the weblog of Alan Knox

The Painting Pastor

Posted by on Sep 20, 2010 in blog links, elders, service | 13 comments

The Painting Pastor

Dave Black mentioned one of his pastors (Jason) on his blog last weekend (Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 8:15 p.m.). He mentioned Jason in connection to a discussion that he had with a seminary student during a recent conference. I think this discussion reveals one problem with the way we view leaders (especially pastors/elders) in the church:

For some strange reason tonight I was reminded of a conversation I had last week with a student during the 9Marks conference on campus. I mentioned to him that when Becky and I take people with us to Ethiopia we allow them to chose their own ministries. We don’t say, “We’re doing VBS and you are to do such-and-such.” No, they pray, seek the Lord, and then tell us what they sense God is leading them to do. For example, one of my elders (Jason Evans) has been to Ethiopia with us 4 times. On his first few trips he taught church leaders. But on this last trip he told us he wanted to work with the construction team. He ended up being the “paint master” at the Galana clinic and did a marvelous job. When I told the student this he was dumbfounded. How, he wondered, could a preacher waste his time doing something as menial as painting? “That’s like seeing my pastor on a Sunday morning operating the sound system instead of preaching!” he told me. “Yeah,” I thought to myself, “sort of like Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.”

I’m not surprised at the student’s reaction. We don’t expect our leaders to serve. But, according to Scripture, we should.

By the way, I know Jason, and I’m not surprised that he chose to serve in this way at all.


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

  1. 9-20-2010

    I think that a bit of balance is needed here. But before I explain what I mean I would like to state up front that I am the only seminary trained elder who ushers in our church. So I am not opposed to serving and serving outside areas of giftedness and training. I also admire many pastors in small churches who preach/teach, clean the church, keep the books, and so on.
    That being said, I do think a couple of points are in order. First, one can appeal to John 13, but please note that based on the text, Jesus seems to have done what he did in order to teach (see vv. 12–17). Or in other words, Jesus was teaching not merely serving by washing the disciple’s feet. Second, if one appeals to John 13, I think a legitimate appeal can be made to Acts 6: “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables . . . But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Third, I don’t know Jason and therefore I don’t know his background or qualifications, but I do know a bit about traveling overseas to do ministry (8 trips and 3 countries in the last 7 years). I would suggest that one has to consider what the greatest need is. Although, I have not been to Ethiopia, I doubt that they lack painters there. I do suspect though that as a third world country, churches and pastors do have a great need for theological training. Many of the pastors and future pastors that I work with have little if any such training. So would it be good stewardship for me to travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles, at great expense, to paint? If the great need is painting, would it not be better stewardship to send the money it would cost to send me to Ethiopia and help pay Ethiopian painters and thus help them feed their families? Let me put it another way. Suppose I were a doctor or dentist. If the great need in a country was free medical or dental care, would it be good stewardship for a doctor or dentist to paint walls or dig wells? My Bible college and seminary training does not mean that I am too good to do some kinds of work, but it may mean that I am better able to serve the church by doing what I have been trained for. Again, I don’t know Jason (his training, qualifications, gifting, etc.), and I don’t know this befuddled student, but I am not sure that the issues are as clear as the post implies.

  2. 9-20-2010


    In John 13, Jesus taught his disciples to serve by serving himself. And, he set that as a model for them to follow. In other words, they should teach by serving as well. Yes, they teach by speaking, but that teaching should include serving as well.

    I’m not certain that we can use Acts 6 for elders for several reasons: 1) The phrase “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables . . . But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” applied to apostles, not elders. 2) Soon after making that statement, the work of the apostles changed. They were traveling from place to place and they were serving (as illustrated often by Paul). So that statement seems to indicate a temporary work that the apostles were doing. 3) As I’ve already mentioned, through the NT, elders and other Christians are commanded to serve one another.

    So, yes, an elder like Jason should teach using words, but he and others should also teach using their service – just as Jason did in Ethiopia. If a pastor/elder never does menial, humbling labor, then I do not think he is leading and teaching people like he should be doing.

    So, I do think it is as simple as the post implies.


  3. 9-20-2010


    I am not sure you get my point about John 13. Primarily in John 13, Jesus was teaching by serving, rather than serving for the sake of serving. There is a difference between the two. Serving for the sake of serving is wholly appropriate of course, but I am not sure that is the main point of the passage, and thus not the most appropriate text for the issue at hand.

    I did not use Acts 6 for elders specifically (I am not sure the seven are deacons either). But these men clearly represent those gifted and called to preach, teach, etc. I use them by analogy simply to make the point that it is sometimes appropriate to focus one’s energies on particular areas. When you say yes to something you are in essence saying no to something else. One area where I have to work on in my life is learning how to say “yes” to the right things. One who focuses on preaching and teaching is not necessarily less of a servant. Furthermore, I am not sure that the work of the apostles really changes through Acts, but okay. I am not sure that it is as clear cut as you might think. By the way you mention Paul. Let me ask you this, Do you think Paul would have traveled to Ethiopia to paint? Now he might have painted to support his ministry, but I doubt that his ministry would have been to paint. There is a difference. I am not against the command to serve, but we must also remember passages like Ephesians 4:11-13 where God gave the church certain people to do certain tasks. If I have been given to the church as a teacher, should I be painting?

    Again I hesitate to say anything because I do not know Jason. But as I have noted, participating in missions is costly and if an elder wants to do menial tasks wouldn’t it be better stewardship of the Lord’s resources to serve locally in a homeless shelter or some inner city ministry and then to serve in areas of greater need in Ethiopia. As I have already asked, does Ethiopia lack painters. Surely, participating in menial and humble tasks does not require traveling half way around the world at great expense.

  4. 9-20-2010


    It seems like we’re asking different questions. Reading your comments again, it seems that you are asking, “Should Jason have traveled to Ethiopia?” (I could add “to paint,” but since there are believers in Ethiopia who can paint, teach, or anything else, the addition would be meaningless.)

    However, the point of this post is not about the expenditure of traveling to Ethiopia. Note, the student was not surprised that Jason spent them money to travel; the student was surprised that Jason was doing something that he can’t imagine a pastor doing. His response is, “That’s like seeing my pastor on a Sunday morning operating the sound system instead of preaching!” He cannot imagine his pastor doing something like running the sound system.

    Now, your statement about saying “Yes” to one thing means saying “No” to something else is valid. However, we are commanded in Scripture both to teach one another and to serve one another. I don’t think we have an option of saying “Yes” to one of those and “No” to the other. Instead, we should be doing both.

    So, the student in the above example can only picture his pastor saying “Yes” to teaching, but not to serving. I’m saying that we should see pastors doing both (teaching and serving).


  5. 9-20-2010


    Perhaps we are talking a bit past one another. Again I don’t know Jason or this student. I do not know that the student’s thought process and why he found it so difficult to accept. I do not believe that the reference to John 13 was really the best response and I have indicated why.

    To be clear, my posts are not about Jason though. I only mention him because you and the original poster (right word?) did so. My main point was then, and is that I believed that the issues are not as clear cut as original post seem to suggest.

    As far as serving, I think that your understanding service may be too narrow. Let me illustrate by using a marriage. Do we serve our spouses by doing everything and anything or do we better serve our spouse by doing things that we do well and our spouses need? For example, I could serve my wife by setting her clothes out for her to wear even though I know that I am not the greatest clothes coordinator. Or I could serve my wife by repairing the mechanical problem in her car because I am a trained mechanic. Am I less a servant if I choose to do the latter rather than the former? Of course, if my wife had some emergency that necessitated my selection of her clothes I might have to do that, but all things being equal would I not better serve her by taking care of her car? There are a number of ways we can serve in ministry, the question is not should I be serving, but how should I be serving? If my pastor is not preaching, and the sound person becomes suddenly ill, then of course, he might step in to run the soundboard. But if we are gifted to preach and others are gifted to run soundboards, then what is wrong with each focusing on their areas of giftedness?

  6. 9-20-2010


    I’m trying to use “serve” in the same sense that Paul used it in Romans 12:6-8, which appears to be different than teaching, right? But, I think this is the kind of service that Jesus modeled in John 13.

    I also think that all believers are responsible for teaching, serving, giving, encouraging, etc. and not only those who are gifted in those areas.


  7. 9-20-2010

    Now am a bit confused. Isn’t one of the main points of Rom 12:6-8 to serve IN our areas of giftedeness. “We have different gifts” (v. 6) If we . . . if we . . . if we??? Furthermore prophesying (I know how one defines the gift is debated) and teaching are included here. Granted that one’s giftedness does not preclude them from serving in other areas, but the giftedness does help one to know where and how we best serve. Put another way, giftedness functions in the realm of the rule rather than the exception. By the way, recognition of this fact actually strengthens the body. After all, if I can do it all then why do I need you?

    I might add that to make the leap from Rom 12 to John 13 might be done, but on what basis? John 13 is not really about spiritual gifts and Rom 12:6-8 is and Paul does not appear to be appealing to the Upper room tradition.

  8. 9-20-2010

    Hendrickson argues that the feet washing incident was Jesus humbling himself as part of what he came into the world to do. Peter, by trying to stop Jesus washing his feet, was in effect standing in the way of Christ fulfilling part of his mission. When Jesus pointed out the consequence of Peters resistance, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” Peter immediately complies.

    How about this? Jason had been to Ethiopia a number of times and on each occasion had taught leaders there. But this time, by taking on a relatively menial task, painting with plenty of other painters available, this big shot teacher of leaders from the US was modelling humility big time! Perhaps on the previous trip he had noticed a certain elitism among some Ethiopian leaders and thought they needed a visual lesson this time around, not words.

  9. 9-20-2010


    I wasn’t communicating very clearly earlier. I’ll try again.

    In Romans 12:6-8, Paul differentiates between teaching and serving (as well as other forms of giftedness). When I’ve been speaking of teaching and serving in this post and comment thread, I’ve been speaking of them in this form – that is, the types of teaching and serving that Paul speaks of here. In this passage, it is clear that Paul is not including teaching as a type of serving. Paul is talking about actually serving people – manual, humbling, dirty work type of serving.

    Yes, in the passage, Paul is talking about giftedness and how everyone is gifted differently. I don’t argue with that at all. However, I do not think that only those gifted at teaching are responsible for teaching, nor that only those gifted at serving are responsible for serving. In fact, it seems that Scripture indicates that all believers are responsible for teaching and serving, just as all believers are responsible for giving and encouraging (not just those believers who are gifted in those areas).

    In John 13, Jesus serves the disciples by washing their feet. This is a menial task that anyone could do. Jesus did not think it was beneath him or that there were other more important things that he could be doing or that his gifts would be better used by speaking to his disciples. Instead, he served them, and told them to serve other in the same way. (I do not think John 13 is linked to Romans 12, except that John 13 is a good example of the type of service that Paul is talking about in Romans 12.)

    Also, in each of the synoptic gospels, the authors record Jesus telling the apostles that Christians leaders will serve. I do not think this service can be equated with teaching. Instead, he tells them to become like the least or like a servant.

    So, adding all of this together, while pastors should teach (and speak in other ways perhaps), they should also serve (in menial, humbling, dirty work kind of service) both because they are followers of Jesus (who are responsible for serving) and specifically because they are leaders (who are even more responsible for serving).

    I hope this makes more sense.


    Yes, I think that’s a good way to put it.


  10. 9-20-2010


    I have no argument with you or Hendriksen, but As I noted earlier, this is not really the point. As I noted previously, In John 13, Jesus was teaching by serving, rather than serving for the sake of serving. There is a difference between the two.

    As far as Jason’s motivations, I don’t know. But consider this, was Jason less of a servant on his previous visits when he did teach and did not paint?


    The problem here is that you are appealing to one aspect of Romans 12:6-8 (teaching and serving gifts are different) and then arguing against the point of the same passage. Paul’s point is not that each of us is gifted to do all of these things. His point is that we are gifted in different ways and should serve in our area of giftedness. You state, “However, I do not think that only those gifted at teaching are responsible for teaching, nor that only those gifted at serving are responsible for serving.” All well and good, but where does Paul say this Rom 12:6-8? Can you make your point from the text at hand? I might add that your attempt to suggest that teaching cannot be service runs into difficulty if you attempt to apply that same argument to some other other gifts in Rom 12:6-8. By your logic “contributing to the needs of others” (8b)cannot be service, “generous giving giving” (8c) cannot be service, and “showing mercy” cannot be serving (8f). Do you really want to argue that? If not then why cant teaching be a form of service?

    By the way, appealing to John 13 really doesn’t help either. Jesus teaches in John 13 that we ought to serve one another. It doesn’t say HOW we we are to serve one another (unless you want to make footwashing itself an ordinance as some Christians do). In fact most Christians see Jesus as giving a principle about the responsibility for humble service rather than specifics. One can serve humbly as a teacher cant he?

  11. 9-20-2010


    I’m not saying that teaching, giving, etc. cannot be serving. In fact, they are often referred to as serving. I don’t have a problem with seeing teaching as a form of service.

    But, I don’t think the form of service that includes teaching (or giving or encouraging or prophesying) is what Jesus is talking about in John 13, or in the other passages in the synoptics when Jesus tells leaders to be as servants.

    Feel free to comment again, but it seems that we’re not communicating very well, so I’m going to leave it at that.


  12. 9-20-2010


    You don’t need to answer, but I would just point out that what you just said appears to contradict what you wrote earlier “I’m trying to use “serve” in the same sense that Paul used it in Romans 12:6-8, which appears to be different than teaching, right? But, I think this is the kind of service that Jesus modeled in John 13.”

  13. 9-21-2010


    I understand what you are saying. I believe Jesus washed the disciples feet for the sole purpose of teaching serving. I think in His serving he was teaching.

    I am a little concerned that anyone would consider what Jason did as below his status. There is no status in the Kingdom of God, especially for leadership. Preaching and teaching is not a higher “calling” or higher service than serving in the soup kitchen or painting in Ethiopia.

    Thanks for your continued encouragement.