“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,
and some pastors and teachers” Eph 4:11
Does Ephesians 4:11 describe a five-fold or a four-fold ministry? Without having to conduct a survey, we can safely assume that the five-fold ministry is the more popular and accepted notion. That was my understanding and position too — until more recently.
There is little argument concerning the separate offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist. However, it is not nearly as clear when it comes to the terms of pastor and teacher. Depending how you read it, it can very well go either way. To this end, I have no intention of getting into a hermeneutical discourse nor debate. That said, I would go as far as to point out that the structure does suggest the twinning of pastor and teacher, thereby making the four-fold ministry position a very plausible consideration.
Over the years in ministry, it has become very apparent that my gift is teaching. This has been affirmed over and over again by different people from different churches. For me, the conclusion is very straightforward — in the context of the five-fold ministry, I am thus called to be a teacher. I may at times display certain apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic and pastoral traits (and anointing). But I am primarily a teacher.
I was very comfortable with this until I was commissioned as a pastor of a local church. Not only am I a teacher by gifting, I am also now a pastor by appointment. It didn’t take very long for me to realise that these two roles are quite different. And the members made it a point to let me know that too 🙂 Over time, I started receiving feedback like “Rev Henson is a good teacher but not really a good pastor.” or “I agree that Rev Henson’s teaching is biblical, but his standards are so high that I feel I cannot attain it.” As a teacher, I am used to presenting concepts and principles clearly and precisely – in black & white, as it were. As a pastor, however, I quickly learned that there are so many shades of gray! And whilst the flock may agree with me in principle, they did not necessarily desire the same in practice! Trust me, I learned this – and am still learning – the hard way.
Holding to the five-fold ministry position, I have the perfect answer (excuse?) to this conundrum: “I am called to be a teacher, not a pastor.” In other words, pastor is merely a title given to me to fulfil a function in the local church, since there is no such title as teacher. Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to get away with it so easily; hence His prompting for me to ponder more deeply the possibility of the four-fold ministry position.
As I did that, taking my own experience into consideration and that of others, I am personally coming to a conclusion that it is not pastor or teacher, but pastor and teacher; not two offices, but one that embraces the dual roles of pastoring and teaching. Simply, a pastor must teach, and a teacher must pastor. You just cannot divorce one from the other.
Consider this: How does one pastor [shepherd] if he does not first teach? What parameters or boundaries does one govern by or within? In the absence of proper teaching, pastoring becomes extremely subjective if left to merely broad-stroke Christian terms like love, grace and forgiveness. Things get even messier when a pastor hopes to shepherd according to another’s teaching! If Paul had to teach and straighten out theology and doctrines for the churches then, this is even more critical today when so much teaching is available everywhere! Clearly, pastoring involves teaching.
Conversely, teaching involves pastoring too. I must admit that since becoming a pastor, it has broadened and deepened my perspectives and ministry as a teacher. Without the practical experience, dealing with church leadership, administration and people, much of what is taught can largely remain academic and theoretical. This can easily result in spiritual pride and self-righteousness, as in the case of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They prided themselves as the best teachers but Jesus labelled them as hirelings when they should have been shepherds [pastors], clearly demonstrating the need for these two critical roles to function together when ministering to people.
So, am I a pastor or a teacher? The answer is “yes” because I now see it is one office with two roles that are critical and inseparable. Admittedly, for me, the more dominant trait is still that of teaching at the moment. But embracing the four-fold ministry position helps me remain open to develop and grow in the pastoral aspects. This is not necessarily easy for me, nor does it come naturally to me given my personality and inclinations (besides, it’s easier to deal with books than with people – haha!)
Even so, I am reminded that God didn’t merely issue rules and regulations but also desired relationship with His people. For this reason, Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us. As such, my eyes are fixed on Jesus, pastor-teacher par excellence, that in time, I too may grow to minister as He did, “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
As with all aspects of transformation, this will not happen overnight nor by my own strength but only by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, all prayers (and encouragements) are appreciated that I may be faithful to fulfil my ministry as pastor-teacher alongside apostles, prophets and evangelists —
“[to equip] the saints for the work of ministry, [and to edify] the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:12-13
Related Post: Being a Pastor