“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (
God has given spiritual gifts to His people. In this case, the Apostle Paul is speaking of gifted people that guide the church in growth. I enjoy saying (with a wink of the eye) to our congregation, “Did you know that I am God’s gift to this church?”
But, it is true! Now, there is no room for boasting. Having such a calling to service is as much an act of God’s grace as the call to salvation. We deserve neither—yet, this is how God works. He sovereignly places people in His Body, according to His desire, and not our merit. Nonetheless, these leaders are essential for the church to be built up.
The apostles and prophets were essential in putting in the foundation of the edifice. Paul previously stated,
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (
Christ is the Cornerstone that is the beginning and anchor point for His church. Then the Spirit of God placed the apostles and prophets in the first century church to establish the solid teaching upon which the church would rest. Once the lifespan of the Apostles was completed, these gifted people passed off the scene. There are none who carry such direct authority from Christ Himself today. They were a special class who had walked and talked with Jesus, appointed by Him and eyewitnesses of His resurrection. Similarly, the prophets spoke directly from God until the New Testament was written. The church no longer needs more apostles and prophets—when the Bible is proclaimed, God speaks. In this sense, the ministry of these men continues through the message they wrote.
Now, atop that foundation, the frame of the edifice is being extended upward and outward—each new believer being another stone in the spiritual structure. The gifts of the evangelist and the pastor-teacher are crucial to the construction. I use the term pastor-teacher because Paul’s intent seems to be that these are not two different offices, but a composite term describing the officer’s duty to lead the flock as a pastor and to feed the flock as a teacher.
These gifted leaders guide the work to make sure it remains sound and straight—connected with the Cornerstone and aligned with apostolic doctrine. The evangelist adds another stone and the pastor-teacher cements them together with truth.
We should recognize that every believer is called to evangelize the lost. The pastor-teacher is commanded specifically to, “do the work of an evangelist” (
2 Tim.4:5). Yet,
we find there are certain people who are gifted by God to gather the
harvest. I may preach and a few are
saved, while the evangelist preaches and a bumper crop is reaped. I think if Billy Graham said, “ Mesopotamia” and extended an invitation, hundreds would
come forward in response! At least it
seems that the evangelist has such gifts—and, indeed, they are tasked with such
a responsibility and given the tools to do it.
Yet, the harvest would be lost, if the grain were not conserved. That is the primary work of the pastor-teacher. God has gifted me—and other men like me—with this sacred charge. We guide the church and it grows.
But, notice that the growth is a result of the people of God being equipped for their ministry. The “ministers” of the church are often identified as the elders of the church—her pastoral staff. Such a local church will never grow significantly, if the people view the pastors as “hired hands” brought in to do the ministry. The work is too vast for such a few. The harvest is too large for a handful of workers to preserve it.
I do have a ministry as a pastor—and that ministry is to equip you to fulfill your ministry! Pastors are gifted guides but they do not have all the spiritual gifts. Each person God sets in the church has at least one spiritual gift—and some have multiple gifts. None have all the gifts! So, these gifts must be discovered, developed and deployed for the church to be edified.
In the pastor-teacher’s job title there is the implication that he must exhort the people as pastor, prodding them with the staff of Scripture to undertake their ministry and then as teacher, prepping them with the sustenance of Scripture—feeding them in the rich pasture of God’s Word. The result will be a church that is the dynamic, expansive force that glorifies God by impacting the world.
Has God called you to be an evangelist? Billy Graham is soon to give his final altar call. Whom will God gift in this next generation? Perhaps the Spirit is compelling you to devote yourself to serving the church as pastor-teacher. I am not as young as I once was. There will come a day when I will preach my last sermon. That I will is not debatable—only when I will is not declared—unknown to me, but not to God. So, after that God will have readied another man to stand in my place, even as I have walked the path to the pulpit where my predecessors have trod.
God is calling each member to be a minister—if not an evangelist or pastor-teacher—then to love on little ones in the nursery, or to help teens wrestling with the world that they might be victorious, or to teach young adults to become solid in conviction in a compromising era, or to challenge median adults to not become complacent, or to console senior adults in the specific struggles that aging brings. God wants some to be ushers, cooks, cleaners, chaperones, deacons, drivers of the church bus, and much more. Are you being obedient to God’s call? We must all work together for this enormous task. Then the church will grow—and that is God’s expectation!