One question I hear regularly from Pastor-Teachers is, “What is my/our role in starting new churches?” This is the right question to which is often given a wrong answer, and to which there is not a single answer.
The Pastor-Teacher’s primary function is with the existing church or saved people. He is called and gifted to shepherd, grow, exhort and minister to the church. The training, gifting, and call of a Pastor-Teacher are very different from those of an Apostle, Prophet, and Evangelist.
What this means is that when a person who is called to be a Pastor-Teacher engages in church planting, the results are usually single generational, often focused on gathering sheep, and extremely frustrating in places where there are few or no existing Christians. This is because the primary role of the Pastor-Teacher is with saved people, not lost people. Note that I said Primary Role!
Before you get upset with me, please hear me out. The Five Fold Ministry was given by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I personally think it is really a Four Fold Ministry with Pastor and Teacher being combined in one person. Notice it says “some to be pastors and teachers,” not “some to be pastors and some to be teachers.” But, regardless of if it’s Five or Four, each function deals with different people.
- The Apostle deals with lost people and the leadership of churches emerging in lost areas.
- The Prophet deals with lost and saved people, and often the leadership of both.
- The Evangelist deals primarily with lost people. Note the “primarily”. The Evangelist also has the responsibility to train more Evangelists, who would be Christians.
- The Pastor-Teacher deals primarily with saved people. Note the “primarily”. The Pastor-Teacher may often intersect with a lost person, but the primary function is with the saved.
Let’s take it a step further and look at the primary responsibilities of each function. All scripture quotes in this post are from the NIV.
Apostles take God’s message of obedience to new peoples
5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—…23But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24I plan to do so when I go to Spain.
Prophets proclaim the consequences of obedience and disobedience
3Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
1 Peter 4:
17For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
5But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’”
Evangelists introduce obedience to God through Christ to families and individuals
7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
Pastors encourage their people to obey God
2 Thessalonians 3:
14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Teachers teach their people how (what to do) to obey God
12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. … 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
1 Peter 1:
14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Now, back to the main question, “What is the role of the Pastor-Teacher in church planting?” The answer starts with obedience. What does the Bible say you are to do? What is your call? What is your gifting from the Holy Spirit? (By the way, pastors, if you haven’t read Ezekiel 34 recently, you may want to spend a week or two considering what God has to say to Shepherds.)
When I entered the ministry in 1972 there were basically five routes one could take in ministry.
- Pastoral ministry
- Education ministry
- Music ministry
- Missionary (but trained as a Pastor or Educator to serve in a cross-cultural setting)
- Itinerate Evangelist or Revivalist (focused on preaching and not much else)
There were many variations on these, but if we examine what seminaries were doing, only the first three were validated with schools of their own, and the last two were minors or departments to be taken in conjunction with one of the first three, and church planting was something you did to get your first church. For the sake of time and space, I am simplifying this a bit.
The result of our theological education system was that regardless of one’s call, a person had to choose training that may or may not support his or her call. And when we chose the route for training, we were all educated as if we were going to be pastors, ministers of education (including youth ministry), or ministers of music. (I know there is more variety, today, but there is still a slant to the first three on the list.)
Since the functions of the Apostle, Prophet, and Evangelist were pretty much winked at, but not taken seriously, those of us who were called to these ministries were not well trained, and often found ourselves at odds with the system, trying to fit in like square pegs in round holes. The institution’s job was to whittle us round, and this was hard for those of us made of steel. I was mostly being trained to work with saved people. My call was with lost people. I was trained to be a Pastor-Teacher. No one considered training me to be an Apostle, Prophet, or Evangelist. How does one train an Apostle? How does one train a Prophet? And, of course, everyone should do evangelism, so there’s no real need for an Evangelist. (Note the sarcasm in this last statement.)
And herein lays the problem. There are many men and women who have been whittled round and are dissatisfied with where the system has relegated them. There are others who are round and trying to fill a square hole working with lost people, when their gifting is primarily for the saved.
I enjoy hanging out with lost people, living a life that connects with them, yet says there is more to life than they have. I love to get them asking the right questions that lead to discussions about spiritual matters and discovering their Creator, His plan for their lives, His provision for their salvation, and the wonder and joy of living in unity with Him through Jesus Christ. I find lost people more honest than the majority of today’s Christians. I find them more tolerant. I find them more open to discussing differences and discovering common ground on which to stand and work together.
It doesn’t take me long, when around many of today’s Christians, to get a belly full of lying, deceit, and intolerance for anything different. We pretend to be community, yet only see each other at church a few hours a month. We pretend everything is OK, yet our divorce rates, drug abuse rates, and crime rates are about the same as the rest of the population. We pretend everything is OK at home and work, when its hell at home and way past hell at work. As John said in his first letter, “1Jn 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Pretending everything is alright when it is not is a claim to be without sin. This leaves us without truth, causing the church to become irrelevant.
So pastor-teachers, what’s your role.
- Exhort your people to obey God’s Word and teach them how to do so.
- Encourage your people to discover what God has called them to do and then to do it.
- This is done through action, not surveys or teaching.
- Involve your people in local ministry
- Involve your people in missions
- Involve your people in starting home groups that may become another church
- Teach others to do what you do and to know what you know. Your expertise has the primary purpose of helping to fill the void in what others know, think, say, and do.
- Keep yourself educated and informed regarding what is happening in the world of the lost, the world of missions, and the world of church.
- When someone in your congregation expresses and interest in or demonstrates a call or gifting for working with the lost, hook them up with those of us who do it well. Push them out of the nest so that the lost will have more opportunity to hear the Gospel than if you kept them as a trusted leader. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10)
- And if you find yourself one of the whittled ones, have the courage to change – jump out of that round hole and grow your edges back.
- And when you find yourself trying to make square holes round (this means conforming to Western Christian Culture in addition to obeying God’s Word), you may want to go back to serving Western Christian Culture, and let those of us who are more flexible serve among the lost.
Finally, there are a few of you out there who can function in round and square holes. You are rare. We need you. Your voice, your strength, your experience, and your knowledge shared in both realms will help the church universal to be better and to do better among the saved and the lost. But be warned: Your life will not be easy. But, it will be rewarding.
Blessings!David Watson Irving, Texas