What’s a Pastor to Do?
The Big Idea: What is God’s vision for the “division of labor” in the church? To learn what God’s people are to do, visit yesterday’s post It Takes a Congregation. To learn what pastors are to do, read Want to Change Lives? To learn God’s grand calling for His Church, keep reading.
God’s Grand Vision for His Church: Ephesians 4:11-16
In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul highlights the Bible’s most powerful, focused vision statement for the Church. This passage offers God’s ministry description both for pastors and for every member. By distilling the essence of God’s call, His vision captures our imagination and motivates the shift in ministry mindset that changes everything.
The Résumé of Pastors
Most pastoral search committees would be thrilled to read a candidate’s résumé that demonstrated the ability to preach, counsel, and administrate. Most seminaries would be delighted if graduate exit interviews indicated that pastoral ministry students perceived that their seminary training equipped them for preaching, counseling, and administrating. Being equipped to do the work of the ministry seems to be everyone’s ideal goal for the pastor.
Everyone but Christ. His pastoral ministry description demands the ability to equip others to do the work of the ministry. If seminaries followed Christ’s vision for pastoral ministry, they would focus on training trainers. If pastoral search committees desired in a pastor what Christ desires, they would throw out every résumé that failed to emphasize experience in and passion for equipping the saints.
You would think that we would listen to the Head of the Church. Paul spends the chapters and verses leading up to Ephesians 4:11-16 showing why Christ has the right to write the pastor’s ministry description.
• He is our Redeemer in whom our full salvation is complete (1:1-14). We should surrender to His will for His redeemed people.
• He is seated at God’s right hand ruling over everything with all authority, appointed the Head over everything for the Church which is His Body (1:15-23). We should follow His directives for the Church.
• We are His workmanship, created in Christ to do the beautiful work prepared for us from all eternity (2:1-10). We should want to know what He prepared pastors and people for.
• He is the chief cornerstone upon whom the whole building (the church) is being built (2:12-22). We should follow His architectural drawings for the Church.
• He is the revelation of God’s grace toward which all time and eternity have been moving (3:1-14). We should yield to His infinite wisdom for His people.
• His love for us surpasses all knowledge (3:15-21). We should submit to His calling on our lives.
• He ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe (4:1-10). We should listen to the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the universe.
The Pastoral Ministry Mindset Shift That Changes Everything: Every Pastor an Equipper of Equippers
Instead, we listen to modern church culture that screams, “The pastor is the preacher, care-giver, and CEO!” It’s time to listen to the Head of the Church. “It was he who gave some to be … pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Ephesians 4:11-12a). Christ’s grand plan for His Church is for pastors/teachers to focus on equipping every member to do the work of the ministry.
Under the Spirit’s inspiration, Paul launches verse 12 with a tiny Greek word (pros) translated by an even smaller English word (“to”) with giant meaning: with the conscious purpose of, in order for, for the sake of, with a view to. The word indicates the future aim and ultimate goal of a current action. That is, by definition a vision statement—Christ’s grand vision statement for every pastor/teacher.
What is the future view, the future vision to which Christ sovereignly gave His Church pastors and teachers? Paul says it succinctly: “To prepare God’s people for works of service.” These eight words must be every pastor’s reason for existence.
One central word—“prepare”—must capture every leader’s passion for ministry. “Prepare” comes from the word for artist, craftsman. Local church leader—your special craft, your opus is people, equipped people, disciple-makers. Your spiritual craft or gift is to help others to scout out their spiritual gift, identify that area of ministry, and empower them to use that gift.
In Paul’s day, people commonly used “prepare” in the context of conditioning an athlete. Local church leader—you are a spiritual conditioning coach. Your job is not to play all the positions on the team, but to coach every player on the team, to strengthen their spiritual condition so they are able to do works of service. This fits perfectly with how Paul uses the word prepare—to train someone so they are fully fit and mature enough to complete their calling. The pastor’s calling is to help God’s people to fulfill their calling.
These weren’t just words for Paul. He made making disciple-makers his personal ministry description—Colossians 1:28-29. He made equipping equippers his personal ministry practice—Acts 20:13-38. Christ’s grand vision so captured Paul’s ministry mindset that at the end of his life he passed onto Timothy the vision of equipping equippers of equippers—2 Timothy 2:2. The baton of equipping passed from Christ’s hands, to Paul’s hands, to Timothy’s hands, to the hands of reliable disciple-makers who passed it on yet again.
Let’s not drop the baton. Let’s keep Christ’s grand vision alive and moving into the future.
Some may ask, “Are you saying that pastors should not preach the Word, counsel, and administrate?” Not at all. Christ, the Head of the Church, has written the primary ministry description for all pastors. Pastors should equip equippers for the work of the ministry. Within this overriding calling, pastors can preach, counsel, and administrate.
When I was Sr. Pastor, every time I preached, I asked myself, “How does this message further my calling to be a catalyst for equipping the saints for the work of ministry?” As a player-coach, when I counseled, I had trainees in the room with me. When I visited the hospital, I took apprentices with me. My goal wasn’t to be the church’s primary care-giver, but to equip a church of care-givers. In my administrative role, I sought to oversee the equipping of every member. Yes, I preached, counseled, and administrated—always within the context of Christ’s grand vision for the Church—the pastor as the equipper of equippers.
Others may be thinking, “I’m with you 100%, but I’m not an ordained pastor, although I am a recognized, active ministry leader in my church. How should I apply these truths?” Ephesians 4:11-12 provides the ministry description for all those raised up for local church leadership. If you’re the Women’s Ministry Director, ask yourself, “How can I fulfill Christ’s call for me to equip women to equip others?” If you’re the Small Group Director, ask, “How can I oversee that all our small group leaders and members are being discipled to speak the truth in love?”
Join the Conversation
If you’re a pastor, how can you more completely fulfill God’s calling on your life to equip others?
If you’re not a pastor, how can you assist your pastor to more completely fulfill God’s calling to equip others?