Ezek. 34).
God has not changed and still sees bad shepherds or pastors and rebukes them. Being a pastor is a gift from God. A good percentage of Christians have the gift, but a few are actually called pastor; and there are pastors in-name-only, who don’t have the gift, but sought and attained the job.
Pastors or shepherds are always plural in the NT. And there is never a “senior”, “lead”, “chief”, or “ruling” pastor, shepherd, or leader in the NT. Only Jesus is that.
Leadership, whether it is apostles, prophets, elders, teachers, or whatever description of giftedness; is never singular, but plural. Elders are loving heads of their homes, but are not heads of the church. Apostles or prophets or evangelists might be very gifted in the ministry of Christ, but when they go home, they take out the trash, change diapers, and mow their lawn.
Two points: you are not your gift, calling, or ministry; and the gift, calling, or ministry is not a title, but a function you flow in or an office you stand in. Even if you have the office, you are still not the office, but it is the office of Christ, that he lets you stand in for him, at times.
We all share in the ministry of Christ and some are known for their particular giftedness in ministry. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, I might call you a prophet, because I have seen, heard, or read the prophecies that came through you; and the good fruit. It would be very different if you either just started saying “I am a prophet” and I started calling you “prophet sam”, or if you went to school and got a certificate that says, “prophet sam”.
Even if I have ordination papers or a preaching license, that does not necessarily make me a pastor, preacher, or prophet. A preacher is someone who preaches, a pastor is someone who pastors, and a prophet is someone who prophecies. Now, hopefully it is good preaching, heart of God pastoring, and edifying or encouraging prophetic ministry.
Then, we will begin to call you, as we know you. The person that can truly say, “he (or she) is my pastor”, is the person who has been pastored (shepherded) by them. I have know many pastors who were not very pastoral, and it was not because they did not have the gift, but because they were stressed out by the duties and pressures of “the job”.
And this is another subject that pastors do many things they are not gifted to do, so they get very tired doing them, but they must try to do them, or they will lose their jobs. The solution might be to not put people in jobs that they are not gifted, equipped, or qualified for. Another solution if to live in your giftedness and let God provide for you in a “tent making” job.
In the NT, leadership in the church, is always plural and leaders are never over the other people. Individual churches had leaders (plural) who’s leadership was exercised along side of the people. Jesus is the head of the whole and every church, and the Spirit of God moves in and through all the people, orchestrating church life.
In the NT, leaders lead, but they lead from among the rest of us. This is different that leading over, which is the way of the world.
There is no “two-class system” in the NT, of “ministers” and the rest of us who watch. In the NT, all who are in Christ are ministers. There is no stage and no audience but a wholly participative body of people.
In Protestantism, we believe in “the priesthood of all believers”, which means that we do not need a special person ( a professional priest) to have access to God and we are now all priests, in Christ, sharing the ministry. We have the first part down, but we do not do the second, when we elevate pastors or the pastor or “pastor _____” to a special status, and call that as “going into the ministry”.
As for “pastoring”, here is how we “do it”, that is not biblical:
- Solo pastor
- Senior pastor
- Lead pastor
- Laity or “laypeople”
- Elders functioning as administrators.
- Divisions by age, sex, ethnicity or social standing.
- Honorific titles.
These are all unbiblical. People are pastors, healers, helpers, prophets, and on and on; but we do not call them that. We call people by there names or by brother or sister, period. You may stand in the gifting and flow in it, but that is not your name. Titles entitle.
Humble your self. If God does great things through you, that does not make you “the great man (or woman) of God”. Only God is great. Think about that donkey that Jesus rode on Palm Sunday.
You can refer to, make reference to, or introduce someone, by their spiritual character and work; and that is biblical: “George, is a man full of the Holy Spirit and love for God’s people”. “Here is Beth, one of the most effective Christian teachers on the scene today”, would be proper, rather than “Teacher Beth”. Introducing someone, personally, about the person, and what they do, who they are and so forth; is very different that stating a position, title, or rank.
We don’t do ecclesiastical titles. That is not the Jesus way. First name, brother or sister, and what they do or have done or what God’s doing in their life, is what is appropriate.
All Christians do the ministry and Holy Spirit gifts anyone or everyone in the people of God, for the ministry. This is threatening to the guy or gal who wear the name badge and get a check and have the keys to the building. This is also threatening to people who want to float of coast and just be congregants, who consume other’s performances and get their bottoms in the chair or pew and write a check; and go on an over-seas-mission-trip-vacation once in a while.
Real, authentic, Jesus-shaped leaders, who may or may not be called pastors; lead from among and beside the others. They are neither “out front”, or “above” the group; nor are they “hiding” in the back or in the middle, disguised. Real leadership is at the sides and among others.
Real leaders don’t say “hey, I am the leader – see me up here above you – listen to me or get out”. Only God can say that, and he rarely does. Humble yourself.
The leader and those led share life together, Christ’s life, and participate in the Holy Spirit’s work of lifting up Jesus. Sharing, communion, community, love: out of that environment, the leader is at the side, beside, sharing life with others, and in that place leads.
Unity and peace come before being right or “telling it”, for the Jesus-shaped leader.
Leaders are first brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, members of the body; then and from out of that, they then can lead.
Holy Spirit led and filled leaders also have patience when speaking and let the Spirit lead before them and have faith in God to bring about unity and consensus, when making decisions, rather than functioning as autocrats.