the weblog of Alan Knox

Who is your pastor?

Posted by on Mar 22, 2007 in blog links, elders, spiritual gifts | 38 comments

Rob, whose blog is appropriately titled “home of the voracious blogging of rob horton“, has written a post called “is our inherited ‘pastor’ vocation in jeopardy?” He says:

pastor is latin for shepherd. many grew up referring to the person with the primary leadership responsibilities for the group of Jesus followers that they shared the journey with as “pastor”. even today you hear many people say things like “my pastor gave a great message on sunday”. do they realize they are saying “my shepherd gave a great message on sunday”? if they did, would they think twice about it.

Have you thought about this? Pastor means shepherd. Are you willing to say that another person is your shepherd?

It is true that “pastor” or “shepherd” is listed among the gifted individuals in Ephesians 4:11, along with apostles, prophets, and evangelists. But, besides this one reference, “shepherd” or “pastor” is always used of humans in the verbal form. Unless… and this is a big “unless”… the noun is being used to refer to Jesus himself. Jesus is referred to by Scripture as our shepherd (John 10:16), good shepherd (John 10:14), pastor and overseer (1 Peter 2:25), and even Senior Pastor (1 Peter 5:4).

So, who is your pastor?


38 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-23-2007

    Alan,

    Thought I might submit a comment before you “shut down.”

    Though I do refer to Jesus as my Shepherd, I think there is a Scriptural allowance for the undershephered.

    If it is as you say that the idea of pastoring is always in verbal form when referring to humans, could it be that men like myself are being the hands and feet that minister on Jesus’ behalf and that I am not the “Shepherd” with the big “S” but I minister in the Name of the Shepherd as His undershepherd?

    I see the post you reference by Rob as merely semantic, because I do not think any church member really understands it that way, unless they have not been properly taught (which is I think what he is getting at anyway).

    Another good, thought provoking post; and I like your reference to 1 Peter 5:4 as “Senior Pastor.”

  2. 3-23-2007

    Tony,

    Is it “merely semantic”? Possibly. But words have a way of changing us, especially when we use them incorrectly – that is, different from the biblical usage. Here are two cases in point: worship and ministry.

    Are there people who are gifted to lead and care for (pastor/shepherd) other? Absolutely.

    -Alan

  3. 3-23-2007

    Alan,

    I think I agree with Tony that while Jesus is the bishop of my soul, there is a place for having a human pastor (an undershepherd) to lead congregational life.

    To be honest, I see the role of the senior pastor/minister of a congregation as the person who is in charge of casting the vision for the local church, and preaching/teaching in the congregation. They also provide oversight to all the local ministries of the church, etc. etc. etc. This was what Timothy was to the church at Ephesus, for example.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  4. 3-23-2007

    Jonathan,

    I think I understand what you are saying. I have heard similar views taught before. I’m wondering if you could help me with something. Could you show me Scripture where 1) a person is called the senior pastor, 2) the senior pastor is responsible for casting a vision, 3) the senior pastor is responsible for preaching/teaching (that is, more responsible than any other believer gifted to teach), 4) the senior pastor is responsible for overseeing ministries, and 5) where Timothy is called a senior pastor, pastor, or even elder. I’ve been looking for those passages… and I’ve asked other people to show them to me. So far, all I’ve seen is taking bits of Scripture here and parts of Scripture there and cutting and pasting to come up with something that many people say is the norm. I find that problematic.

    -Alan

  5. 3-23-2007

    Alan,
    It’s problematic to say the least. I’m really investigating the institutional church and it’s functions/dysfunctions today. This is a very thought provoking post.

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  6. 3-23-2007

    Alan,

    I’m not convinced that usage of the word is incorrect or even outside of the biblical usage.

    Does the usage of pastor in Ephesians 4:11 not allow for that semantic range? And given that it is coupled with the conjunction to teacher which is used several times to refer to an individual other than Christ, could that not lend more weigh t to applying the term to a man? Even if you replace “pastor” with “shepherd” in that verse, I am not sure that proves the point.

    This is why I think it is semantics, because even if it is used as a verb referring to humans I think the designation of “pastor” can still be derived from that usage.

    A second concern I have is if it is used only once in Ephesians 4:11, which you point out in the post but seem for some reason to dismiss or at the least not place much weight upon, and given that is written to the church, why does that still not prove the case? Must it appear more than once for the preponderance of evidence to be convincing?

    I agree that the terms worship and ministry probably have been warped out of their original connotations, as well as the word pastor, but I don’t see why it necessarily has to be seen that way.

    Thanks for entertaining my questions.

  7. 3-23-2007

    Brandon,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I hope you share what you learn on your blog.

    Tony,

    I don’t think I communicated clearly. I do not have a problem with someone called a pastor. I have a problem with what is usually associated with that term. I believe that a pastor is someone who cares for people, just as an apostle is one who is sent, a prophet is one who prophesies, an evangelist is one who presents the good news, and a teacher is one who teaches. These seem to be ways that the Spirit uses people more than titles. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the title “pastor” used in more of an authoritative sense. I believe this is more than semantices.

    -Alan

  8. 3-23-2007

    OK, we are on the same page now. I don’t like the titular aspect either. I prefer everyone just call me “Tony.”

    And I cannot stand reverend. Olde English word, means the “revered one.”

    Yeah, right! :)

  9. 3-24-2007

    Alan,

    Well — I believe probably the more biblical term, rather than “senior pastor,” or something to that effect is the term “elder,” which is developed in the Scriptures, as I’m sure you are aware. The ONLY place where the Scripture conceives of “pastor” as a specific person is in Eph. 4:11. Basically, I believe that persons who have five-fold ministry gifts operating in their lives are essentially elders in the body of Christ. So, if you are an apostle, then you are an elder. Same for prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher.

    I think the next place to look, in terms of a biblical understanding of eldership is the qualifications of eldership. In some translations, the term “overseer” or “bishop” is used in place of the term “elder,” but each of these terms connote basically the same meaning, and I will use them interchangably in this discussion.

    1 Tim. 3:2 states that elders (or overseers or bishops) must be “able to teach.” This is just as important as the other criteria listed in 1 Tim. 3. Timothy, himself, is also exhorted in Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy that he must “preach the Word.” This is because Timothy is the overseer or bishop or elder at the church at Ephesus (what we would call “senior pastor” in modern-day vernacular). Further, Paul re-articulates the requirement that elders need to be able to teach and preach in Titus 1:9, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he (the elder) will be able BOTH to EXHORT (preach) in sound doctrine (teach) and to REFUTE those who contradict.” Here, we see a CLEAR biblical command for elders to preach and teach the Word of God.

    So, these passages in Eph. 4, 1 Tim. 3, and Titus 1 all explain why (1) a person is called pastor, (3) responsibility for preaching and teaching, etc. etc. etc.

    Now — let me answer the other questions, regarding why pastors are responsible to (2) cast a vision for the local church, and (4) oversee ministries. IF you look carefully at 1 Cor. 12:28, “God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations (or governments in some translations), various (or diverse) kinds of tongues.” In the KJV, the word “administrations” is translated “governments,” and the Greek word for this term is “kubernesis.” This is a unique Greek word, and it basically means to steer a ship, or to set a course. Thus, the function and purpose of the “gift of governments or administration” is to set a course or steer the ship of a local congregation. Thus, I believe this falls on local pastoral ministry — to steer the vision of the local church, and also to oversee local ministries.

    Does that answer your questions a bit further? I hope that provides some biblical support for what you are asking about.

    Finally, I do feel a need to correct something you said with the Scriptures. In another post, you wrote, “I believe that a pastor is someone who cares for people, just as an apostle is one who is sent, a prophet is one who prophesies, an evangelist is one who presents the good news, and a teacher is one who teaches.” This is not really accurate because Paul writes in 1 Cor. that EVERYONE can prophecy, and ALSO, everyone can present the good news. But the purpose of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, as listed in Eph. 4:11, is to “perfect (or mature) the saints for the work of the ministry.” This means that it is NOT simply the job of the prophet to prophecy, but to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” so that ALL can prophecy (as Paul exhorts). Same for the evangelist — all believers are called to share the Gospel, but the role of the evangelist is to PREPARE Christians to evangelize themselves in their daily lives. Likewise, pastors are there to PREPARE believers to care for one another in their personal relationships, and so forth. Every believer is called to minister to others, but those who have a five-fold calling (APEPT) in Eph. 4:11 have a SPECIAL calling to train and equip everyone else “to do the work of the ministry,” which includes prophecying, evangelizing, teaching, missions work, etc. etc. etc.

    Does that make sense, or do you now have MORE questions???

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  10. 3-25-2007

    Jonathan,

    In a previous comment, I said: “all I’ve seen is taking bits of Scripture here and parts of Scripture there and cutting and pasting to come up with something that many people say is the norm.” Unfortunately, this is what I think you have done in your last comment. You asked me to consider the terms “elder” and “overseer” from 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. I agree completely that elders should be “able to teach” and “hold fast the faithful word”. However, you then jumped directly to “responsibility for preaching, teaching, etc…” Sorry, I missed your jump in logic there. Anyone who is gifted to teach is also “able to teach” and is thus also “responsible to teach” – responsible to God, that is, and that should be our concern.

    Of the other Scripture that you listed, I could not find a reference to “elder” or “overseer” in any of those passages. Do you think it is possible, that you came to those Scripture already assuming they were directed toward elders/overseers, even though the Scriptures themselves do not say that? Of course, if these Scripture only apply to elders/overseers, then that certainly gets everyone else off the hook…

    -Alan

  11. 3-25-2007

    If we understand “pastoring” or “shepherding” as a service rather than an authortiative office of power to be lorded over others, then that question’s a lot easier to ask. I have people whom I disciple. They are my disciples unto Christ’s disciples… imitating me (in some ways) as I imitate Jesus. I also have people who disciple me. They are my disciplers, my shepherds, who have offered the service of their leadership. I gladly call them mentor, shepherd, or pastor… knowing their service aims at making me more of a disciple of Jesus.

    So yeah. I’d call another person shepherd. Why not?

  12. 3-25-2007

    I am grateful for your comments Alan regarding the issue of ‘pastor’, and agree with your questioning. Having been an elder for more than fourty years,most as a teaching elder (pastor)I came to the position, quite early, where I inwardly cringed when addressed as “Pastor”. As far as I was concerned the term was never meant to be the title of a person but a declaration of a function.

    It has been my experience that I was not always the best person to function as a shepherd at any given time, but that members of the congregation who are providentially “on the spot” when shepherding is needed, were given the grace to minister to the need. They were always those who recognised that we have no other Shepherd than Christ.

    Early on, after running off the road a few times, it soon became apparent that my task as overseer was similar to the steering wheel on my car, giving direction to the vehicle, but only when needed. Not only that, when I got off the pedestal my denomination placed “pastors” on, I found there were many in the congregation, who were daily “pastors”, even to me. They had learned to feel the Shepherds hand, with theirs, on the wheel.

  13. 3-25-2007

    John Lynch,

    You said: “If we understand ‘pastoring’ or ‘shepherding’ as a service rather than an authortiative office of power to be lorded over others, then that question’s a lot easier to ask.” I agree with you completely. I would also say that’s a big “if”.

    John ‘Caesura’,

    Yes, I know that is not your name, but I had to differentiate between you and John Lynch above. Thank you for your testimony. I have a question based on a couple of things that you said. You said that it was your task to “steer” but only when necessary. You also said that you found there were other people whose hands were on the wheel. Could it be that it is the task of any believer to steer when necessary?

    -Alan

  14. 3-26-2007

    Alan,

    Let me make a few other comments, about spiritual gifts and some other areas, and how they relate to this discussion.

    First, if you look carefully at the Greek, there are two different teaching gifts mentioned in the NT. One is the “gift of teaching” listed in Romans 12. The other is the “gift of teacher,” listed both in 1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11. I discussed this in-depth several weeks back in my blog. But, to make the point, the Greek words for these gifts are different, and their function is different, as well. Someone with the “gift of teaching” as in Romans 12 has that as their motivation, and they are simply able to supernaturally teach a Sunday School class or Bible lesson. But someone who IS the “gift of teacher” is someone who has a five-fold ministry calling according to Eph. 4, and thus has a greater responsibility to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” So, this is a certain kind of preaching and teaching that is more than just Romans 12 “gift of teaching.”

    Further, to me, if you have a five-fold calling, to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” and this would be someone who is an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, THEN — you are an ELDER in the body of Christ, and must meet the criteria listed in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1. For me, “elders/overseers/etc.” and “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers” are the same groups of people. They are just different ways of characterizing the same kinds of gifted persons.

    I’m sorry if this does not fill in the logic gaps and not explain to you in a complete manner why I believe the things I believe. I’m not a seminarian, I haven’t been trained in thorough hermeneutics and exegesis. But, what I have described to you in this post, and the one that preceded it here is what the Holy Spirit has taught me about eldership, and five-fold ministry in the Body of Christ.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  15. 3-26-2007

    Alan,

    Just call me Aussie John, if you care to.

    In hindsight, I should have said, “make a correction” but only when necessary, because God has a habit of placing people, in a local expression of the Body of Christ , whom He uses to minister to another at the appropriate time.

    An elder, who is effectively being an overseer, will place his hand on the wheel “only when necessary”, being more willing to defer to others, recognising that this deference is a necessary part of the process of others in the local Body to reach full maturity in Christ (Eph.4:12-13), and in becoming a disciple maker.

    Much depends on whether the “official Elder/elders, Pastor” has the grace to see himself as a servant of the local Body rather than the CEO,head honcho, etc.

    Your question,”Could it be that it is the task of any believer to steer when necessary?”, is very much to the point. My answer, for what it is worth, is emphatically, “Yes”!

    Try steering your car and use only one part of your body, especially when rigorous corrections are necessary. The Holy Spirit didn’t move Paul to frivolously use the body analogy.

  16. 3-26-2007

    Jonathan, you wrote:

    For me, “elders/overseers/etc.” and “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers” are the same groups of people. They are just different ways of characterizing the same kinds of gifted persons.

    First of all, I hope that you can appreciate the significance of the words “For me”, with which you started this paragraph. What you have presented is your interpretation, which does not necessarily mean it is wrong, but it is what it is.

    The basic problem that I have textually with the distinction of “five-fold ministry” is in 1 Corinthians 12:28, where the same Greek word for “teacher” is used, as you pointed out.

    In 1 Cor 12:28, Paul says, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.”

    If Ephesians 4:11 is meant to define a closed set of five ministries that are on a different level than others, where are the evangelists and pastors in 1 Cor 12:28? And why are miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and various kinds of tongues listed in the same category as apostles, prophets, and teachers in 1 Cor 12:28?

    I appreciate your desire to learn from the Holy Spirit, and I appreciate your passion for what you are learning. But I think that you must continue to allow the text to shape what you are reading from it, and not make more or less out of something that is (or isn’t) there.

    Additionally, I would gently caution you against covering your position with statements such as “this is what the Holy Spirit taught me”. How does one dare differ with that? How does one dare question that? And would you even be willing to consider other viewpoints, given that you believe that the Holy Spirit taught you this?

    I ask that with gentleness and kindness, my brother, not with any malicious intent.

  17. 3-26-2007

    Jonathan,

    Thank you for continuing this discussion. You said: “But, to make the point, the Greek words for these gifts are different [teacher and teaching], and their function is different, as well.” I disagree with you at this point. The Greek words are different, but only in the same sense that “teacher” and “teaching” are different. One points to the person (teacher) while the other points to the content (teaching). In English, a teacher is responsible for teaching. The same is true in Greek.

    As to you statement that this is what the Holy Spirit taught you… I would agree with Steve on this. We are all interested in learning what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. Since the Spirit does teach through Scripture (as well as other means), and since we do not believe that He will contradict himself, then Scripture seems to be a good place to start.

    Aussie John,

    All I can say is, “Amen!” I’m glad you decided to comment on my blog. I’m looking forward to hearing from you more.

    Steve,

    I appreciate what you said. Thank you.

    -Alan

  18. 3-26-2007

    Alan,

    I guess we do disagree on the difference between the gift of teaching (Rom. 12) and the gift of teacher (1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11). The former is a simple teaching gift, and is not a five-fold gift; its purpose and function is to impart spiritual information. The latter is a five-fold gift, also listed in 1 Cor. 12:28, with a distinct purpose and function to equip believers for the work of the ministry. Those with the gift of teaching do not necessary have a calling to equip the saints — but those with the gift of teacher most certainly DO.

    Steve Sensening,

    Thanks for your encouragement. Yes, I do understand that this is my interpretation, as the Holy Spirit has illumined and revealed the Word of God to me. Just like Alan has his own interpretation, and you have your own as well.

    Let me clarify something for you Steve. I don’t think that Eph. 4:11 lists a set of ministries that are on a “different level from others.” These gifts just have a different purpose and function from all other gifts… and that is “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” The purpose of ALL spiritual gifts is to edify the body of Christ. However, more so than that, the purpose of the Eph. 4:11 gifts is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, causing us as believers to mature and complete in Christ. Someone with the gift of helps can’t do that. Someone with the gift of mercy can’t do that. But the Scripture is clear and express that only apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers can accomplish that to the glory of God.

    You asked why some gifts listed in Eph. 4:11 are NOT listed in 1 Cor. 12:28. That’s a good question. I believe Paul has two different purposes in 1 Cor. 12:28 compared with Eph. 4:11. In 1 Cor. 12:28, Paul is giving examples of spiritual gifts, and teaching that all have a part to play in the Body of Christ. Some are called to be apostles. Some prophets. Some of these other things. But this is by no means an exhaustive list, because other gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12:8 are ALSO omitted later on.

    However, in Eph. 4:11, Paul is writing with a different purpose. Here, Paul is focusing on spiritual maturity, and not the gifts themselves. Paul is saying that these five specific gifts, which are PERSONS (not gifts operable by all) are for the express purpose to mature believers so they can accomplish the work of the ministry. In other words, verses 12-16 is much more important than verse 11, in the grand scheme of things.

    Steve, regarding your last comment, there is an answer to that. And that answer is “Iron sharpens iron” and “Come let us reason together.” When I say this is what the Holy Spirit has taught me or shown me in God’s Word, that isn’t an authoritative statement. Of course I am open to hearing other viewpoints, but if I do not see that in the Scriptures for myself, then I probably won’t agree. The same is true for when I go to church on Sunday morning. I have to examine the Scriptures personally in order to agree with whatever revelation the Holy Spirit has given my pastor. I expect, of course, that I will be on the same page and “wavelength” as my pastor, but there are times I just “don’t get it.” That is, not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye on everything. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say this is what the Holy Spirit has taught us in God’s Word. I do not think there is anything wrong with being honest and frank with one another like that.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  19. 3-26-2007

    Jonathan,

    I am trying to understand how you are interpreting 1 Cor 12:28. In this last comment, you seem to be saying that the first three gifts are 3/5 of the five-fold ministry – apparently Corinth didn’t need the other two? While in an earlier comment you suggested that the “gift of administration/government” was the work of the “local pastoral ministry”. Again, I don’t see anything in the text that would indicate a different meaning in this one list of gifts.

    I’m also concerned that you have twice alluded to something that is troubling. You have said that the Spirit has revealed something that is not spelled out in Scripture. Now, I do believe that the Spirit can communicate with you. I’m concerned when someone says the Spirit communicated with them something that is not in Scripture, but something that everyone needs to know.

    Now, I think you seriously want to know what all this means. But, do you see how easy it would be to always fall back on “the Spirit told me” when you can’t back up your statements from Scripture?

    However, since you are continuing this conversation, I don’t think you meant that statement as it sounded to me. I’m hoping that we can all continue studying Scripture together and listening to the Spirit together and learning from one another.

    -Alan

  20. 3-26-2007

    Alan,

    That’s the challenge of communicating in the blog world. Its different than face-to-face dialogue and communication, and so sometimes I leave bits and pieces here and there, and you have to put it together somehow, and fill in the gaps. So, let me try to do that, again, with 1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11. I really do desire to answer your questions and provide the fullest explanation possible, as I understand the Scriptures.

    In 1 Cor. 12:28, Paul is explaining something more so than just giving examples of spiritual gifts. He is stating a need for those who belong to the church at Corinth to learn to fit and work together with one another, and recognize the spiritual gifts in one another. This is the context for the entire chapter of 1 Cor. 12. Verse 8 lists one set of spiritual gifts (not exhaustive) and verse 28 gives another set (again, not exhaustive). But no purpose of either of these sets are given, like you see in Eph. 4. Instead, Paul is making the point that we should recognize the spiritual giftedness of one another and learn to work and fit together, using our spiritual gifts, so that the body may be edified.

    Yes, the first 3 gifts that Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 12:28 are a part of “five-fold ministry.” Certainly, the Corinthian church needed the evangelist and pastor, just like we all do in order to be mature and complete in Christ. Paul was ONLY listing these gifts as an example and illustration, and his list is not exhaustive.

    You asked me about the gift of administration/government. Let me clarify something about it — the gift of “kubernesis” (that is the Greek word for administration/government) is only used ONCE here. Its not used in Romans 12. It is not the SAME as the five-fold gift of pastor. But this gift is given to the local pastoral MINISTRY in order to (1) steer the “ship” in terms of vision of the local church body, (2) oversee ministries by placing the members of the body where they fit in with the vision, and (3) other related functions to (1) and (2). Now, YES, all of what I said in terms of definition is not provided for in the Scriptures. But this is the ONLY verse where the word “kubernesis” is used. If you look up that word in a Greek dictionary, you will see one definition is the ability to steer a ship and provide that kind of direction — and thus this refers to a special gift given to those in pastoral ministry. Its not the same as the gift of pastor under Eph. 4. But IF you ARE a pastor in the five-fold sense, then you ALSO have the gift of kubernesis. You have to have that gift, if you wish to fulfill your calling — its necessary and part of your calling and the “package” that comes with it. Does that make sense, or do I need to clarify further with 1 Cor. 12:28 – ???

    Lastly, I understand your concerns. Its not like I am coming out and saying “Believe me, because the Holy Spirit told me so.” No —- we each have a responsibility to search the Scriptures ourselves and let the Holy Spirit speak to us individually to reveal truth, as that is part of His purpose as Jesus articulated in John’s Gospel.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  21. 3-26-2007

    I thought I would throw in my two cents worth … what follows, is only an overview and not a comprehensive treatment.

    The Early Church

    According to the New Testament account, the first century Churches were shepherded by local Elders, who were called and set apart by the Lord, to provide oversight.

    The Elders themselves, although enjoying local autonomy at the individual assembly level often looked to each other and to certain ‘ascension gift ministries’ – Eph 4:11 (usually those who founded the Church), for mutual accountability and support. Such a combined Eldership, often embraced the broader challenges facing the early (city) Church collectively.

    The 1st Century Churches met regularly in private homes. The believer’s homes proved to be ideal in providing opportunities for relational intimacy, more effective teaching (interactive dialogue rather than a lecturing style monologue) and mutual accountability; and led to a more vibrant and authentic (unforced) ‘church life’ in which close friendships were forged and nurtured.

    This of course is not possible in todays much larger, rigidly structured, and tightly programmed, institutional church ‘events’. Some may argue that such needs can be met in the contemporary church ‘Home Group’ structure.

    However, this belies the fact that the ‘Home Church’ was the vital hub of relational Church life in the first century; while larger combined gatherings (which came later) simply added a further dimension to the Home Church gatherings.

    Today we have reversed this emphasis, so that the regular Sunday ‘events’ are the main focus and ‘Home Groups’ simply reflect the needs and desires of the institution.

    Church Leadership

    It is important to remember, that the ascension gift ministries were never seen as the leaders of the local Churches once local Elders were appointed. Rather they were seen more in the light of ‘fathers in the faith’ who continued to have the best interests of the Churches in mind.

    The Lord Jesus gave gifts to the Church (Eph 4:11); ‘to equip the saints for the work of the ministry,’ namely: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And along with local Elders these are to provide leadership or oversight to the Church.

    Although much has been written in recent times, concerning these ‘ascension gifts’; much of what has been portrayed, has often revealed a strong ecclesiastical or personal bias on the part of the author rather than a correct interpretation of scripture.

    For example, it is misleading, to apply the term ‘Office’ to these gifts; particularly if such a rendering implies a title and serves to strengthen the case for a ‘hierarchy of church leadership’; this is not merited by scripture. It would be more correct to see these gifts expressed as a ‘function’; a service if you like, rather than a claim to titular authority.

    In fact, the ascension gifts are not formal positions as the term ‘office’ might imply. The Greek text has no definite article connected with any of the gifts in the Ephesians 4 passage or elsewhere in the New Testament. And they are never used as titles.

    In his Epistles, Paul often introduces himself as ‘I Paul an apostle…’ i.e. ‘I Paul … [whose function to the body of Christ is to serve as] … Apostle [i.e. sent one].

    Today we often wrongly read into this: ‘I … [the Apostle] Paul inferring title…’ Such a rendering of scripture is misleading and has more to do with our particular ecclesiastical paradigm and desire to perpetuate it.

    When the ascension gifts emerge in an authentic expression of church life, their primary function is to nurture and equip the believing community towards spiritual maturity, unity, and service.

    The word ‘office’ in Acts 1:20; Romans 11:13; 12:4 and 1Timothy 3:1, 10, 13 is a wrongly applied. In Acts and 1 Timothy, the word has no equivalent in the Greek text; it was simply ‘added’ by some translators [rendering the passage as a transliteration rather than a translation].

    In the Romans passages, the Greek words should be rendered ‘service’ and/or ‘function’. To suggest a meaning that indicates a position that one fills is therefore quite wrong. And perhaps has more to do with trying to defend the (unbiblical) hierarchical style of Church leadership.

    Senior Pastor

    Few today would realise, that the so called ‘office’ of Senior Pastor, is an invention, a contrivance, of man. Historically its antecedent was the ‘Bishop’ who originally, according to scripture; was simply an elder or overseer; (these terms were used interchangeably to describe the same function in the early Church).

    However, in the Church’s drift away from that of being a ‘living, dynamic, Spirit-led organism’ towards the corporate style organisation or institution of today; this function was eventually, and wrongly given the status of ‘office’ and ‘elevated’ to that of a superintending minister presiding over the local elders.

    This sad development simply paved the way for a ‘corporate style takeover’ of the Church which has continued over the centuries until the modern day Church bears little resemblance to its first century counterpart.

    Views of an ex ‘Senior Pastor’ in transition.

  22. 3-27-2007

    Jonathan,

    I appreciate the last paragraph of your last comment immensely. Thank you.

    I understand your position. I understand what you are saying about the “five-fold ministry” in Eph 4:11. I don’t agree, but I do understand. By the way, I do believe that a purpose for all spiritual gifts and spiritually gifted individuals is given in 1 Cor 12:7.

    John Purcell,

    Thank you for your comment. Have you posted that online somewhere? My views are very similar to yours. I would not separate out the gifts in Eph 4:11 from the other gifts. Eph 4:11 does list gifted individuals (though, again Paul does not state that this list is exhaustive). So, just as the people in Eph 4:11 are to equip the church, so all gifted individuals are to equip the church.

    I definitely agree with you about function over office. I’ve written about that from time to time, and perhaps I will write about it again soon.

    Thanks again for the comment.

    -Alan

  23. 3-27-2007

    Alan,

    I agree on 1 Cor. 12:7 — that’s universal. :)

    John Purcell,

    I think I concur with you completely with Eph. 4:11, and your analysis there. Excellent and well done, sir.

    In fact, I basically agree, at least in theory, with all of what you said. Again, well done analysis.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  24. 3-27-2007

    Thanks Alan,

    Yes, I have posted that online (in more detail), and for those interested you can visit my primary blog site by ‘clicking’ on my name.

    I wasn’t (intentionally) separating out the other gifts by highlighting the ‘ascension gifts’ (from Ephesians 4:11); but merely making the point that the ‘gifts’ in this passage, do NOT equal or warrant ‘office’ status but rather are indicative of function.

    The other gifts you refer to, (such as 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 etc) I have always seen as ‘serving’ the Church rather than ‘equipping’ (with the obvious exception of any overlap). The distinction being, ALL in the ‘priesthood of all believers’, are gifted to serve; none is exempt from this privilege / responsibity, but not all are gifted to equip.

    All of which deserves a much more comprehensive treatment.

    As an aside, it is interesting to note the identity of the ‘giver’ of the gifts, for example:

    In Romans 12 the ‘giver’ is the Father.

    In Ephesians 4 the ‘giver’ is the Son.

    And, in 1 Corinthians 12 the ‘giver’ is the Holy Spirit.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    John

  25. 3-27-2007

    Jonathon,

    Thankyou for your kind remarks.

    For what it is worth, you made a very profound statement when you declared that the ‘gifts’ referred to in Ephesians 4 are ‘persons’ i.e. the individuals themselves ARE the gift. Equipping in that context therefore is the outworking of the gift/s in question!

    The other (non-ascension) giftings to which Paul refers, I believe, are intended for general service to the body.

    John

  26. 3-27-2007

    I have really enjoyed reading all these comments.

    John Purcell … thanks for sharing your thoughts!! You wrote that out in a way that I was able to understand :)

    Blessings!

    ~Heather

  27. 3-27-2007

    Jonathan & John Purcell,

    I still can’t see (from the text) why the list in Eph 4:11 is exhaustive, but the other lists in 1 Cor, Rom, and 1 Peter are not exhaustive. I agree completely that Eph 4:11 is talking about function – how certain people function in order to equip the body to serve. However, I do not see anything in the text that says only these types of people are gifted in order to equip the body to serve.

    Heather,

    I agree. This has been an interesting conversation.

    -Alan

  28. 3-27-2007

    Alan,

    Let me see if I can elaborate … in the short time I have left before bed summons me. We agree that the lists in 1 Peter, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians, are functions performed by individuals in service to the Body.

    What makes the Ephesians 4 list significant and interesting, is the following:

    The ‘giver’ is the Lord Jesus; the ‘recipient’ is the Church and the ‘gift’ is the person themselves not their function.

    He (Jesus) gave gifts (individuals) to the Church … NOT … He gifted certain individuals to function in the Church. The so-called ‘ascension gifts’ were in fact people!

    Perhaps a key lies in verse 12, where the purpose for the gifts is indicated:

    ‘For the work of the ministry’ (εἰς ἔργον διακονίας) or much better still from the Greek, ‘unto the work of ministering’.

    Εἰς ‘unto’, marks the immediate purpose of the gift. He gave apostles, etc; unto the work of ministering and building up, for the perfecting, etc.

    These purpose or function of these individuals is: “…the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ … till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ etc.

    Whereas the other gifts (which don’t represent an overlap with those above) are for the edification etc, of the body.

    John

  29. 3-27-2007

    John Purcell,

    I agree with almost everything that you said here. I would probably translate the phrase in Eph 4:12 as “for the work of service” because of the baggage associated with the English word “ministry”.

    The question, of course, is who does “the work of service”. Does Eph 4:12 say that those listed in Eph 4:11 do “the work of service”, or do the people listed in Eph 4:11 “equip/perfect the body” so that the body does “the work of service”? Either interpretation is possible from the grammar of the sentence.

    However, this was not exactly my question. I agree that those listed in Eph 4:11 are gifted individuals given to the church in order to “equip/perfect” the church. I believe that my position is slightly different from yours and Jonathan’s in that I believe that ALL believers are gifted and then given to the church in order to “equip/perfect” the church.

    I’ll give a couple of reasons for this position. First, notice that each “list” of spiritual gifts begins with a similiar “formulaic” expression: Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:7, and Eph 4:7. In each statement, there are two things emphasized: 1) God gives the gifts, and 2) He gives them to each believer. Since these statements about the giving of gifts to each believer is similar in each passage, I believe the lists of gifts are similar as well. I don’t see anything special about the list in Eph 4:11.

    Second, Eph 4:12 does say that those listed in Eph 4:11 are to equip/perfect the body. This is the only time that the noun “equipping/perfecting” is used in the NT. However, the verb is a fairly common word. And, it is used of all believers. As a few examples, consider 1 Cor 1:10, 2 Cor 13:11, and Gal 6:1. These passages are addressed to all the recipients of the letter, not just certain people with “ascension gifts”. Therefore, all believers are gifted in order to “equip/perfect” the body.

    Fourth, in 1 Cor 12:28ff, Paul had no problem listing what has been called “ascension gifts” with other gifts that are not normally called “ascension gifts”. So, it seems that Paul does not make a distinction between these. They are all still given to the church by God for the benefit of all.

    Finally, saying that certain “ascension-gifted” individuals play an exceptional/unique role in the equipping of the church seems to go against Paul’s exhortation in Eph 4:16 and 1 Cor 12:22-23 that all gifted members of the body are necessary. In fact, instead of the “ascension-gifted” individuals being indispensable to the church, Paul said that those who seem weaker are actually indispensable (1 Cor 12:22).

    So, to summarize, I believe that God gifts all believers in order that they may equip/prefect/edify the church. The lists in Eph 4, 1 Cor 12, Rom 12, and 1 Pet 4 are examples of some of these giftings and gifted believers.

    -Alan

  30. 3-27-2007

    John Purcell,

    Right on! I agree completely with what you said, that the equipping is the outworking of the gift/s themselves.

    You are also correct to say that the other, non-ascension gifts, as listed in Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12 are for general service to the body. :)

    Alan,

    I think John Purcell has done a really good job explaining both of our positions… he’s better at it than I am (kudos, John Purcell).

    First, let me explain what I mean by exhaustive, and clarify that. Eph. 4:11 is exhaustive only to the extent that these are ascension gifts. There are five ascension gifts, and these gifts are PERSONS (not gracelets as you see in Romans 12 and 1 Cor. 12), and there are five of them. So, yes, to that extent, Eph. 4:11 is somewhat exhaustive. BUT — Eph. 4:11 is NOT exhaustive to ALL spiriual gifts. Clearly, Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12 (verses 8 and 28) each have other spiritual gifts. You have to include all the different lists in the Scriptures to be biblically exhaustive of ALL spiritual gifts (including Eph. 4).

    NOW — I believe, according to Eph. 4, that the “work of the service” is done by the body (the saints) and the role of the ascension gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) is to equip/perfect the saints (the people) for doing the work of the service, to accomplish that (e.g. winning the lost, healing the sick, etc.) I do NOT believe (contrary to what you believe) that a non-five-fold minister is called to equip in this manner. He does not have the authority to do so, because such authority is reserved to APEPT.

    So, now, Alan, I want to respond to your reasons why there is “nothing special” about Eph. 4:11, compared to Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12. The first thing that I see that distinguishes Eph. 4:11 is that these gifts are the persons themselves, and not a “gracelet,” as in Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12. It actually is a different concept. So, that’s something significant.

    Second, you mention a similar verb that Paul uses in 1 Cor. 1:10 and 2 Cor. 13:11 (Gal. 6 really is something different). In 1 Cor. 1:10 and 2 Cor. 13:11, however, Paul is saying all believers need to be made complete. But, Eph. 4:11-12 says that the ascension gift ministers are TO DO THE COMPLETING. There’s a difference here in the grammar. Gal. 6, by the way, is about restoring people, which is something we are ALL called to do — but restoration and completion/maturity are two diferent issues. One can be restored, but NOT be complete or spiritually mature.

    Next, you cite 1 Cor. 12:28 as a mixture of ascension gifts and other gifts. That is correct, but Paul only mentions these gifts as an example of his point there, which is that we all need to learn to work together, and find our place.

    And lastly, I just have to disagree that you believe that “certain ‘ascension-gifted’ individuals play an exceptional/unique role in the equipping of the church seems to go against Paul’s exhortation in Eph 4:16 and 1 Cor 12:22-23 that all gifted members of the body are necessary.” No, APEPT DO play a unique role — because they are called to equip and perfect believers.

    Perhaps it would help if I explained what this word “equip” really means. It means to perfect and to complete, in a maturation process, but it also means to TRAIN and to PREPARE. Yes, we need ALL the spiritual gifts — but there is a special place and role for five-fold ministry in TRAINING and PREPARING everyone else to DO “the work of the service.” Perhaps a military analogy would be helpful. Not everyone is a general, but THESE ministers in Eph. 4:11 ARE the generals who are there to equip and train the army of God. Does that make sense? Is that helpful?

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  31. 3-27-2007

    Jonathan,

    Since we’ve been back and forth about this for a few comments now, it’s really not necessary to continue.

    I do have one question. You made a very interesting statement about the verb katartizo in Galatians 6:1. You said: “Gal 6 really is something different.” I’m wondering, since the verb is exactly the same, where did you get this idea?

    There are a few things that you are overlooking in this passage. Again, I don’t think we need to rehash it here. Perhaps I will post something specifically about Eph 4:11-12.

    -Alan

  32. 3-27-2007

    Alan,

    I respect your position on this, we are very close, but rather than respond to your post at this time, since Jonathon has already done so; I’ll wait for your response to him. Could simply be ‘nit picking’ otherwise.

    Jonathon,

    Thanks for your kind words, I’m no theologian; but I have had to study the word and seek the Lord MUCH since leaving organised religion. On my post-institutional church walk I have had to ‘unlearn’ a great deal in order to ‘re-learn’ the truth of God’s word ‘without’ a denominational filter applied!

    Not easy, and at times, quite discouraging … alas, the things I thought I knew, understood and taught … hmm! I enjoy ‘iron sharpening iron’ so to speak. With the right heart, there is always mutual benefit.

    Thanks to you both for the opportuntiy to dust off the cobwebs.

    John

  33. 3-27-2007

    John Purcell,

    I respect the “five-fold ministry” position as well, and we are very close. I also respect many authors who have written about the “five-fold ministry” including Wolfgang Simson and Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.

    -Alan

  34. 3-27-2007

    Alan,

    This will be my last word in this area. As for Gal. 6, I kind of take back what I said, because I did look up the Greek, and it IS the same as in 1 Cor. 1:10 and 2 Cor. 13:11.

    I do think, however, that the concept to “restore” is different in English than to “mature” or “complete.” To me, in English, these are varying degrees of the same thing.

    Lastly, and this WILL be my close here for “Who is your pastor?” — I believe that APEPT ministers DO have a special place in bringing everyone else to that kind of maturity that is just a different in impartation compared to someone who is not called to five-fold ministry. We do need everyone. But different people provide different gifts to the table, and not all gifts produce the same result. And some gifts operate differently than the other ones do. I could say more, but that’s my last word.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  35. 3-28-2007

    Jonathan,

    I agree with this statement completely: “We do need everyone. But different people provide different gifts to the table, and not all gifts produce the same result. And some gifts operate differently than the other ones do.”

    -Alan

  36. 3-28-2007

    Alan, One last post on this topic for two reasons:

    1) You asked have I posted some of my comments online before,

    2) I want to balance what I have so far said with a timely warning for us all. Please pardon the references to our group of (Home) Churches in what follows.

    At CrossWay we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is ONE body (the mystical body of Christ), with ONE head. And that Jesus Christ, by divine authority, was made head over all things for the Church, and that the Church, as his Body, is the fullness of him who fills all in all.

    Therefore, such schisms, denominations and movements as abound today, point to our inability to present that body as ONE under Christ. And as such, stand as a witness against us, particularly when one considers that Jesus prayed earnestly (in John 17) that we would ALL be ONE.

    Our propensity to control what we don’t understand and to protect it at all odds; has in this case, distorted the simplicity of the gospel and resulted in a multi-headed, lifeless organisation or institution which has unfortunately, been perpetuated over the centuries. This is a far cry from the original, unified, and life-giving organism of the early first century.

    Throughout Church age , the Lord has consistently raised up ‘judges’ in an attempt to convict and correct his wayward people. However, this has all to often resulted in a ‘fix’, or a ‘corporate style makeover’ of the organisation, rather than a return to the original life-giving organism.

    Rather than allow the word of God to bring conviction and correction; we have instead, taken select parts of the word (those which fit neatly within our ecclesiastical frame of reference) and defensively acted as though they were the whole counsel of God on the matter.

    Because of this misguided allegiance to ecclesiastical organisations and institutions [of our own creation] we have all too often missed, and sadly remained wide of the mark.

    The time has come however, for such folly to come under divine (remedial) judgement (remember judgement starts first in the house of God) and for the Church to seek the Lord afresh—for it was he who declared: “I will build my Church …”.

    Faith and Courage

    It will take much courage and faith, among those who are called to provide Godly leadership to the Church, to challenge and correct, these errors.

    Particularly when one considers that all too often leadership in the western Church, rests upon continued and demonstrated obedience to the tenets relating to the structure of the church organisation or institution in question rather than an adherence to: ’the faith once delivered’.

    Such leaders however must themselves, be willing to recognise their divine call according to the mandate of scripture and be willing to act accordingly.

    Biblical Leadership

    The Lord Jesus gave gifts to the Church (Eph 4:11); ‘to equip the saints for the work of the ministry,’ namely: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And along with local Elders these are to provide leadership to the Church.

    Although much has been written in recent times, concerning these ‘ascension gifts’; much of what has been portrayed, has often revealed a strong ecclesiastical or personal bias on the part of the author rather than a correct interpretation of scripture.

    For example, it is misleading, to apply the term ‘Office’ to these gifts; particularly if such a rendering implies a title and serves to strengthen the case for a ‘hierarchy of church leadership’; this is not merited by scripture. It would be more correct to see these gifts expressed as a ‘function’; a service if you like, rather than a claim to titular authority.

    In fact, the ascension gifts are not formal positions as the term ‘office’ might imply. The Greek text has no definite article connected with any of the gifts in the Ephesians 4 passage or elsewhere in the New Testament. And they are never used as titles.

    In his Epistles, Paul often introduces himself as ‘I Paul an apostle…’ i.e. ‘I Paul … [whose function to the body of Christ is to serve as] … Apostle [i.e. sent one].

    Today we often wrongly read into this: ‘I … [the Apostle] Paul inferring title…’ Such a rendering of scripture is misleading and has more to do with our particular ecclesiastical paradigm.

    When the ascension gifts emerge in an authentic expression of church life, their primary function is to nurture and equip the believing community towards spiritual maturity, unity, and service.

    The word ‘office’ in Acts 1:20; Romans 11:13; 12:4 and 1 Timothy 3:1, 10, 13 is a wrongly applied. In Acts and 1 Timothy, the word has no equivalent in the Greek text; it was simply ‘added’ by some translators [rendering the passage as a transliteration rather than a translation]. In the Romans passages, the Greek words should be rendered ‘service’ and/or ‘function’. To suggest a meaning that indicates a position that one fills is therefore quite wrong.

    Character First

    Of greater concern, is the fact that little attention seems to have been given to the five ‘character qualities’ (or fruit of the Spirit) which are meant to undergird the ‘ascension ministry gifts’ (see Eph. 4:1-3) namely:

    · Lowliness
    · Meekness
    · Long suffering
    · Forbearance
    · Diligence—to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

    Sadly, we in the west, continue to place far too much emphasis on ‘charisma’ or the operation of the charismata; and far too little demand is ever placed upon a person’s (tested) character.

    As a result, many influential and/or charismatic leaders all too often (eventually) fail the character test; with the result that the body of Christ suffers greatly.

    The Goal

    The goal and ultimate aim of the body of Christ (the Church) is the building up, or edifying of the Body towards the time when ‘we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’

    To this end, we at CrossWay, continue to actively seek out mutually accountable relationships with others in the body of Christ who share our passion for real, relatable and mutually encouraging Christian fellowship.

  37. 3-28-2007

    John Purcell,

    Very challenging comment. I’m glad to see that others are taking unity seriously. I was told and even read recently that unity is only required among those in the same church: “That’s what makes denominations good.”

    You have some great things on your blog. I hope many of my readers will check it out.

    -Alan

  38. 5-28-2007

    alan – wow – i just discovered this post tonight – it was exciting to see this spring into such a conversation – i have never had any of my posts catch 37 comments.

    blessings,
    rob