“It was He who gave some to be… pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11, 12)
Have you ever wondered why God gave certain word-gifts to the church, particularly the gift of pastor-teachers? We will soon be force to think seriously about this question. I am being reassigned to the area of theological education and someone else will be called to replace me as the pastor-teacher in Ashfield. What will you expect him to do?
Well, here Paul tells us that the task of a pastor-teacher is to ‘prepare’ the congregation ‘for the work of ministry,’ or as the NIV translates it, “for works of service.” In other words, the pastor-teacher has the function of equipping the members of the congregation to perform the tasks which God has prepared for them to do.
Now let’s think a little further about the word ‘equip’ or ‘prepare.’ In the original Greek, the word is katatismon. We get the English word ‘artisan’ from it. An artisan is someone who makes or builds things. The New Testament first uses this word when it mentions that the disciples were ‘mending’ their nets on the shore of Galilee. They were getting ready to fish by making sure that their nets were ‘prepared’ or ‘equipped’ for the task.
So this word, katatismon, which Paul uses in Ephesians 4:12, suggests that the role of a pastor-teacher is to mend the saints and get them ready to do God’s work. His task is to make them what they ought to be. Perhaps the nearest modern equivalent is to help them ‘shape up.’
Of course, this raises the next question: how is this preparation to be done? A moment’s reflection should remind us that the instrument God uses is His word. The task of pastor-teachers, therefore, is to proclaim the word which they received from the apostles.
This explains why the teaching and preaching of the Scriptures within the church is so important – it prepares the church to perform its ministry. Ministers are not primarily priests who celebrate sacraments, or social workers who run relief programs, or psychologists who offer counselling programs, or CEOs who run an ecclesiastical business. The pastor’s duty is to preach and teach the word to the congregation so that they will experience personal growth that will enable them to engage in a variety of good works in their own right.
This means that the central task of a Presbyterian minister, or any minister for that fact, is to be a minster of the word of God. He is not meant to be an entertainer, or a fundraiser, or a property developer, for that matter. His task is to feed the flock. He does that through good Bible teaching. A faithful pastor devotes his ministry to preaching through all the Scriptures in order to nourish and feed people’s souls so that they will be ready to do the work that God has appointed for them.
There is no better way of doing this than by using the expository method of preaching. This means that a minister should set himself the task of preaching through a book or section of the Bible and apply everything it teaches to people’s lives. Only then will the church receive a balanced presentation of the truth that will really prepare them to undertake the tasks and responsibilities which God wants them to do as the church.