The first part of this article was aimed at attempting to get people to think out of the box and see scripture without the assumptions it generally tends to be taught with. I plan to really zero in on the meat of the article. However, I need to say something before I go on. I am NOT looking to encourage finger-pointing or fault finding. That is all too easy to do and a breeding ground for hypocrisy. While we should be unafraid to break free of bondage from any quarter, whether denominational or not, I am hoping that individuals, like you and I, will be able to find their roles in the body AND function. There is no point if there is no edification. So let me try to clarify these giftings.
First, the word ‘apostle’ means one is one who is ‘sent out’. Paul always started his letters with ‘Paul an apostle of Jesus…’. Several definitions include ‘an individual who plants the Christian faith in new places’, as well as ‘one who has the ability to build spiritual communities’.
These definitions, as well as a study of Paul’s life, help to clarify the apostolic function. It is a gift that triggers an individual (or individuals) to GO OUT with God-given passion, to bring God’s word to people, to foster and build NETWORKS aimed at BUILDING body life. He/She may tend to be adventurous, have a knack for trying new things and tends to be project person. (I say this at the risk of people thinking in terms of process-centric organisational projects, which are never the best model to imitate with regards to the workings of God’s body – his people.) Apostles like to ‘build’ and like Paul said, ‘lay the foundation’. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 1 Corinthians 3:10
The reality is that many denominations are started by ‘pastors’ who are really apostles. They like projects, they like to build and in isolation, tend to like order and structure. A circle of believers RUN by ONLY apostolic individual MAY have problems because of the love for structure – and that is why this role is complimented by THE PROPHET.
A prophet is one who does two major things, amongst others. He gives INSPIRED thoughts and foretells future events. Sorry if I burst your bubble but a prophet does not always sit in hermit-like silence waiting for God to send his next vision, while he froths at the mouth and has a weird stare. Now, just before you laugh, Ezekiel, an Old Testament prophet, had to do some very weird stuff – and prophets can be weird. Why, you ask? You see they live between two realities and dancing between two contrasting worlds can make you seem a tad loony sometimes! Prophets give inspired preaching; they help the body get aware of things happening in the spiritual, what God may be saying at certain points. Because he is led by the Spirit who is not rigid and has been compared to wind, he brings balance and challenges RELIGION when he is really in tune with God. I think ACTIVE and TRUE prophets are in very short supply our day.
Point to note, every prophecy must be judged by scripture when given to an individual, and when said out loud in a gathering, two to three ELDERS are to judge and determine if it aligns with scripture. The same goes for shouting out in ‘tongues’. If there is no interpreter, shut up your mouth…or do the whisper! Simple. Prophets may be radical by nature, having a strength of personality that is needed to go against the tide when they see things that others do not see. They may also have lone spells as it is easier to get spiritual clarity when away from the general din.
Now, when apostles lay foundations and kick-start a move, and prophets compliment them, it becomes necessary to deepen understanding, and this is where teachers come in. They like to analyse, read, explore, and ask ‘why’, ‘when’, ‘how’, ‘what’ – and are generally created CURIOUS! From taking time to learn and study, and by virtue of the drive they possess, when they explain scripture, you have an ‘aha’ moment. They can help the body understand concepts. So much of the catastrophe we have to deal with come from people who try to force themselves into roles that they are not made for. There are times you sit listening to a preacher who is ‘teaching’, and you realise that he is completely off the mark again and again – but suddenly you notice that when he starts to appeal to those who may not be in line with God, powerful passion comes from nowhere that makes him convincing, simply because he has other giftings, - but not the gift of teaching. The teacher has a drive to know, to learn, has the ability to flesh concepts, to see symmetries, to understand and to explain in a way that is enlightening.
Then we have the Pastor.
A pastor is a spiritual shepherd BUT that term, 'shepherd', has been bastardised. The reason is that there is actually only ONE shepherd, one GOOD shepherd – and that is Christ. And all of us are brethren. John 10:16 “ And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd”. You see, E.A Adeboye, Chris Oyakhilome, T.D Jakes, you and I are ALL BRETHREN and none is above the other. However, a pastor’s shepherd tendencies refer to the affection he has for the sheep, NOT about being able to 'LEAD' or stand in front of them. A hireling can do just that. He may look or sound like a shepherd, but how do you know when he is NOT a shepherd?
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. John 10:12 – 13
So how do you know a pastor, from scripture? Let me use this weird explanation. If a pastor doesn’t learn from others about managing his resource, he tends to end up being broke a lot of the time. Why, you ask? You see, a pastor is ready to spend and be spent for those he MINISTERS to. He, unlike the Apostle or Prophet, has a greater tendency to micromanage. The church (not the denomination) suffers because many (ordained) ‘pastors’ do not have this passion, and many real pastors are not ordained, and remain unaware that they are really pastors and should go ahead and function in that nurturing capacity.
I heard of a story about a popular ‘pastor’. There was a major program coming up and funds were being allocated for the program. Now, one of his PA’s told him that his wife needed heart surgery, but could not afford it. Because of the coming ‘gospel concert’ no funds were given to the PA’s wife. She died on the day the concert began. Well, here is my personal opinion (and God knows way better than I do). That ‘pastor’ though popular, is not a pastor. You see, a pastor’s shepherding instinct would not be able to let that happen to his sheep. A pastor is not OVER his sheep. He is a PART of the sheep but has a duty to care for them because he is one of several sheep that is imbued with capacity for caring and nurturing – and compliments the roles of others who are a part of the flock.
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Matt 23: 8-12
The problem is these days, we have a lot of ‘shepherds’ who have acquired a taste and craving for sheep barbeque.
How does a pastor function? A pastor is caring and nurturing, will have no inhibitions about using time and resource to help others in the body, and is wary about false teachings. He is the one who likes to settle quibbling, will pray for others (Note: I did not say call for prayer meetings), will feel sensitive to the emotionally wounded – and he often finds out, if he is ordained a pastor, that he is inadequate. You can’t have enough hands and that is why many TRUE pastors are in the body of Christ, but are not ordained - and are not functioning. And that is why denominational leaders are swamped with handling too much, so much so that their families tend to suffer. THIS WAS NOT THE DESIGN GOD HAD IN MIND! Every gathering has a pool of complementary gifting, but people do nothing because they don’t know or have been taught to lean on a man for direction, nourishment, growth and everything else. That is not organic living. It is parasitism.
That leaves the evangelist. Phillips is the only person in the New Testament who is specifically called an evangelist. He also had daughters who were prophetesses. Must have been an interesting family! An evangelist is a man-on-the-move. He declares the gospel to the unreached, not really concerned about setting up a lasting system, but wanting people to hear and be convinced. He tends to be armed with miracles and a radical mindset, because he needs it. You see, unlike most of the others, he is a ‘field worker’. So right after Phillip preached to the Eunuch, he was teleported! How cool!!!
So picture this. An evangelist goes out to preach to a tribe somewhere. He is accompanied by an Apostle. The evangelist moved off, but like Paul, the Apostle stays for a while encouraging the saints and facilitating fellowship because in a few weeks he will LEAVE them to stand alone. Yes. Trusting God to KEEP those he called, Paul left them leaderless and thriving only on communion and fellowship!
Go on, read Acts again. Like I say in most articles of mine, don’t believe me. Do find out for yourself.
Paul would set up ACTUAL churches and these leaderless groups thrived as ministry gifts came to the fore. He would return or send letters to them much later to appoint elders who would be people they knew to be godly and mature based on real knowledge gained from fellowship and interactions. Teachers among them would study scripture (remember the Bereans) and prophets and pastors in these gatherings would grow in their gifting because there was room to express them.
Like a living system it was meant to be, evangelists bring about expansion and growth, apostles co-ordinate, prophets are the defence mechanism, pastors nurture and heal, while teachers increase intelligence. The result is everyone is built up – or using old English ‘EDIFIED’. These roles do not need offices or nifty titles. Chances are, YOU reading this have one or more of these gifts. So if a brother goes out of line, like Peter did and was blasted by Paul, because he is your brother, you can say ‘Shut up, Mr. Pastor!’, as long as he is a pastor.
If you can’t say that in genuine love, though, you can always send a well-written email.
Goodness and mercy shall follow you – and may you REMAIN a house of the Lord all your life