Purpose of this Session
As with all of the ascension gift ministries, Jesus Christ is our leader and example. From his Shepherd heart, the pastoral ministry will flow. Essentially, those called to pastoral ministry in the Body of Christ are His under-shepherds, fulfilling His caring and teaching ministry to the flock.
· God the Father Himself is portrayed as the Shepherd of His people (Isa 40:9-11; Ps 23:1; 68:7; Zech 13:7)
· Jesus is referred to as:
- The One Shepherd (Ezek 34:23)
- The Good Shepherd (John 10:10)
- The Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20)
- The Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
- The Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)
Jesus is the great shepherd of our souls, the Pastor of the Church, the feeder and protector of His people.
He is portrayed in John chapter 10 as the one who lays His own life down for the sheep, the one who comes to give them life in abundance, and protect them from those who would seek their harm.
It is through Him that the sheepfold of Israel, and the ‘other sheep’ (v16) of the Gentiles, are brought together into one fold under the Father. He is further shown to be one with whom the individual sheep are intimately acquainted, knowing His voice from all others, and whom they trust and follow.
This is our Lord, Jesus Christ. His Shepherd’s heart flows through all of the ministries in His Church, whatever they are. In many ways this ministry displays the heart of our God; a heart of love, concern, care and aggressive protection of His own.
Pastors - Christ’s Undershepherds
“I WARN and counsel the elders among you (the pastors and spiritual guides of the church) as a fellow elder and as an eyewitness [called to testify] of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a sharer in the glory (the honour and splendour) that is to be revealed (disclosed, unfolded):
Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonourably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully;
Not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation).
And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the conqueror’s crown of glory.”
(1Peter 5:1-4 AMP)
Christ has given men and women with a distinctive pastoral calling to His Body to perpetuate and conduct His shepherding functions in the Body of Christ on earth. It is His heart that should beat in the bosom of the pastors, who are effectively the undershepherds of the Chief Shepherd Himself.
As with other New Testament ministries the Scriptures indicate a plurality of shepherds in the Body, “..He gave some pastors”. The pattern of a solitary pastor at the helm of the church is something we do not see in the New Testament*. Instead we see a plurality of elders and deacons, and a five fold team, carrying responsibility for the church together under Christ’s leadership. Together with these other essential ministries, the shepherds in a local body of believers carry Christ’s burden to feed, care for, guide and protect the sheep of God’s pasture.
*It is worth noting that although the Protestant reformation brought with it significant doctrinal reform, it failed to address ecclesiastical structures with the same violence. The pre-eminent place of the Catholic priest or bishop, and the concept of a ‘professional’ clergy caste, continues even today, with the pastor or vicar replacing the priest as the primary personality in many passive congregations. In reality, the Biblical pattern is one of every member in active ministry, being dynamically trained by a plurality of gifted and anointed leaders. One of these ministries, co-equal with others and together with other shepherding ministries within the church, is the five-fold Pastor.
There is a startling absence in the New Testament of titular authority (authority based on organisational position and title). Not one of the 48 churches mentioned in the New Testament (house church or otherwise) had one man or woman over them. No one in the New Testament was ever called ‘pastor’, or addressed by that title! Pastoring refers to the function of the man or woman anointed to shepherd God’s flock in cooperation with other ministries in the Body of Christ, it is not an ‘office’ or position – it is a function.
To call someone pastor so-and-so is unbiblical. We do not call someone plumber George, or bank manager Bill. We understand that there is a distinction between the person and their job or function – so with the pastor.
Jesus tells us to be careful of flattering titles in Matthew 23:6-10
“..and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 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.” (Matthew 23:6-10 KJV)
Would he not equally say, call no man pastor, for one is your Shepherd, even Christ?
There is no place for titles and appellations such as bishop, mother, reverend, pastor, cardinal, vicar, general, major, captain or any such thing.
The five fold and other leadership roles in the Body of Christ are functional, not titular. There is no such thing as a position called pastor, apart from the man who functions in the anointing of a pastor. It is not a position to be filled, it is a person who is filled (with the Holy Ghost) and placed within the Body to function as a shepherd.