The Modern Day Super Pastor
Did you know that the act of pastoring is a spiritual gift? Ephesians 4:11 lists it as an individual gift apart from four others: apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, and teaching. This is something which is worthy to note because of how many of our modern churches operate. Most pastors in today’s churches, especially smaller churches, find themselves attempting to embody all five of the giftings Paul speaks of in Ephesians as a baseline for their ministry. Depending on the needs of the community, many pastors find themselves needing to call upon multiple other spiritual gifts as well.
When we start talking about spiritual gifts, most of the people I have talked to are relatively confident in one or two areas. It is rare indeed I talk to someone who feels confident in five or more areas. Take a moment and go back to last week’s post. How many of those spiritual gifts do you feel confident in? How many do you find yourself using each of them on a daily basis? Weekly? Monthly? This week we are going to take a look at the five gifts listed in Ephesians 4 and how they are not just for our local pastors but for everyone.
The first thing to clarify in talking about this gift is to make a distinction between the gift and the office. The office or title of apostle was given to a limited number of men chosen by Jesus (Mark 3:13-19; Romans 1). These men were given the authority by Jesus to lay the foundation of what it meant to live a life of faith now that the Messiah had come and paid the price for the sin of all mankind. In following the call to this work, they founded the Christian church, a task which included the writing of the New Testament Scriptures. With that work completed, what does it mean to have the spiritual gift of apostleship in today’s world?
The most common way this gift is expressed is known as church planting. But it isn’t just about starting new churches, it is about starting and establishing new ministries which allow the Gospel to be shared and reach people who were not previously being reached. This could mean spearheading a new ministry within your local church which reaches out to unchurched people in your town or it could mean dedicating your life to living in a foreign country and sharing the Gospel with your Muslim/Hindu/Atheist neighbor. The key in understanding the gift of apostleship in our modern setting is embracing the call to be involved in starting something new which reaches someone new. It might be as an ordained minister, a full time missionary, the head of a para-church organization, or as someone who plays a key role in enabling someone to do one of those roles full time.
No, we are not talking about crystal balls and the ability to predict an individual’s future. What we are talking about is the ability to clearly communicate a message from God to people. It is interesting to note that this is the one gift which is mentioned in all three of the scripture passages we are looking at when determining our list of spiritual gifts. Clearly, God wants to communicate with us as much as possible. This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, much of the Old Testament is comprised of the writing of prophets who are sharing the message God has given them to speak to people in their time. God, from the start, has deeply desired to be in relationship with his creation.
The gift of prophecy remains rather similar today. What is challenging is how to sort out the false prophets from those who are sharing something God wants his people to hear. It isn’t hard to think of false prophets such as cult leaders or those who claim to know the date the world will end. So how do you know if a word or message is prophetic or not? First and foremost, it will neither supersede nor contradict Scripture, it will uplift it. If something is out of line with the Bible, or if what someone is saying is “in addition” to what is said in the Bible, that person is not speaking using the spiritual gift of prophecy. Secondly, consider the intended audience. As with all spiritual gifts, its primary purpose should be build up the Church, the entire body of Christ. Again, we are not talking about fortune telling. We are not talking about getting the answers to the questions one might have about their specific future. We are talking about individuals, congregations, communities, and even the world-wide church being called to live the life God has called them to live. Nathan was called to speak a message to King David. Jonah was called to speak a message to people of Ninevah. Isaiah was called to speak a message to the Jewish people. Are you open to sharing a message from God?
For me, the word evangelist almost automatically brings up images of Billy Graham and memories of the crusade I attended with my mom and my aunt in my early teens. For a generation of American Christians, the work of Billy Graham, and the association he founded, has defined what it means to be an evangelist is today’s world. Why? Because he had an extraordinary gift for evangelism. He was able to share the Gospel in a clear, simple way to which thousands of people responded. The stories of people hearing him speak and then going on to become true disciples of Christ, living an active Christian faith in their local churches and communities, are too numerous to count.
However, you don’t have to be speaking in large stadiums to crowds of hundreds of people to have the gift of evangelism. Evangelism isn’t about huge crowds and inspiring hundreds and thousands of people to dedicate their lives to Christ. It is about being able to share the truth of who God is and what He has done for us in a way in which people understand and embrace. It’s the Sunday School or Confirmation teacher who shares in such a way that kids are able to understand. It’s the person who is able to easily and naturally talk to their neighbor about their faith. It’s the person who does the puppet shows and skits for your children’s ministry so kids are engaging with the Gospel. The evangelist doesn’t have to have a big audience, they just need to be able to communicate with the audience they are given.
As a spiritual gift, the ability to pastor or shepherd someone is to assume care and responsibility for the spiritual growth and welfare of a group of believers. When you think about the office or job of being a pastor, this is a key gift most churches would look for and so it is easy to think of the gift and the job being one and the same. But that line of reasoning actually greatly limits the expression of the gift.
Someone who has the gift of pastor or shepherd is someone who is sure to call and check up on those they haven’t seen for a while. They are the people who are willing to come alongside those who are struggling in some way and really walk alongside them, inviting others into the journey as needed and appropriate. They those who invest the time in others to mentor them or lead a small group Bible study. It isn’t uncommon to find people with this gift choosing a career in the counseling field.
Additionally, the pastor of a church doesn’t not necessarily have the spiritual gift of pastor or shepherd. Perhaps the congregation has many within its ranks who have this gift and so would be better served by a pastor who has a strong gift of teaching, or evangelism. Perhaps more than any of the other gifts we are talking about today, we must remember that the gift of pastor is not about the title but it is about God calling you to invest in a specific way in the lives of others in your community. Are you being called to care for the spiritual needs of others?
Perhaps one of the greatest teachers I currently know is a card maker named Belle. Belle loves not only to make cards for her family and friends but to teach others how to do the same. I met Belle by going to her house one evening for an event called “Stamp Camp.” Throughout her kitchen, living room, and dining room she had ten different stations prepared with instructions on how to make ten different cards. She would spend the evening wandering among the tables, explaining how to use different tools and demonstrating different skills, and everyone walked away with ten cards which looked professionally done. She truly finds joy when someone walks away excited about learning something new.
Just as the gift of pastor isn’t limited to those who have the title of pastor, the gift of teacher isn’t limited to those with title of teacher. The spiritual gift of teaching is the ability to guide others in learning about God and what it means to live a life of faith. While many with this gift are you Sunday school volunteers, people with the gift of teacher are also writers and one-on-one mentors. They might be creating videos or guiding couples through marriage prep. The settings and circumstances to use the gift of teacher are wide and varied, so if you feel like you have this gift, don’t limit yourself to just one experience.
To wrap up this post, I want to re-visit the idea of the super pastor phenomenon happening in our churches today. The gifts listed in Ephesians 4 are most often the ones we assume of our local pastor. We assume they are able to start up new churches and ministries as needed, they are always have a special message from God on Sunday, they are responsible for preaching in such a way that when you bring a friend to church they will dedicate their lives to following Jesus, they are able to deeply care for each and every person’s spiritual needs, and they can teach the faith to all ages and personalities which walk through the doors of the church building. That’s a lot. I’m sure there are one or two pastors out there who God has gifted to be able to do all of that, but I’m also sure that within the local church community, there are multiple people who are gifted in one or more of these areas who are called to be part of the ministry of their church.
I want to leave you with a couple of questions to ponder. Which of these five gifts is likely the strongest in your pastor’s life? Do you feel like you have been given one of these five gifts? If so, how can you use it to build up your local church? Do you see someone who has one of these five gifts in your local church who isn’t the pastor? How can you encourage them to use their gift in the local church?
If you don’t feel like you have been gifted with one of these five gifts, don’t stress about it. These are not the only five gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are simply the first five we are taking a look at in this series. Stick with us as we explore additional gifts in the weeks ahead.