Over the years of my life I have noticed something that few like to talk about or question and that is this: why there is so much emphasis placed on pastors in the church? Especially when one takes a look through scripture and you see that the pastor is but a single small part of the grand picture that is the Church.
For that matter…why is so much focus and emphasis placed on music in the church as though this is the only form of worship the church engages in? OK…I won’t go down that bunny trail this time. I’ll have to revisit that in another article.
Seriously though…as the modern church, why is so much emphasis and focus placed on the role of the shepherd (pastor) while the other roles listed in Ephesians 4 tend to get very little focus if they even get talked about or examined or practiced at all when that isn’t the picture we get in the Bible?
I mean we have pastors conferences, books for pastors, pastors retreats, pastor breakfasts, pastor resources galore, pastors websites, pastors this, and pastors that. The list could go on. Lots and lots of great resources.
If I go to Google and search for “pastor resources” I will be overloaded with what I listed above and more.
Not really a surprise there.
If I go to Google and search for “prophet resources” the majority of results are centered around Islam and Mohammad.
If I go and Google “apostle resources” nearly every single result has to do with the apostles from the Bible and practically nothing has to do with modern day apostles.
Interestingly, if I go to Google and search “evangelist resources” I’m almost as overwhelmed there with resources as I was for pastor. Although, I’m not entirely surprised about that as one who grew up as a Southern Baptist, the 2 roles out of all the roles listed in Ephesians 4 that got the most attention were evangelists and pastors.
Seriously, stop right now and go try it for yourself.
If you took a moment to test out the search for these things above, welcome back! Interesting isn’t it?
Please hear me…there is NOTHING wrong with these roles. But these roles aren’t islands unto their own. They were never intended to shoulder it all.
To be fair, the role of the evangelist has seen a serious decline in focus over the years in general, while the role of the pastor continues to soar.
That aside, we have done a great disservice to the Church and to those who God has gifted outside of these roles by making it so much about the pastor (and in the past the evangelist) while practically ignoring and neglecting the other roles.
Everything in today’s Western Church Culture seems to put the entire weight of the church on the shoulders of the pastor as though they are the only role God ever gave to help equip and lead the church.
I realize there is some debate on if it’s 4 or 5 roles listed in Ephesians 4, but no matter your count, it cannot be understated that we have somehow elevated the role of the shepherd (pastor) above all the others and given them our undivided attention, focus, and resources.
Which raises another question of mine – where in the Bible is the pastor elevated to the “authoritative” role over the church that we have adopted as the norm today? I have tried researching this, and I just don’t see it.
- Hebrews 13:17 doesn’t mention pastors or shepherds. It just says “leaders”.
- 1 Timothy 3:1-7 doesn’t mention pastor or shepherds. It says “overseer”.
- Acts 20:28 Paul isn’t talking to pastors or shepherds, but rather to elders.
- 1 Thessalonians 5 mentions “those who labor among you” but there is no mention as to who those people are. In other places, Paul has mentioned apostles (such as himself) as ones who labored among the people. But he doesn’t mention pastors.
- Titus 1:6-9 doesn’t mention pastors or shepherds. It says “overseer”.
- Acts 14:23 mentions elders, not pastors or shepherds.
- 1 Peter 5 mentions elders, not pastors. And, if verse 5 of this chapter seems to indicate that elders are from the older generations, not the younger generations.
I could go on. My point is simply that I think we have ascribed the role of “pastor” or “shepherd” to roles that weren’t necessarily in their wheel house. All too frequently I see the role of pastor being used interchangeably with elder, or shepherd, or overseer. But is this correct?
I’m still digging on that one, and that is another discussion for another time.
This much I know, whether or not the pastor is biblically elevated to an authoritative role, or whether or not it is acceptable to use “pastor” in place of “elder” or “overseer”, no single role was ever designed by God to function on its own. The very existence of a Triune Godhead shows us otherwise.
Another interesting thing to me is that we have made the roles listed in Ephesians 4 into titles and job titles where I just don’t see that being the case in the New Testament. In other words, we institutionalized the “gifts of God”.
I look at all of this, and the questions it raises in my mind, and I can’t help but think that’s why our churches struggle so much, why pastors have some of the highest depression rates, suicide concerns, and burn out rates of practically every “profession” out there. It was never meant to be a profession and was never meant to be all about the pastor.
Me saying this doesn’t mean I don’t care about pastors.
On the contrary, I care enough about them to say you are unnecessarily burning yourself out by heaping untold amounts of pressure on yourself that was never intended for you to carry alone. You may even be functioning in a role that isn’t yours to function in.
Do we really want a healthy and properly functioning church? If so, then we need to begin to have the hard discussions, examine everything, hold it up to the light of scripture, and make some seriously course corrections.