Ephesians 4:11-13 “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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.”
In these remarkable verses we are being told about the church of Christ, its structures, and how it grows. It depends totally on the Lord Jesus who once said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Paul is telling us how Christ does so, that it is by our ascended Lord giving spiritual gifts to men, and preeminently he gives the Twelve, his own apostles, and these men are foundational gifts on whose teaching and writings every congregation until the end of the world is to be established. But Christ is also concerned with all mankind in which his people are set as salt and light, and so we are told that Christ gives gifts of evangelists that the whole world might hear of him and his love. This encourages us to pray that Christ will give his church men with an awakening ministry, exhorters and preachers like Whitefield and Nettleton and Howel Harris and Brownlow North, and we intercede with the hope of receiving an answer, because Christ commands his church to go into all the world, and Christ gives evangelists.
Then we are told that he also gives “some to be pastors and teachers” (v.11). The importance of these words is that they tell us about the structure of Christ’s church. I would think we would all agree that this epistle to the Ephesians is a very comprehensive statement about Christianity, the gospel, the person and work of Christ, the nature of his church, the holiness of his people, Christian family life and so on. Yet there is no reference to baptism in this letter, and no reference to the Lord’s Supper, but there is to pastors and teachers, and what they are to teach and why, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (v. 12). In other words, what is being described for us in this mighty epistle is an evangelical church, not a sacramentalist group.
So here is the New Testament basis for our typical gospel congregation with which we are so familiar, one in which the pastor-teacher has a significant position. That is not because of their personalities and drive, nor by the promoting and bragging of their congregations, but by the will of Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church. If you compare Christianity to the New Age religion immediately you will see the difference. There may be a couple of travelling gurus and writers, and some occasional conferences but there is no weekly gathering to hear a pastor and teacher setting out New Age ideas. That is not the structure of the New Age religion because it is not focused on one divinely provided Book. It doesn’t have that foundation. It is a vague kind of nature religion. You would find the same thing in Buddhism. You will see their monks and priests with their bowls and their cultic activities but again they are no pastors and teachers. But when the Son of God builds his church one of the first things he always does is to provide some men to be pastors and teachers. They are absolutely essential for a congregation which is under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and every gospel church will seek as best it can to recognise this need and meet it. What would Priory Road Baptist Church in Dudley have been without Alun McNabb? What would St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London, have been without Dick Lucas? What would Heath Evangelical Church in Cardiff have been without Vernon Higham? What would Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, have been without Walter Chantry? They would have been far more anonymous and less influential congregations. Gospel churches need pastor-preachers as much as pastor-preachers need gospel churches. They belong together. Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
In a fit of madness while in a pastor-less period in a church a few of the less discerning men and women in the congregation may cry, “We must now seize this opportunity and rethink everything. Nothing is to be considered sacred, not the building, not the times nor the structures of the services, not the Bible translation, not the hymnbook – everything has to be radically reconsidered. It is time for reformation and change. Let’s take the church to a new level.” So they try to draw in from the congregation whoever they can in this escapade of reinventing the wheel. They cry, “Let’s get rid of the old to being in the new!” I would just remind all such that there is one fixed point with which you cannot tamper, Christ’s central gift of a pastor-preacher. You cannot . . . you dare not try to reject or even to marginalise that office given by the one who builds his church. He has made that office just a little lower than the apostles, prophets and evangelists.
Hear me! You understand I am not seeking to defend the contemporary power model of leadership which itches to control people’s lives, to subdue Christians and demand their service (though a little Diotrephes lives in my heart as in every Christian). The pursuit of numerical growth is more important to those men than the pursuit of truth and servant leadership. Any member who challenges the imposition of church growth methods on a congregation is in danger of being dismissed as “not being a team-player.” Jesus Christ did not build his church to be a power centre. It is the miraculous Word that is at the centre of the living congregation, by the one whom Christ also gave them to serve him, the Lord of the Word, in that body, whose calling is also to serve the Word of the Lord. Let both that Christ-given office, and individual soul liberty, and the priesthood of all believers under that Word all be respected as God-created blessings with which no one is to tamper. Not trusting Christ to change people’s lives by his Word these heavy shepherds are trying to change them by their own methods. They are no longer believing in the power of God but in the manipulation of men. A preacher’s faithful elders will ensure that he does not go beyond the bounds of his calling, while at the same time they will be encouraging his creativity. Let the servants of Christ and his Word press on, blessing the church with their loving work. May the Lord greatly increase their number.
1. PASTORS AND TEACHERS ARE TWO FUNCTIONS OF ONE OFFICE.
The very grammar of this section requires that these two titles are descriptions of a single office. You see how there are five titles mentioned, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and yet the word ‘some’ occurs just four times, and that accurately translates the underlying Greek, “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers” (v.11). If Paul had conceived of the pastor and the teacher as separate he would have distinguished the two by a fifth ‘some’ – “some pastors and some teachers.” So you have the one office of the “pastor-teacher” or the “pastor-preacher” (teaching and preaching are not sharply differentiated in the New Testament). So we have two distinct but inseparable functions of one man who occupies one single office. You find both these functions mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Colossians, where he tells them, “We proclaim [Christ] admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom” (Cols. 1:28). Admonishing is the pastoral aspect, and teaching is the other aspect of the complete task of one man’s all round ministry. Pastoring and teaching are twin tasks.
Derek Prime says, “Some have tried to separate them in that they feel that their call is just to teach and not to shepherd. But the shepherding aspect of the ministry keeps us in touch with reality – with genuine issues and problems – as we teach the Word of God. To teach the Scriptures effectively we must apply them, and, with the Spirit’s help, we can do this only as we are in touch with things as they really are in the lives of men and women” (Derek Prime, “Pastors and Teachers,” Highland Books, Crowborough, 1989, p.15). So let us look at these two functions of the minister:
i] The Minister is a Pastor.
There was a great preacher in Switzerland at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century whose name was Ulrich Zwingli. He died before he was fifty and yet he brought light and evangelical liberty to thousands of people. Especially he helped deliver them from thinking that only the minister was the ‘priest’. All Christians, men and women, become priests by regeneration; the minister is a pastor. Zwingli wrote an influential book called “The Shepherd” and from that time onwards Christians began to think of their ministers as the ‘pastor’ and call them not ‘Father’ but by that title.
It is a enormously rich scriptural figure. The Lord is the ‘Shepherd of Israel.’ He is the one who gives his life for his sheep. We all know Psalm 23 where David begins with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” In other words, David is saying, “The Lord is my Pastor.” He’s the one providing full and complete care for all his sheep. Sheep are helpless; they go astray and get lost; they put themselves in positions of danger. Sheep are followers; they are not leaders. The farmer comes driving to the field in his truck with their fodder and the sheep recognise the sound of that engine. They hurry to the gate and then they follow the truck across the field, jostling one another to get close to it. They know that the shepherd exists to see that they lack nothing. I was very struck with the way Jay Adams approaches this psalm and brings out the calling of the pastor or the undershepherd from it. He says that the twenty-third psalm speaks of nine or ten aspects of my work, and I’ve taken his words and embellished them. (cp. Jay E. Adams, “Shepherding God’s Flock, Volume One, The Pastoral Life,” P&R Publishing Company, 1975, pp.6&7). Consider with me Psalm 23 for the light it casts on the all round goals of the pastor in his work:
1. Concern for each individual sheep: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It is very personal; the good Shepherd ‘calls them by name’ (John 10:3), he ‘knows them’ (10:27), and goes out to seek the ‘one which is lost’ (Luke 15:4). I am so impressed with a South Wales pastor who can remember the names of people who visit his church. “You are . . . Glyn, aren’t you?” He might have met Glyn just once but he has trained his mind to remember people’s names. That speaks so well of the seriousness with which he views his office.
2. Rest: ‘he makes me to lie down.’ He knows our frame, how much we can handle and what is too much for us, and he treats us accordingly. A pastor should know the pressures his congregation are under, where the doubts are; where the trials and temptations are, and encourage the people. “Come apart with me,” said Jesus to his disciples. He doesn’t keep driving the sheep.
3. Provision for daily sustenance: ‘green pastures . . . still waters’ (food and drink). There should be good fresh food each Sunday and in the mid-week meeting. The flock should go away having been fed.
4. Refreshment and encouragement when tired, worn or discouraged: ‘he restores my soul [poetic for ‘me’].’ There should be the occasional great days when the word of God is so powerful; you can hear a pin drop and the hearts of the congregation are revived.
5. Guidance and leadership: ‘he leads me.’ Cf. John 10:3, 4: ‘he . . . leads them out . . . he goes before them.’ In Psalm 80:1, the ‘Shepherd of Israel . . . who leads Joseph as a flock.’ We are saying constantly, “This is the way to go . . .”
6. Instruction, training and discipline: ‘ . . . leads in the paths of righteousness.’ Paul tells Timothy that the Scriptures are profitable ‘for training in righteousness’ (II Timothy 3:16)
7. Provision for goals and motivation: ‘for his Name’s sake.’ That is the ultimate goal all the time – we do everything in the name of Jesus Christ and for his glory.
8. Security and protection; ‘I will fear no evil.. . your rod and staff protect me.’ Protection from falling, from attack by wolves without the fold and within. Our Lord is described as ‘The Shepherd and Guardian of our souls’ (I Peter 2:25). There are other similar statements: Hebrews 13:17: ‘your leaders. . watch over your souls,’ and in Acts 20:28-30 to the Ephesians elders: ‘Be on guard . . . for all the flock . . . to shepherd the church of God . . . after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves,’ and John 10:11, when the wolf comes, the Shepherd ‘lays down his life for the sheep.’
9. Personal fellowship and loving friendship : ‘you are with me.’ Cf. John 10:14 and 15; ‘ . . . I know my own, and my own know me even as the Father knows me and I know the Father.’ The loving care and concern of the shepherd/sheep relationship reaches its epitome, perhaps in Revelation 7:17, where God says of potential martyrs that ‘the Lamb shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to springs of the water of life.’ We are to get alongside the members of the flock so that we may encourage, comfort, urge or warn them, as may be appropriate at any given moment.
10. Heaven a living hope: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ The pastor sets everything in the light of eternity. The reality of heaven puts everything in perspective.
“A few short years of evil past,
We reach the happy shore,
Where death-divided friends at last
Shall meet, to part no more.”
The more the years go by, and the more those we know are taken from us, the more important it becomes that God saves personalities and promises us in heaven a reunion and recognition and love.
So, from all this rich imagery the Christian minister may build up an understanding of the work of a pastor. It is his task, in following the Chief and Great Shepherd of the sheep (I Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20) to shepherd God’s flock so that they do not lack. That is to say, he tries to meet their every need, or he knows someone who can.
Now you understand what an utterly devastating picture I have set up before you, but more crucially, before me, of what the work of a pastor should be. I can cry out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” I can confess to God that I have been an unprofitable servant. What a divine calling the work of the minister is. You can see that only Jesus Christ can give this gift to his church. Only Jesus Christ can sustain this gift within the church.
I have pointed out to you the work of a pastor for these reason, to understand Scripture, and to know how I look at my calling, to value this office, and to know what you are seeking when you are in the situation of looking for a minister. He is not a rather ineffective do-gooder preoccupied with trivialities, nor is he an administrator, speaker, psychiatrist, social worker, taxi-driver, or just everyone’s friend. Anyone who tries to do all that is heading for a physical breakdown, while those who seek to be the kind of pastor Jesus gives to the church are going to know Jesus’ enabling for this work. The divine call to the pastorate is also a guarantee of the divine provision for all pastoral obligations. In other words, the Lord never puts us where his grace cannot keep us.
ii] The Minister is a Teacher.
I am so reluctant to use this word ‘teacher’ about my ministry because today that title has become a put-down. “He is a Bible teacher,” men say, meaning he is not a preacher. They think that teaching is an activity solely addressed to men’s minds, whereas preaching is addressed to the affections, but I do want to engage the whole man in my ministry. Yet, with my wretchedly vast sheaf of notes, and careful analysis and logical development with which I’d want to characterise all my sermons I’d run a mile from any distractions that further underline the teaching or even ‘lecturing’ aspect of my sermons, such as overhead projectors and PowerPoint presentations. Avoid such things like the plague. They are like watching television. We are speaking to people, and it is much better to connect with them directly. Personal interaction is vital in preaching. Don’t give your congregation an excuse to ignore what you are saying.
They might be useful in outlining prayer needs at the Prayer Meeting, but I reject such things utterly from my Sunday ministry. To introduce that kind of thing would further emphasise the didactic aspect of a sermon, and my sermons don’t need any more of that than they have at present. I don’t want to encourage the congregation to think, “We are being taught.” I want to open a window to heaven and show them God. I want to hold a mirror up to them and show them their own hearts. I want them to be changed by the power of truth, thinking, “How great is God! How vast are our sins! How immense Christ’s salvation,” and anything that undermines that goal is to be utterly rejected. That is the inevitable consequence of PowerPoint presentations in the worship services on Sundays. Make your Lord’s Day congregations PowerPoint-free zones!
However, I mustn’t be too sensitive about the criticism that a sermon is ‘teaching.’ Let me say some positive words about the teacher. William Cruickshank was a preacher’s son from Keith in Banffshire in Scotland. An army major mentioned in dispatches for his bravery fighting in Egypt he returned to London after the Second World War and became the beloved classics master in the prestigious St. Paul’s School in London from 1947 to 1973. A string of pupils went on to achieve eminence through his teaching, and very many would be eager to acknowledge him as the finest teacher of their experience. They presented to him a magnificent festschrift, “Apodosis” on his 80th birthday. Cruickshank had such an appetite for books and a curiosity about human affairs that he became abundantly equipped with a seemingly endless supply of information on any subject. His humility, love of learning and utter respect for the task of teaching made his classes a delight. That is what a teacher can accomplish.
Or again Frank Hodgson was a physics teacher in Gillingham, in Dorset, and Alex Barnacle was a bright sixteen year old boy in the school whose father was serving a three year prison sentence. Alex’s mother was earning ten pounds a week working in a piston factory and her son decided he would have to leave school to help his mother. He was offered a job at Salisbury Library for five pounds a week. He went to see Frank Hodgson to tell him he was leaving school. “You’re not,” said Hodgson. “Yes, I am,” said Alex, “I have to help my mother.” “What are you going to do?” “Work in the library.” “For how much?” “Five pounds a week.” “Right,” said Hodgson, “If you stay on in school I will give your mother five pounds a week until your father comes out of prison.” So he did, on his teacher’s wage of forty pounds a week. Alex went back to school, became the head boy in the last year of school, mopped up top grades in every subject in his final examinations and won a place at Cambridge University. His life was changed for ever by Frank Hodgson. That is the achievement of a teacher. But the story is not over. A few days before his father came out of prison Alex’s mother gave him an envelope to give to Frank Hodgson. It contained all the money that he had given to the family for the past two years. His mother had not spent a penny. She had kept him at school through her own efforts. That is motherhood.
There is no need for Christian ministers to be ashamed of the title “Teacher of Holy Scripture.” There are 56 references in the gospels to Jesus teaching the people. As they listened to Christ then very quickly people forgot the fact that they were sitting on a mountainside, or on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, or in the courts of the temple hearing someone teaching them about the kingdom of God. That had never happened in their experience or the experience of their fathers. It would be as unusual as the beach in Aberystwyth filled with people sitting down and listening to a preacher because no hall in the town was big enough for the people. In Galilee the crowds were soon captivated by the message of the kingdom of God that they were hearing from Jesus’ lips. The things of the earth grew strangely dim. During the Second World War a Scotsman who was in the services and visiting London went to Westminster Chapel, but he discovered that that Sunday the Chapel was closed as it had been slightly damaged by some bombing. There was a piece of paper pinned to the church door which directed people to a nearby hall. He later described a ‘thin man’ calling the people to worship, and he thought the man must be one of the church officers. He appreciated his prayer, but then the same man announced his text and began to teach them from those verses. “This must be Lloyd-Jones,” he thought, but for the next forty minutes he was unconscious of anything else, hearing only this man’s words. He had been caught up in the mystery of preaching.
A worshipper may be meeting in the midst of a large congregation of people but he quite forgets the crowd. He ignores the persons who brought him there, and the building in which he is seated, and even the one preaching. He is conscious that he is being addressed by the living God. That Scotsman later became a well-known Church of Scotland minister called Tom Allen. That is the kind of teaching the apostle is speaking of here. Scott Hafemann of Wheaton College has said, “Unless we regain a serious study of the Scriptures in our pulpits and pews we will end up redefining the role of the Protestant pastor altogether by denying in practice the authority of the very Bible we are purporting to preach. If the pastor no longer struggles to decide for himself what the text means the authority for preaching will once again reside in our pope, wherever we can find him. The pastor then downsizes his role into that of a book reviewer. What is worse, since the pastor is still going to ‘teach’ from the Bible, the authority for teaching now resides in the rhetorical power of the presentation, not in its content. So instead of wrestling with the text, he invests time in searching out illustrations for a basic, thematic, generalized, and pietistic sounding message. This approach makes popular, entertaining preachers, but it loses the Bible altogether.”
True teaching makes the Bible come alive so that its truths grip people’s attentions. The teacher enters the pulpit with his train of thought, and all the people have come into the pews with theirs – which are all very different, so they begin by taking in very little from the preaching, but true teaching really gets inside people because it speaks to the heart, and the conscience and the will. Teaching is not oratory; eloquence alone can’t get anywhere near this kind of teaching. Being a good communicator can’t do it, rather it is the gospel coming not in word only, but in power and with the Holy Ghost and with much assurance. When people heard such teaching in Thessalonica then it made a moral and emotional earthquake in the city.
There was an eighteenth century ship-builder who continued to build ships in his mind during the sermons on Sundays. That went on for years, but one day George Whitefield came to preach in his town and when he heard him, as he confessed afterwards, the ship-builder couldn’t lay the first plank. Conviction of his sin, and the reality of the holy God became far more important to him than his ships. Whitefield was a man whose mind was shaped and controlled by his own teaching, whose will was devoted to glorifying and enjoying God, and whose heart was on fire with love for God and love for people. Tillotson once famously said that ‘congregations are not passive buckets to be pumped into.’ If our emphasis is solely on correct teaching, divorced from the impact the truth makes on the man himself, or on ‘communication,’ concentrating on questions of style and presentation skills, then we will fail to touch the hearts of our hearers. We shall be pumps and they will be buckets.
The Friday evening before his wedding day in 1955 Iain Murray went along to Westminster Chapel to hear Dr. Lloyd-Jones coming to an end of his memorable series of lectures on theology. That night he had reached study 79 and he was preaching on the final judgment and he drew the congregation’s attention to the 17th chapter of the book of Revelation, Babylon the great harlot, mysterious Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, and as Dr. Lloyd-Jones was lecturing he got caught up in his theme and this is part of what the Doctor said, “Here we are given a detailed and terrible description of how all that will be destroyed and brought to nothing. It is almost incredible, but it is absolutely true, Think of the world, think of worldliness, look at it in the streets of any great city. Look at it reflected in the newspapers. Look at it in the so-called society papers in particular and then, having done that, come and read these illuminating chapters.
“Look at the dress, look at the wealth, look at the luxury, look at the world’s vaunting of itself, look at its pride in itself and in its great men and women. This is all the seduction of the world, the result of the action of the great harlot that calls kings and princes and wealthy merchants and ordinary people alike. We are given a perfect picture of the world outside Christ, boasting of its wealth, boasting of its food, its banquets, its carriages, its equipment, its dress, and all its beauty and its glory. But then read what will happen to it. Read how it will be destroyed utterly and absolutely. Oh, if we only grasped this teaching we would never again be tempted by worldliness!
“We are told in Revelation 17:16 that even the world’s own devotees will turn against Babylon. When they see things going wrong, some of the so-called kings will turn against it; they always do. During a war, when there is an air raid and bombs are falling, you rather forget your fineries. In air raid shelters there are very few differences between duchesses and charwomen. That is all shown here in Revelation, but things will be infinitely worse in the future. Babylon will be stripped, it will be ridiculed and shown in all its foulness for the hag that it really is. The paint and the powder will be taken off and it will be revealed in its awful nakedness and filth. Read these chapters time and again and see the discomfiture of all who lived for Babylon and all who believed in it and all who said that this was everything. They have nothing left. They are bereft.
“Then listen to the appeal that is made to us: ‘Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her’ (18:20). The world that has laughed at us; the world that has pointed its finger at us; the world that has called us fools; the world that has dismissed our lives as narrow, hideous, cramping and confining, and has boasted about its marvellous life. But suddenly it is destroyed. So we are told, ‘Rejoice over her … for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee.’ (Revelation 18:21-22).
“The bands will stop; the jazz will end; the drinking will finish; all will be silenced” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Church and the Last Things,” Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1998, p.201). How zealous was Lloyd-Jones to ensure a particular scripture was given its life-connection with his hearers. I told you that the soon-to-be-married Iain Murray was sitting there in the congregation listening to all that. Captivated by all he was hearing he had become completely oblivious to the fact that the very next day Jean was going to become his wife (a blessed marriage destined to last so long). All his wedding eve thoughts disappeared as he could see the overthrow of great Babylon. That is the kind of teaching that Paul is talking about here. It is what Conrad said about poetry: “The writer makes things real. His task is to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see.” That is what preaching does.
The test of a minister’s gift is the sight of Christ himself that the assembled gathering receives. There was once a maid working in a manse and she was asked to double her efforts because there were special meetings the following week to which a powerful preacher, Mr. Thomas Cook, had been invited. She was not enthusiastic, and she told the butcher as she went to pick up the meat, that she was fed up; “With all this fuss you would think Jesus Christ himself was coming.” Thomas Cook duly came and preached but when she heard him something happened in her life. The butcher said to her with a grin the following Tuesday, “Did Jesus Christ come?” “Yes,” she said quietly, “he did come.”
Even children can understand teaching like that. I have often told you how, as my 10 year old daughter Eleri and I walked home from Seion, Baker Street after having heard Dr Lloyd-Jones preached, I asked her what she thought of it. “It was like Sunday mornings,” she said to me, “only simpler.” Because the Doctor’s teaching was directed to the heart and souls of his congregation then my little girl’s attention was arrested as easily as the grown-up’s in Seion. She could recognise a sense of God about it – as can people with learning difficulties. That is what they need, not the elements of a jamboree.
I was reading Ichabod Spencer this week and struck again with his extraordinary relevance. He said this: “The idea is often in my mind how frequently ministers address children about Christianity as they ought to address those of mature age, and they address those of mature age as they ought to address children.” What did he mean by that? It was this, that it is children who need instruction, while it is the older ones who need impression. Children are sufficiently ready to feel. The danger is that their feelings outrun their knowledge. Older persons are slow to feel; their danger is they don’t have enough feeling to move them to action. So I am not pleading for bare teaching, and nowhere is that commended in the Bible, but teaching that moves, and inspires, and motivates, and fires, and impresses the hearers with the greatness of God and of our sin and the grandeur of the salvation that is in Christ. Felix trembled when he heard Paul speak to him. In Mrs. Bethan Lloyd-Jones’ book of memories of the time she and her husband were in Sandfields, Aberafon, she refers to a professor of law at Liverpool who made the claim that there were two men who kept the country from communism, Aneurin Bevan and Dr Lloyd-Jones
I am doing my best to underline for you the centrality and
life-transforming power of teaching the word of God. That is why the exalted Son of God gives teachers, but I am pleading for teaching that results in a change to those who listen. It may be repentance; it may be restoration or reconciliation; it may be strength given to those in the midst of trials, but powerful preaching will bring all such changes. Sometimes people went away indignant from hearing Jesus’ teaching and they never came back. Sometimes people were converted – 500 people gathered on the mountain at Galilee to meet with the risen Christ – not an unimpressive number for just three years’ ministry labouring under impossible circumstances, having to hide his messianic identity and yet at the same time display it every hour.
So the risen reigning Lord Jesus gives to the church this indispensable office of the pastor-teacher. Although such a man does the work of an evangelist the aim of his office is not the conversion of sinners. The final seal of God’s approval on him is not that he has “souls for his hire.” The pastor-teacher ministers in a settled congregation primarily to people who know the Lord. He feeds this flock, and if he spends his life trying to convert the converted and to drum the most elementary doctrines into his people – as if they never could move on to solid food – the result will be zero growth in the life of the church. Of course, if he has an evangelistic gift and can awaken sinners then he is wasting his time in the pastorate. He should be in the spiritual wastelands bringing Christ to the ignorant and uninitiated.
Ministers are being judged by the wrong criteria. The pastor-teacher is not expected to be a Whitefield through whom multitudes are added to the church daily. He is the shepherd- preacher of a gathered settled flock, concerned with the spiritual, qualitative growth of individuals and congregations. After a certain time in that pulpit and he should be able to preach steadily through Romans chapter 9 and Ephesians chapter 1 telling the whole congregation what it says without being run out of the church. His congregation will expect to be taken through the whole Bible during their lifetime so that they are exposed to all that the Holy Spirit has inspired for their good. The preacher should not be judged by numbers but by the congregation’s progress in holiness, in brotherly love, in missionary and evangelistic zeal and in knowledge of the whole counsel of God. I am saying to you that the gifts of the pastor-preacher are not the same as those a man has to have who is a frontier evangelist. The pastor-teacher’s gifts are those which enable him, week after inexorable week, to feed the flock of God over which God has made him an overseer.
2. HOW WE ARE TO RECOGNISE THAT A MAN IS A PASTOR-TEACHER.
i] There is a desire for it.
There is a new generation of Christian men today who want to do this work. They have thought about what it entails. They have watched a number of ministers. They have spoken to them about the work. The disappointments have been pointed out to them, but they can’t shake off a desire to become a pastor-preacher. It is most important that such men should themselves know the power of the message that they bring to others. There was a modest godly Anglican preacher called Alan Stibbs whom I heard with great profit as a student. This was his experience: “I began as a schoolboy of seventeen to pray for this gift, and – on each occasion when I expounded God’s Word – to pray for the grace worthily to exercise the gift to the glory of God and the blessing of men. Such prayers I have continued to pray since; and I can humbly testify that God has answered my prayers” (Alan Stibbs, “Expounding God’s Word,” IVP, pp. 9&10).
When Dr Lloyd-Jones was 25 years of age and at the cross-roads of his life he became engaged to Dr. Bethan Philips. She became conscious that her future husband was considering becoming a preacher. She was quite concerned at this development because she’d never heard him preach. At that time a letter came from a missionary society inviting them to become medical missionaries in India. She was challenged by this invitation and suggested to her husband to be that they might consider it. Dr Lloyd-Jones had no interest in medical missionary work at all. She protested to him, “But how do you know that you can preach?” “I know I can preach to myself,” he replied. He knew the power of the truth in his own heart.
Spurgeon says, “The first sign of the heavenly call is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to be a true call to the ministry there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls.” That is true. That is a mark that the head of the church is giving this man to be a shepherd-preacher to the church. Of course the desire must be tested and scrutinised. “Why do you want to become a preacher?” Men must publicly answer this question at an ordination service: “Are not zeal for the honour of God, love to Jesus Christ and desire for saving souls, your great motives and chief inducements to enter into the function of the holy ministry, and not worldly designs and interests?” The holiest young man will hesitate before giving a confident reply to that question.
I say that the desire alone is not enough; the sense of call must be scrutinised. Principal Macleod has said, “It is also important to be sure that the desire is realistic. Sometimes a yearning for the ministry is naive and visionary. Where there is a true vocation the desire is directed to the work as defined in Scripture – a labour (1 Tim. 5: 7) and a hardship (2 Tim. 2: 3). The problems are legion: the sheer number of services, the mental burden of incessant sermon preparation, the unending routine of visits, the encroachment of one’s work into family life, the loneliness of pastors in isolated situations and the humiliations incidental to living in a tied house. Added to this is the problem of constant opposition: the disaffected in one’s own congregation, the schemers in ecclesiastical politics and, above all, the ceaseless activities of false teachers. One learns that protestations of love and loyalty can’t be taken at face-value; one faces the heart-break of backsliding among one’s own people; and, occasionally, the tragedy of apostasy on the part of those from whom much was expected. Any realistic desire for the ministry must be aware of these aspects of the work; and yet be prepared in God’s strength to face them and even to count it a privilege to endure them.” (The Monthly Record, May 1981, “The Call to the Ministry,” p.99). Anyone who has been given the gift of a pastor-teacher by Christ will have a desire to do this work.
ii] There must be the needed gifts as evidence of the divine call.
He will also manifest the fact that Christ has actually given him the gifts of being a pastor- preacher. God confers these gifts at three different levels. Principal Macleod has written,
“First, at the level of leadership. Pastors are over the church of God (1 Thess. 5:12). They must, therefore, have the gift of government (1 Cor. 12: 28), including such qualities as initiative, courage, vigour, independence of spirit, dynamism, imagination and wisdom. It is absurd to move a man from the back seat of a church to the pulpit and expect the transition to work wonders. The proper candidates for ordination are those who have been active in bringing outsiders to church, distributing tracts, volunteering for mundane and menial tasks, offering their homes for fellowship and generating interest in Bible-study and evangelism.
“Secondly, the pastor requires counselling gifts. For much of his time he will be dealing not with large audiences but with individuals looking for guidance on a vast variety of problems – personal, marital, social and professional. As stress within our society increases and neuroses multiply this side of the minister’s work will become more and more important. To handle it hopefully he must be sympathetic and sensitive, human and approachable, firm in his convictions and yet open to the lessons of experience, able to assess men and situations rapidly, unimpeachable in the matter of confidences and able to rebuke without infuriating and to condemn without driving to despair.
“Thirdly, the pastor must have preaching gifts. To this end he must have a competent grasp of the Christian message in all its aspects, doctrinal, ethical and experiential. But he must also possess the ability to communicate the message – the quality which Paul defines as ‘apt to teach.’ This is not the same as being, in today’s terms, ‘a good communicator.’ There is a tension between the art of the rhetorician – ‘the enticing words of men’s wisdom’ – and preaching in the Spirit. Nor does it mean mere fluency. An unceasing verbal torrent can often be aimless, empty and unstructured, serving only to hide from the speaker the poverty of his own thought. The teaching charisma, by contrast, is the ability to express and illustrate gospel lucidly and cogently.
“Paul also insists that the preacher should be able to refute objections to the Christian message (Titus 1:9). Outside the church, believers face an incessant assault on their most basic convictions and although it would be unrealistic (and unbiblical) to expect every pastor to be conversant with the thought of Darwin and Marx, Freud and Heidegger, the pulpit must do all in its power to protect the flock from the chill winds of anti-Christian thought and even to enable the church to carry the battle to the enemy.
“Even this brief analysis of the necessary gifts is sufficient to give rise to serious heart- searching on the part of those contemplating the holy ministry. Clearly, no one is adequate to the work. Even John Knox felt himself utterly unprepared and David Brainerd was frequently depressed ‘considering my great unfitness for the work of the ministry, my present deadness and total inability to do anything to the glory of God.’ In the last analysis, of course, we gladly recognise that it is not for us to evaluate ourselves, and leave it to the church to decide whether it can use us and if so where. But two things we can do. We can stir up – fan into flame – the gifts God has given us; and we can pray to God to increase our gifts, taking courage again from the example of Brainerd, who notes at one point in his diary, ‘Was enabled to cry to God with fervency for ministerial qualifications’ (Macleod, op cit, p.99 & 100].
iii] A congregation who recognises Christ’s gifts will call the man.
The counsels of older men are always invaluable. One defining moment for me was a conversation I had with Edmund Clowney in my last months at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, about my own sense of call. He encouraged me, as I know he guided many other students. Of the faculty at that beloved institution he was the man many of us went to with our questions. His godliness drew us to him. His words were liberating; I could say after our time together, “I am going into the ministry.” Then you in this congregation called me 39 years ago to be your pastor-preacher, and, though no one knows me as well as you do, you keep calling me continually to preach and pastor you. That is God’s call to me today.
Derek Prime was a London schoolteacher, long concerned whether he should become a preacher, and during a pastoral vacancy in his own church his fellow-elders approached him after a prayer meeting and told him that they had met and concluded that he should become the pastor of their church. At subsequent times of difficulty, when he came to wonder whether he had done the right thing, and whether he should be in the ministry at all, the fact that the church elders approached him believing that the head of the church had gifted him for this work was a confirmation that he should continue.
What are the gifts a godly man, or a group of elders, or a church see in a man that will lead them to issue a call?
i] His general character.
Stuart Olyott is called upon to counsel and advise pastors and churches in the maelstrom of modern evangelical confusion. He says, “Most Christian ministers fail not because of a lack of exegesis, or theological error or inability to preach, but because of a flaw in their characters.” The importance of a blameless life cannot be stressed enough. Macleod concludes thus:
“The church must also look carefully at simple questions of general character, upon which the New Testament lays a quite astonishing stress. A man must be blameless as far as outsiders are concerned (1 Tim. 3: 7). His life must be free from scandal. He must not be self-willed, obstinate or autocratic. He must not be covetous, irascible or violent. On the contrary, he must be vigilant, disciplined, patient and magnanimous.
ii] His spiritual character.
“Naturally, questions of spiritual character are equally important. It goes without saying that the applicant should be genuinely converted. Yet the question should always be put by the interviewing committee, both because the answer cannot be taken for granted and because if a man cannot tell what God has done for his soul he probably cannot tell anything else. Beyond that, it is clear from Acts 6: 3-5 that candidates for the ministry should be ‘full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’. Not only believers and not only spiritual but full. They should be eminent in personal piety, fully. and habitually under the control of the Spirit. Holy Spirit baptism and Holy Spirit filling are indispensable prerequisites to biblical ordination.
iii] His reputation as a family man.
“Again, the church must look at the applicant’s reputation as a family man. Specifically: Does he have proper control of his children? Does he bring them up in the knowledge of the Lord? Does he counsel them in the Lord? Or has he by easy-going indifference turned them into sons of Belial, apostate from the church? Or by harsh and inconsistent discipline provoked and estranged them? Does he nourish and cherish his wife and deny himself for her, as Christ did for the church? Does he command her loyalty and respect? And with regard to the extended family: Does he honour his (and his wife’s) father and mother? Does he provide for aged and needy relatives (1 Tim. 5: 16)? Paul’s reasons for asking such questions are devastatingly simple: ‘If a man does not know how to run his own house, how can he attend to the church of God?’ (1 Tim. 3: 5). The daughter of the Scottish evangelist Jock Troop said in an interview with her father’s biographer, “He was the finest man who ever put on a suit,” and she had observed his behaviour as few others.
iv] His ability to handle personal relationships.
A little girl was asked what she was going to do when she grew up. “I am going to become a teacher,” she gravely said. What are you going to teach?” she was further asked. She looked back scornfully at her questioner, “People, silly,” she said. The pastor is going to pastor real people. Macleod says, “Equally important is the question of a man’s ability to handle personal relationships. To a large extent, the ministry consists of man-management, and this makes it a potential disaster area for those who are painfully shy, carelessly extrovert or tactless and insensitive. No one who finds it difficult to relate to other human beings can hope to motivate, discipline and inspire so that every talent in a congregation is fully used and individuals of diverse gifts and temperaments are moulded into a harmonious and effective whole.
v] His temperament.
“Finally, the church must be satisfied with the temperament of the candidate. Not that ministers should be expected to have ideal temperaments. One of the assets they bring to their work is sympathy and that is only possible if they share the susceptibilities of their people. Moreover, some men with fairly serious temperamental problems – for example, the depressive David Brainerd – have been very useful ministers. But the Bible does lay down some very firm guidelines. Those who are short-tempered are ruled out by Paul’s insistence that bishops must not be ‘soon angry’ (Tit. 1:7). Those who are overbearing and arrogant are ruled out by Peter’s warning against behaving as if we were ‘lords over God’s heritage’ (1 Pet. 5: 3).
vi] Questions of psychiatric disorders.
“More broadly, we must surely have serious misgivings about admitting applicants with histories of psychiatric disorders or tendencies that way. There is indeed a place in the ordinary membership of the church for the victims of nervous breakdowns, clinical depression, neurotic anxiety, paranoia and other forms of mental illness. One may even hope that in the Christian fellowship such people will find a comfort and support unavailable elsewhere. But to impose upon them the burdens of ministry is unfair both to themselves and to the church. The stresses of the pastorate are considerable and may easily induce irretrievable breakdown in those of fragile personality. There is nothing sadder than to see men who might have led perfectly satisfying lives in secular careers broken by pastoral burdens and frustrations they were never equipped to bear. The church, on the other hand, has the right to look to its leaders for strength. If, instead, the pastors themselves are weak, nervous and neurotic, where is the flock to go? A situation can develop all too easily in which the church exhausts itself trying to heal its healers and comfort its comforters.
“Our vigilance must be unceasing. Whatever a man’s potential to disrupt or deaden the church, so long as he remains an ordinary member, it is increased a hundred-fold by ordaining him to the Eldership or the Ministry. For ourself, we are prepared to give every applicant for membership the benefit of the doubt. With regard to the ministry we are more and more inclined to act on the opposite principle – to seek not merely an uncontradicted but an accredited profession of a call. ‘If he’s doubtful he’s out.’ To spare the flock” (Macleod op cit, pp. 100 & 101).
The standard is extraordinarily high, but it is high in the Scriptures. Who is sufficient for this work? The Giver of the gift is the all sufficient one. The Lord who is my Redeemer is my strength. I can do all things through him who pities the dust of the earth.
14th November 2004 GEOFF THOMAS