God gave the church pastor/teachers for a reason. His reasons are obviously the soundest reasons that we can consider for the necessity of pastor/teachers. Read how Paul the apostle puts it to the Church of Ephesus:
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; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Now understand what is happening in the context of this passage. Paul has just finished speaking to the church about the mystery of how the Jews and the Gentiles become one through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 3). He encourages the Ephesians by letting them know that he is praying for them to have the realization of the truth of this mystery. Moreover, it is a mystery! For what reason would God choose Israel as His people and then invite others to share in Him what it is that His people have? The central reason is ultimately to bring glory to Himself (cf. Romans 9:23-24).
Then Paul turns his attention to the unity of the body. This body consisting of both Jews and Gentiles was a concern of his. When you get different ethnicities together there tends to be some tensions at times due to differing cultural differences. The Jews were not like the Gentiles in the sense that the Jews had one God while many Gentiles had either no god or many gods. When the Jews and the Gentiles came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, they both now had one Messiah that they believed. Nevertheless, they were coming to Him from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. There were bound to be some problems in the church if this was the case.
So let me take a quick excursion at this point. It is important for us to understand that the make-up of the church is just that: it includes people from every tribe, nation and tongue. As one friend put it, “It is ethnocentric.” In other words, Christians in all denominations everywhere need to realize that heaven is going to look very diverse in color and people from differing cultures are going to be with us. As the old children’s song goes, “Jesus loves the little children / All the children of the world / Red and yellow, black and white / they are precious in His sight / Jesus loves the little children of the world!” The point is that we need to see the church universal as a whole and not just our individual churches as the whole. We need to realize that there are different Christians—of varying colors and cultures—that have trusted the same Messiah as us. They are no different from us. They are lost sinners who need the Savior just like us. They too are saved just as much as we are saved.
The Unity of the Body
Paul is pointing out that unity is necessary. As he puts it:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Did you read how many times he speaks of this “oneness”? Seven times he uses the word “one.” This means that in contrast to many, there is only one. It is not pluralistic it is singular. We have only one body of believers—both Jews and Gentiles. We have only one Spirit—the Holy Spirit. We have only one hope of our calling—the call to be saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have only one Lord—there is no need for any other when you have the One true and living God. We have only on faith—the faith granted to us as a gift of God. We have only one baptism—the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We have only one God and Father of all—the one true and living God who is above all, and through all, and in those of us who believe.
Unity among the body of believers is of utmost importance. Paul now turns his attention to the gifts that God has given to the church. He says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7-10). What was Christ’s gift? The gift that He gave was Himself: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The gift of Himself is the most important of all, but He also gave the church some other gifts—necessary gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers.
The Gifts to the Body
The first gift mentioned by Paul is the gift of the apostle. An apostle was one who fulfills the role of being a special messenger. This gift to the church is generally restricted to the immediate followers of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it also extended to other early Christians active in proclaiming the message of the Gospel, as is the case with the Apostle Paul. Yet there does not seem to be any Scriptural evidence that this particular gift is still in existence. Yes, there are those who say that this gift has not ceased but the reality is that we do not see any other apostles mentioned in the Scriptures after Paul. It is a hard case to make for this gift still being in existence in the church today. However, one can make the case that this role still exists insofar as a person who is a special messenger of God presenting a special message from God, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Additionally, some may argue that this role still exists because of the church planting movement that seems to be growing—at least here in America. A man may plant one church and from that church plant other churches that are considered part of his church planting organization.
The second gift given is the gift of the prophet. This one proclaims inspired utterances on behalf of God. There is a tendency in numerous languages to translate and define this word for prophet only in the sense of one who foretells the future. The foretelling of the future was only a relatively minor aspect of the prophet’s ministry even though at times it became a more important aspect of the ministry. The focus of the ministry of the prophet in the New Testament was upon the inspired utterance proclaimed on behalf of and on the authority of God. In other words, the prophet is merely one who speaks for God. In today’s church this office still is in existence as far as proclamation of the Gospel is concerned. In other words, based upon the authority of God Himself, there are those who proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and courageously.
The next gift is the gift of the evangelist. The evangelist is one who announces the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though the term used for evangelist indicates only an individual who announces the Gospel, early usage of the word suggests this person traveled from place to place announcing the good news of Jesus Christ. In today’s body of believers, there are evangelists. These gifts travel from place to place announcing that men, women, boys and girls can be saved by believing Jesus Christ unto salvation. They are the stentors—heralds—who proclaim from place to place that Jesus Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried and was raised again according to the Scriptures.
Now comes the final gift listed and it is the gift of the pastor and teacher. Throughout this article, it has been evident that these two terms are kept together. There is a reason for this but before the reason is given, definitions of these terms are going to be stated.
The pastor is one who is responsible for the care and guidance of a Christian congregation. The teacher is one who provides instruction. Some scholars will define both of these terms as being separate classes of people that are given as gifts to the church. However, these are two complementary roles, that of pastor and teacher. In other words, the pastor is one who guides and helps a congregation by the teaching that he does. In today’s church, the office of the pastor/teacher is certainly still in effect. The question is, “Is it necessary for individuals to have a pastor/teacher, one who guides and helps a congregation through his teaching?”
The Necessity of the Pastor/Teachers
Now the title of this article is “The Necessity of Pastor/Teachers.” There is a reason for this discussion. A particular mindset has come into the church that is detrimental to it. It is a mindset that the pastor/teacher is not necessary except to validate what it is that we as individuals believe. They are not there for any particular reason except this idea. It is not that the pastor/teacher guides or teaches us anything; some believe that the Holy Spirit and the Bible are enough. Nevertheless, Paul (I believe) has in mind here the necessity of telling the Church of Ephesus that these gifts of the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers is of utmost importance. He even explains what they are to do for and in the church. Here is the rundown as he says in Ephesians 4:12-16:
- They are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
- They are to build up the body of Christ, the church.
- They are to continue doing these things until the church comes to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, and until there is maturity among the body of believers.
Furthermore, he explains these gifts to the church so that those who are part of the body will no longer be children that are tossed around by every wind of doctrine and the trickery of men who deceitfully scheme against them. Pastor/teachers are not given to the church to validate their opinions, thoughts or their feelings about a given subject or about what they think about God, Jesus, salvation, the Law, the Bible or anything else. Rather, the pastor/teacher is given for what is mentioned above. It is necessary to have the pastor/teacher because without a shepherd the sheep wander to and fro, back and forth, as to be carried about by every wind of doctrine that comes along. The necessity of the pastor/teacher is to speak the truth in love until the body of believers come to a unity with Jesus Christ in such a way that the “working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). In essence, the pastor/teacher is to guide and instruct a congregation in love of God and of others.
Now notice something that Paul is not mentioning. It is not the duty of the pastor/teacher to take care of the business of the church. He is not a treasurer. He is not the one who is to solve every issue that arises. He is not the one who has to be in charge of the building program, the fundraising, the caretaking of the church van or even the one who locks and unlocks the doors to the meeting place. His purpose is to guide the congregation through the teaching ministry that has been entrusted to him by God (1 Thessalonians 2:4; Titus 1:1-4).
The pastor/teacher is necessary for several reasons. First, the pastor/teacher is a gift of God to the church. Do not take this as an arrogant statement. The Scripture is clear that this gift is from God for and with a purpose. The main purpose of the pastor/teacher is for guiding a church through teaching and instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible. This does not mean that the pastor/teacher has the corner market on the Word; it simply means that God has called him to this position for these specific reasons. Second, the pastor/teacher is given specifically for equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry, to build up the church and to lead her to the unity and maturity of the faith. When a body of believers understands the necessity of the pastor/teacher, then they will be a fulfilled congregation enjoying the gifting that God has given as long as the pastor/teacher is fulfilling his calling.