Pastors, Prophets and Teachers

The other night we were sitting at a dinner table with a couple and we were talking about previous preachers and teachers we had the chance to be ministered to by and how different they were from each other. We did so in light of the following passage:

“[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” Eph 4:11-12 (ESV)

During our conversation I made the point that it is very important for us as Christians to understand these different gifts and how they look and function inside the church. As church members, understanding these differences will help with some frustrations we may experience inside our churches.

Elders Not Pastors
So, let me start by saying that the correct title for those who lead the church is actually elder, not pastor. While the bible gives us guidelines for what an elder should look like and the basic abilities they should have, every elder will look and function very differently from each other.

Now not every elder will have an Ephesians 4 gift and not every person that has an Ephesians 4 gift will be an elder. But I am willing to bet that 75% of elders (maybe more) are gifted in some way according to Ephesians 4.

In saying all that, let me give you a very brief definition of each gift. These are not thorough definitions but enough to show contrasts between each.

-Apostle- a missionary, a sent one.
-Prophet- speaks under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, both for individuals and churches.
-Evangelist – has the ability to preach the gospel to the lost and see lives changed.
-Pastor – displays patience and compassion in dealing with the brokenness of people.
-Teacher – has the ability to teach the truths of scripture in such a way that bring understanding to people.

Different gifts, Different Strengths
I define these because the man who is teaching you on Sunday may not be a great pastor(as defined above), but a stunning teacher or prophet. When it comes to helping care for your brokenness and helping you steer through it they may fall short, not because they don’t want to but because they are really a teacher.

Another example is just because you feel you are called to pastor people doesn’t mean you are called to be the primary communicator to a group of people. You honestly may not be a gifted teacher or communicator. You would probably do better as a small group leader or a lay counselor.

We could make many more contrasts but the main point is that every gift has its place and when each gift functions in its place the church does exactly as Ephesians says

“[16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Eph 4:16 (ESV)

Cross Pollination
Now this doesn’t mean that a good pastor can’t boldly preach like an evangelist or that a prophet can’t become a great pastor. Because if each gift is equipping people, each gift will learn from each other and train others to be more like them as well.

So What Does This Mean
Church folk, learn that every elder(pastor) is not gifted the same and that we can’t put burdens on leaders that are unrealistic. Not every elder is the best communicator, not every elder is the most compassionate, not every elder has a prophetic word.

If you’re looking for someone that can be all that for you then you’re really looking for Jesus. He is the apostle sent from Heaven, the prophet who shows us the way, the evangelist who won our hearts, the shepherd who leads us, and the teacher who helps us understand. An elder can not be Jesus, they can only lead you to HIM.

Look around your church and see the diversity in the leaders around you and understand what each person’s gifts and strengths are. The burden of leading and caring for God’s people is not laid upon one person but rather a group of people called elders. Good and thriving churches understand these differences and create spaces for their elders and leaders to function.

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