I have been in pastoral ministry for almost fifteen years now and I am still amazed at how many people think it is solely the job of a pastor to be in ministry. It is as if many think that all of the spiritual gifts God has have been given to one person–the pastor–and because of that fact it is the pastor’s job to do ministry. After all, that’s what they pay the pastor for, right?
Paul takes exception to this idea.
He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.
Here we see that the role of a pastor is not simply to do ministry, but to equip God’s people, the Church, to do ministry. This presupposes a couple of things. First, all members of the Body of Christ have spiritual gifts from God–every single one. Second, because of those gifts, all members of the Body of Christ have a specific ministry to which they are called and are to use that giftedness in service of the Church.
When the pastor fulfills the role of equiping the Church for ministry, and all members of the body of Christ are involved in the respective ministries to which they have been called and for which they have been gifted, two more things happen.
First, the Church has a unity of faith and doctrine. The members, because they are serving God, have to stay connected to God more fully than they would otherwise. And by seeing how God is at work through them, they have a more experiential understanding of God and his Truth than simply a “head knowledge” that can be swayed with a well-reasoned argument. Equipping the saints for ministry helps keep doctrinal integrity in the Church.
Second, the Church grows. When ministry is happening all around, and with everyone, there is no telling how many lives will be impacted for God. Besides, times have changed. It used to be that a Christian could define himself or herself as a Christian or a member of a particular denomination by what they did not do. No one is listening to these kinds of definitions any more. Now people want to know what Christians do. If the whole body is involved in ministry, there are ample opportunities to tell people what Christians do.
The pastor’s role is very important, and it is a very specific ministry within the body of Christ, but it is not the only ministry. When we reduce ministry to “the pastor’s job,” we are inviting theological disunity and a plateaued or shrinking Church.