Switching Places

teaching_preaching_church_teachersI have a thought and I’d like to share it with you. You might laugh at it, but I hope you will indulge me for a couple of minutes and hear me out.

It has to do with the Five-fold Ministers, particularly the pastors and teachers.

In practically every church, there are pastors and teachers. In fact, for many decades, the “teaching gift” has been the more prominent gift in the church. Only recently did the offices of the apostle and prophet emerge out of oblivion.

While pastors do teach, many churches also have lay (non-salaried) teachers. They serve in various ministries of the church.

In more traditional churches, there might be only one pastor but a few teachers. But today, in the era of mega-churches, it is common for a church to have many pastors and teachers.

But how many teachers does a church need? I would think that one is sufficient. Have you heard of the saying, “Too many cooks spoil the soup”? Well, many teachers in a church will confuse the flock because, inadvertently, each one will have a different slant in their theology or teaching style. Lets look at one Biblical example.

The believers at Corinth had the privilege of having many teachers. It was supposed to be a good thing. Having more teachers should have made the Corinthians believers more informed and mature. Instead, they were plagued with ignorance, strife and division. Interestingly, they were not divided  along theological lines. Some claimed to follow Paul, others Apollos. Some were of Cephas, while others were of Christ (1 Cor 1:12). It was a popularity contest of sorts, and the more charismatic would have a larger following. Paul attributed this fiasco to the carnality of the believers (1 Cor 3:4).

This, I’m sure, will never happen in our churches because they are full of spiritually-minded believers. (Sarcasm).

Does this mean that no one in the church is allowed to teach except the pastor himself? Not at all. The pastor should be the primary or only source of doctrine for the church. All the teachers in the church must teach what he teaches. This was how Paul did it.

Being the apostle, Paul was the only source of doctrine for the churches he planted. In his absence, sometimes Timothy would play that role. Paul was concerned about the preservation of sound doctrine. So he commands Timothy to “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:13).

Think about it. Who is better qualified to be the resident Teacher of the flock than the pastor? He has undergone theological training and (believes) has the “gift of teaching”. Ask any pastor and he will tell you that his passion is, really, to teach and preach the Word of God. For this reason they were willing to make the necessary sacrifices and spend at least three years in a Bible School or Seminary. But, sadly, most of them find themselves having to fill a role after graduation they were not equipped to fill – that of a leader, a CEO. This is a discussion for another day, though.

If the pastor of the church is the resident Teacher, then who will pastor (shepherd) the flock of God?

To answer this question, I will turn to Paul the apostle again. I’m sure you would agree with me that he is one of the most, if not the most, successful church planter in history. He did not only start churches, he also raised up under-shepherds to care for the respective flocks. History tells us that none of these under-shepherds were paid by the church. They all had secular jobs.

Many churches organize their members into small groups led by a lay person. They go by different names, but that’s okay. Most of the time, the purpose of these small groups is for fellowship and accountability, though some are Bible study groups or special interest groups. For the groups that gather for fellowship and accountability, shepherding is the order of the day. The leaders of these groups are effectively pastors.

I used to be one of the pastors in a mega Cell Church. The Zone that I was overseeing was over 200-strong, with 25 Cell Groups. Each group was led by a lay Cell Group leader. A cluster of 4-5 Cells had a Zone Supervisor overseeing them. All of them, the Cell Leaders and Zone Supervisors, were the real pastors of the Zone. I was therefore able to devote myself to “prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4); something that many pastor struggle to find time for.

Does this mean that these “pastors” do not teach at all? No.

One of the criteria for the selection of an Overseer is that he must be “apt to teach”. Simply put, he has the passion to impart knowledge and wisdom. Coupled with the other criteria that he must be married (to one wife) and has raised his children well. This quality is indicative of his ability to teach well. Mind you, we are not talking about oratory skills. We are talking about heart, the heart of a parent.

Do all parents professional public speakers? Do they need to be in order to be good parents? Certainly not. But each of them are responsible for teaching their own children (Deut 6:6-7). They are to impart every bit of knowledge and accumulated wisdom to their children so that they will not repeat the same mistakes their parents did. (Although some lessons are best learned the hard way.) For this reason, the lay leaders of the church – who are the pastors, really – do not need to have a theological education. They can, if they wish to.

With this new understanding of who Pastors and Teachers are, I believe that churches will do a better job at caring for and knowing the condition of the flock. This way, churches will find a solution to the manpower issues they constantly struggle with in hiring more and more pastors as the church grows in size.


One thought on “Switching Places

  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something which I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get
    the hang of it!


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