Pastor-Teacher

The Greek word translated as pastor is simply the word for a shepherd. A shepherd is a person who cares for a flock of sheep. He leads them to a place where they can find food and water. He keeps the flock together, so it is safe from attack. At the same time each sheep receives individual attention. Those that stray are brought back to the flock, and any sick sheep is healed. Each one is known by name.

The elder who is a pastor and teacher has two similar functions.

  • Formation of Character
  • Building Relationships

Formation of Character

The first is the formation of Christian character. In this every Christian receives individual care. Each one must be helped to grow to full Christian maturity, as measured by the stature of Christ. The elder does this by teaching the Word, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, binding up the broken-hearted, and releasing those who are captives of Satan. At the same time he must discipline those who wander from the true way. In Titus 2:15, Paul sums this up in three words: teach, encourage, rebuke. This is the work of the pastor and teacher.

At the same time elders must be careful not to dominate the lives of those whom they are discipling. It is very easy for young Christians to become too dependent on their elders. Instead each Christian should be taught to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Then by reading the Bible and following the leading of the Spirit he will be able to grow on his own (I John 2:27). The elder will then only need to exercise oversight; giving encouragement and correcting mistakes. The aim is for each Christian to grow to a level of maturity where he can walk in the Spirit, and not be too dependent on an elder.

The pastor and teacher must also release each believer into his ministry. The New Testament teaches that every believer has a ministry, or area of service to God. The elders must help each Christian to discern what his gifts are, and equip him for service in the ministry to which God has called him. The elder will teach and pray and lead by example, so that every member of the Church grows to maturity.

Building Relationships

The second function of the elder is to build relationships among Church members. Just as the shepherd keeps his flock together, so the elder will work to build up the whole body of believers. A Church is a group of believers who have been bound together in a closely-knit unity (Fellowship).  It is the responsibility of the elders to take a group of disciples, and build strong relationships between them. In this way the whole body is joined together, and grows and builds itself up in love.

This aspect of the pastor and teacher’s work is clearly demonstrated in Paul’s letters. A large part of them is devoted to building relationships. Paul is not just concerned about teaching doctrine, he also teaches the believers how to relate to each other. And often a whole chapter is given to strengthening his own relationship with the Church.

The Pastor’s work

The best example of an elder working as a pastor and teacher is the ministry of Jesus to his disciples. He chose twelve men and worked with them for three years (Mark 3:14). Each one of them was given individual attention. Jesus taught and trained them so that they would grow to maturity. At the same time he built strong relationships between the twelve. He prepared them to work as a unit once he was gone. This pattern should be followed by every elder who is a pastor and teacher.

Each Church should be ruled over by a number of elders. It is clear from the ministry of Jesus, that one elder cannot disciple more than twelve men. And where the men have wives and children, twelve may be too many. Each pastor and teacher would have responsibility for discipling a group of about ten men. He would help them grow to Christian maturity. The prophet would be responsible for discipling any potential prophets in the Church. The evangelist would take care of any budding evangelists. Each Church member would have a strong relationship with one of the elders.

The pastor-teacher would not necessarily hold a special meeting with those for whom he is responsible. Discipling would take place through regular contact during the normal meetings of the Church. The elder would also meet with each one individually when this was necessary. A pastor-teacher is not a cell-group leader but a person who has a strong relationship with a number of people in the Church. Discipling does not take place in a special group meeting, but within strong personal relationships in any situation. For example, the best way to disciple an evangelist is out in the world sharing the gospel together.

The elders would work together at their task. Because they each have different gifts and experience they would be able to complement each other. If an elder met a situation he could not handle, he would call on another who had the appropriate gifts. And each elder would be responsible to the other elders for the way he exercises his ministry.

Teaching

It is common today to make a distinction between the role of pastor and the role of teacher. This arises from a false understanding of what the New Testament means by "teaching". We mostly think of teaching as a transfer of information and skills. Modern teaching is usually a process whereby an expert passes on information to a group of students. They are quite free to ignore what is taught.

For the early Christians teaching was something quite different. They saw it as an activity involving personal direction and an exercise of authority. It took place within a relationship where the teacher had authority over the student. A student would submit himself to a teacher, whose lifestyle he admired. His aim would be to learn the way of life, and the truths which underlay it. So a teacher did not just give his views. He laid out what he expected the student to believe, and the way he expected him to live. So teaching in the New Testament was more like what we call "discipling". It included the formation of character.

We can see this in the way that Jesus taught his twelve disciples. He did not just impart information to them. By living in close proximity with them for three years, he developed a strong relationship with them. They submitted to Jesus and carried out all his instructions. He had complete authority over them. In this way he formed their lives into a likeness of his own. And throughout the New Testament, teaching takes place within a similar pastoral relationship. This means that the "pastor and teacher: is one ministry. Every teacher is a pastor, and every pastor is a teacher (I Timothy 3:2).

Preaching

In the modern church, preaching is over emphasised.  There is no indication in the New Testament that a pastor should have preaching skills.

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