God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the reasons found in Ephesians 4:11-16. In the New Testament, the word "apostle" [ambassador of the Gospel]1 appears more than seventy five times, while "prophet" [inspired speaker]2 appears almost one hundred fifty times. "Evangelist" [preacher of the Gospel]3 can be found in only three places. "Teacher" [instructor]4 occurs in ten places, while "doctor" and "Master," also translated from the same Greek word, can be found in other verses.
Although there are thousands of pastors in churches today, the word "pastors" appears only ONCE in the New Testament, in Ephesians 4. The word "pastor" is translated from the Greek word for "shepherd," which is used as a literal shepherd of sheep in four places and figuratively as a shepherd of people in thirteen places.
Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep. But the hired servant (he who merely serves for wages) who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away. And the wolf chases and snatches them and scatters [the flock]. Now the hireling flees because he merely serves for wages and is not himself concerned about the sheep [cares nothing for them]." (John 10:11-13 Amplified). Unless a shepherd is called by God, equipped by God, and caring for the flock in truth, he is a mere hireling and cares more about himself than the sheep. He is a flesh pastor, and will be held accountable for exposing the flock to wolves that scatter them.
A true shepherd must feed the sheep and lead them to the great Shepherd. As in the example laid out by Jesus, the shepherd's role is to see that not one is missing from the fold. And it does not mean "always in church for every service." The true fold is the Shepherd's fold. Jesus is the true Shepherd, but He became a Lamb and gave His life so that His fold might be full. The names of those in His fold can be found in the Lamb's Book of Life.
The revisers of the bible in the late 1800's used the more correct word "shepherd" rather than "pastor" in Jeremiah, which is the only book in the Old Testament where "pastor" can be found. "'Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!' saith the LORD. Behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings. . . . And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase." (Jeremiah 23:1, 2b, 3 KJV). Jeremiah also wrote, "For the shepherds are become brutish [stupid]5, and have not inquired of the LORD: therefore they have not prospered, and all their flocks are scattered." (Jeremiah 10:21). Would God be any less harsh in His words to pastors today who scatter the sheep instead of feeding them? There are hungry souls going from church to church looking for bread from the Lord, but are they finding the true Bread of Life?
If God's messengers are to speak words of Life to the hearers, they must speak under the inspiration of God. A prophet is one who "speaks by inspiration" as the Hebrew language shows.6 A man may not be seen as a "prophet," but before he speaks as a man of God, he must first have been with God to receive that "inspiration." The LORD gives a warning not to listen to false prophets, saying, "They teach you vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility) and fill you with vain hopes; they speak a vision of their own minds and not from the mouth of the Lord. . . Behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their [own deceitful] tongues and say, Thus says the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:16b, 31 Amplified). Although these words were spoken regarding the prophets of Israel, the same words would apply today because God is still the same God. Regardless of their title, every man and woman called of God has a solemn responsibility to seek God's face for the words He would have them speak. If they speak a vision of their own minds, using their tongues to say "He says," they are answerable to God Almighty.
How many are there who lead people to believe the words they speak are God's words, when in reality they are the empty, barren words of false prophets? If God's Word (Jesus Christ) is not taught in purity, the teacher is ministering death to the hearers. Without the Life of God, flesh will remain flesh and will certainly decay (perish).
A.W. Tozer said, "The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics--but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear."7 Unless a pastor is willing to go the way of the Cross, his words will be meaningless and Lifeless.
Paul told Timothy to diligently present himself approved unto God, a teacher who needs not to be ashamed, correctly expounding the word of truth. He cautions Timothy to "shun profane babblings, for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene." (2 Timothy 2:16-17a). Is the church gangrenous because of the Lifeless messages being preached?
Just as God created the human body and breathed His breath [spirit]8 into it to give it life, He must continually breathe Life into the Body of Christ. Without the breath of God--His Spirit--the Ekklesia will die. Because of their lack of understanding, Jesus' disciples struggled when He taught them that He was to be their Life. So He reminded them, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63 NKJV).
Without pure water to drink, the human body will become dehydrated. Once dehydrated, it will begin to degenerate and will eventually die. The church has become dehydrated and has the degenerative disease called "flesh." Before it is eternally too late, the Church must come and drink of the Living Water which only Jesus Christ can provide. Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit, Whom He would send to be Life in all who put their trust in Him, when He said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37b-38 NKJV). If a minister truly is born from above, "out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water." And the thirst of the hearers will be satisfied--there will be no dehydration.
The works of God
A minister's greatest work is to nurture an intimate relationship with Jesus and have complete faith in the Living God. Out of that relationship will come fruit which God values because it is of Him. When Jesus was in Capernaum, the people were looking for Him. When they found Him, He told them that they sought Him because of physical food. They were fascinated, but not moved, when He performed signs to prove Who He was--their only interest was in satisfying their flesh. Then He admonished them not to labor for food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life. The people then asked Jesus what they must do to work the works of God, and His answer was simple: "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (John 6:29 NKJV). To do the work of God is to have faith [believe]9 in Him whom He sent, but the apostate church has forsaken relationship in pursuit of works of the flesh.
In this age of apostasy, there is an abundance of "ministers." They may be known by any number of titles, depending on their religious affiliation/denomination, education, elevated position in the church, or even their own desire to be somebody. The latter would most likely be the hireling of whom Jesus spoke. Do people not realize the danger of going into ministry for any reason other than a true calling of God, and submission to His will and His ways?
No minister makes the decision to become a false teacher. But he is a false teacher if he relies on his own flesh and traditions handed down by others, rather than seek the face of God.
The Apostle Paul said that not many wise "according to the flesh," or mighty, or noble are called by God. Rather, He chooses the lowly and the weak to put to shame the high and mighty. And He chooses the despised and those who are nothing to bring to nothing those who think they ARE something. His reason is this: "that no flesh should glory in His presence." But Paul gives hope, saying that when we are in Christ, He is our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption.10 Sadly, many churches still desire a pastor who is "wise, mighty, and noble" according to fleshly standards.
Jesus' words in Luke 16:15 say it all: ". . .THAT WHICH IS EXALTED AMONG MEN IS AN ABOMINATION IN THE SIGHT OF GOD." If people are exalting their beloved Reverend Pastor--and he is allowing it--he is "an abomination in the sight of God." These are strong words, but God will not share His glory with flesh and blood.
Touching God's anointed
Over the last century or more, there has been a growing tendency to place the pastor above the people, keeping them in fear of "touching God's anointed." In the absence of discernment, those seen as God's "anointed" (as they are perceived to be) include both hirelings and those called by God.
The correct context of "do not touch my anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm" is recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:22. A covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them the land of Canaan for their inheritance when they were very few in number. "When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no one to do them wrong; yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, saying, 'Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.'" (NKJV). We must not take a portion of a sentence and use it to control subordinates in the Body of Christ. The remnant will be made up of those who have allowed self to be crucified--there will be no "subordinates" and no "lords."
Due to ignorance of the role that flesh plays in the church, man has been led to believe all ministers are of God's choosing, placed above the people to rule over His church. Even the title "Reverend" is of man's design. And pastors are revered when ALL reverence belongs to God alone. Have some pastors even become idols to people, all because flesh has not been crucified?
1. Greek #652
2. Greek #4396
3. Greek #2099
4. Greek #1320
5. Hebrew #1197, #1198
6. Hebrew #5012
7. The Pursuit of Man, by A.W. Tozer
8. Genesis 2:7
9. Greek #4100
10. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31