And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).This is possibly one of the most discussed passages in the New Testament over the last several decades. A major portion of the body of Christ has devoted itself to "equipping the saints for the work of service," and with some success. Like evangelists, pastors and teachers now seem to have an established and well respected position in the church. There has been a great emphasis on restoring the prophetic and apostolic ministries to their biblical place in this area as well.
There, I was surprised when the Lord spoke to me one day and said that He was about to restore the pastoral ministry to the church. I thought I must have misunderstood Him, but He confirmed it, and began to show me what He meant. This article is the result of that encounter, which has significantly impacted my views of the New Testament ministry.
It is interesting to note that Ephesians 2:11, quoted above, is the only place in the New Testament where the word "pastor" is found when it is not speaking of the Lord Himself. There is no description of the duties of this ministry given anywhere in the Bible. Yet, today almost the entire ministry of the church revolves around this one office. How did a ministry that is mentioned only once, and not even described once, come to dominate the life of the body of Christ? Is this the way the Lord designed the ministry of His church?
We must understand that just because a subject is not given much attention in Scripture does not necessarily reflect its level of importance. Most evangelicals would consider the need to be "born again" one of the most essential doctrines in Christianity, yet it is only briefly mentioned twice in Scripture, and no real definition of what it means to be born again is given. When the Lord gives something such importance but so little definition, it compels us to seek Him for both the understanding and the experience. It is more important to be born again than to be able to describe it. In fact, being born again is impossible to understand until it is experienced.
It is apparent that the Lord was ambiguous about the role of the pastoral ministry in the church because of its great importance, not the lack of it. The pastoral ministry is actually much more, not less, than the present, popular model; however, it is in many ways very different.
The current popular model of the pastoral ministry has usurped much of the responsibility delegated to the other equipping ministries listed in Ephesians 4:11; but it has had much of its responsibility usurped also, mostly by the spirit of the world, or "secular humanism." Finding the Lord's definition for this ministry is imperative if the church is going to come into the authority and power required to accomplish her mandate for these times.
All of the ministries are the manifestation of an aspect of the Lord's own ministry. Jesus was the Apostle, the Prophet, the Evangelist, the Shepherd and the Teacher. When one serves in a ministry he is simply becoming a vessel through which the Lord reveals Himself to touch the needs of His people. A man is not a teacher just because he is articulate, or has accurate doctrine, but because the Teacher lives in him. Likewise, a pastor is not just someone with a degree or ordination papers from an institution or organization, but a man that The Shepherd has called through whom to reveal that aspect of His ministry. The most accurate example of a true pastor is found by observing the Lord's own ministry as the Great Shepherd.
Failure to understand the God-ordained separation of responsibilities in ministry is a major cause of the devastating overload to this ministry, which has now caused many insurance companies to consider pastors "high risk." (One agent told me that most 35 year-old pastors have 65 year-old hearts). Not only do the majority of pastors now suffer burnout after just a few years, but just as tragically, a major portion of the Lord's ministry to His church is not fulfilled. The results are that she is not being properly equipped for the work of the ministry and is a grievous weakness of the entire body.
None of the ministries of the church can function properly unless they are properly related to the other ministries given. None of the New Testament ministries are complete within themselves, and all will be out of balance, and out of the will of the Lord, to the degree that they are not in harmony with the other ministries. We must realize that the present emphasis on the restoration of the prophetic ministry to the church should also result in a further restoration of the other equipping ministries. Each ministry is required for the full definition of the others. None will come into their full spiritual authority and anointing until they are all restored to their proper place and stature.
Even though the modern pastoral ministry may have often assumed authority or responsibilities that were not given to it, much of this has been done out of necessity because the other ministries were not functioning properly. As the other ministries assume their proper responsibilities, and each can become more specialized, each will realize a great increase in true spiritual authority. Like a laser, as we are each able to focus, more authority and power will be released.
Many have seen their spiritual authority eroded because they assumed authority in realms where they had not been given it. When we stay within the realm that the Lord has appointed to us, we are yoked with Him, and His yoke is easy. When we take yokes that the Lord has not given to us, they are always heavy and sap us of our strength, and our anointing. The Lord is now working to bring about a great repositioning in His church, one that will bring us all into our proper place, and will result in a significant increase in our anointing and effectiveness.
As we come into the harvest that is the end of this age, it is imperative that we are in our assigned sphere of authority or we will be overwhelmed with what is coming upon us. Even though the typical, modern pastoral ministry may be carrying many responsibilities and burdens which it has not been called to carry, it is called to have far more responsibility than it now has. The only way that those with this ministry will ever fulfill their calling is by having every yoke but the Lord's yoke removed from them. The vision that I was given of the restored pastoral ministry is much more, not less, than the present modern example, but it is very different.
Because of the seeming overlap of the pastor and teaching ministries, and the difficulty distinguishing "feeding" the Lord's sheep from "instructing" them, many have concluded that Paul was really addressing one ministry, the pastor/teacher rather than the pastoral ministry and the teaching ministry. In many cases there is an obvious combination of these gifts in a single person, but there are also many gifted to teach who have little pastoring ability; therefore, I have little problem seeing them as distinct from each other.
What is the difference between "feeding" and "instructing"? Feeding has to do with providing the spiritual diet, while instructing has more to do with developing skills in a person. At a university the chef would do the feeding, but the professors would do the instructing. As a flight instructor I did not just impart knowledge about aircraft, weather, air traffic control, etc.; I got in the airplane with the student and worked to develop their own skills and knowledge.
Perhaps this is what our pastor does for us, but herein lies the question. Is he supposed to do all of this? Would he not have much higher quality spiritual food to serve if he was not trying to do the instructing as well, but rather relied on others to help believers apply their knowledge?
The feeding of the Lord's sheep is critical; it must be given the very highest priority.We do not want to give the King's own household "junk food!" In biblical times, as we can see in Joseph's story, the baker (chef or cook) was one of the king's most trusted servants and was considered a most honored position. What chef, 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 for every dish, hire only the best assistants, and 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's own household who we have been given the incredible honor of serving? We should prepare every message that we serve the Lord's family with even more devotion than the greatest chef would put into his meals.
In the Lord's discourse concerning the end times, He includes a challenging statement that is obviously directed at the pastoral ministry.
Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?To the consternation of many idealists who consider present authority of the typical modern pastor as excessive, here we see that the ones whom the Lord calls to feed His sheep are "put in charge of his household." Because of the importance of His people having the proper spiritual food, the Lord has made the "chef" the manager of His entire house, but that does not mean that he must personally do everything.
Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes (Matthew 24:45-46 ).
We also see from the text in Matthew 24 that timing is crucial. There are certain foods that are appropriate to certain times of the year and even certain times of the day. The Lord expects His pastors to be sensitive to the times and the present needs of those whom he has been entrusted to serve. The "sensible slave" was the one who gave His household their food "at the proper time."
The Lord made a distinction between "feeding" and "tending," and most shepherds would agree that there is a distinction. To feed the sheep is to lead them to a proper pasture; to tend them would include protecting them from predators and parasites, nursing them when they became sick, breaking up fights, etc., which are all typical of the modern pastor's duties. The Lord also distinguished between the lambs and the sheep, obviously wanting neither to be forgotten.
It is also noteworthy that the Lord based Peter's responsibility to the sheep on his love for Him, not for the sheep. Of course, Peter was to love the sheep, too. The Scriptures are full of exhortations for us to love each other, but the foundation of this ministry was a love for the Lord.
If we love the Lord more than we love His people, we will love His people more than we would otherwise. This is basic and fundamental to all ministry: if we start to love the people, or the ministry more than we love the Lord, we have become idolaters and will become unrighteously possessive, ultimately becoming barriers between the Lord and His people. The more we love the Lord the more we will be prone to properly care for His people.
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.According to this Scripture, our minds must be renewed before we can prove what the will of God is, which is essential to walking in His will. For a Christian to "walk in the light" he must live by a different perspective, different knowledge and understanding than is prevalent in the world. Yet, the domain of knowledge and understanding almost universally has been given over to the world in everything from education to mental health. Both education and mental health are the very essential, basic domains of the pastoral ministry in the Church, and must be recovered if the pastoral ministry is going to be restored to its proper place in the church.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).
A basic reason that Christians have a difficult time knowing the will of God for their lives is that their minds have not been renewed. Many Christians still think and perceive from the world's perspective because the world is essentially in control of the development of their minds. This is in fundamental conflict with the Spirit. As Paul declared to the Ephesians:
If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:21-24).The world's educational systems and mental health philisophies, are in basic conflict with the renewing process that would remake us into the likeness and nature of Christ. In fact, almost everything about these philosophies promote the development and dominance of what the Scripture refers to as "the old man," the "carnal nature," or the "flesh." Can we turn our children over to the world's schools, which are founded on the religion of secular humanism, to have their minds formed and then expect them to be Christlike and spiritually discerning?
Copyright: 1994 by Morningstar Publications and Ministries. All rights reserved. This article is published courtesy of "The Morningstar Publications and Ministries". If you would like to peruse more articles from the pen of Rick Joyner, visit Morningstar's website.
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