The Primacy of Pastor

The Primacy of Pastor February 6, 2015

John lets loose here a bit, and I support him. Too many who don’t know what pastoring is are trying to refashion what pastoring is supposed to be. He (and I) could give names but won’t.

The Primacy of Pastor (by John Frye)

You would think that with all the second-guessing about and dismissal of who a pastor is and what a pastor does that the five-fold gifting mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 is also mentioned from cover to cover in the Bible. Sorry, it’s not. It’s listed one time. And you would think that with all the spiritual wizardry and exegetical technology that spins out of the so-called five-fold gifting that the term “pastor” is a throw-away term, not worthy of the trendy entrepreneurial discussions about how best to lead the church. But is the term pastor (shepherd) nothing more than so much biblical Styrofoam? Sorry, it’s not.

In Genesis 48:15 Jacob did not say that the God of his fathers had been an apostle to him, or an evangelist, or a prophet, or a teacher. No. He said ‘pastor’ (shepherd, see Genesis 49:24). What qualified David as a good king was his pastoral training, i.e., he was a shepherd (Psalm 78:70-72). God was not angry with Israel’s leaders (Ezekiel 34) because they were inadequate apostles, evangelists, prophets or teachers. “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves.’” What was God’s remedy? Did he raise up a great Apostle? Did he promise a great Prophet or a sterling Evangelist or fascinating Teacher? “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd (pastor)” (Ezekiel 34:23).

Jesus didn’t say, “I am the good Apostle or Evangelist or Teacher or Prophet.” Jesus said, “I am the good Pastor” (John 10:11, 14). The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus the Great Pastor, and Peter hails Jesus as the Chief Pastor. Do we see a trend here in the Bible? Did not Paul exhort church leaders in Ephesus to “be pastors” of God’s flock (Acts 20:28). And what’s up with Peter who himself was an apostle? At least, he could have picked up on the five-fold gifting and commanded the church leaders to be apostles (those keen entrepreneurs) or be evangelists or prophets or teachers. But no. Peter, himself an apostle, exhorts them to be pastors (1 Peter 5:2). When Jesus the Chief Apostle returns we leaders will get our reward from him. Uh, no. Jesus is not the Chief Apostle; he is the Chief Shepherd.

I have only referenced a few texts that put the primacy of church leadership squarely on the shoulders of pastors. I am so tired of good women and men who are persevering in the demanding calling of pastor being demoralized by the latest wizards of the new ecclesiology. Pastors have a biblically pronounced center place in local church life. They don’t need to be badgered by silly potshots like, “Well, who exalted you, pastor, above the other four gifts?” That kind of atrocious question tips the hand of the one asking. Maybe, just maybe, it could be Jesus.

Someone might be thinking that I have a huge chip on my shoulder about this. You may be on to something. Yet, it’s not really a chip on my shoulder as much as an ache in my heart. Every generation comes along, evaluates the church, gripes about her weaknesses, and thinks, “We will do church better. We will see new things no one has ever seen before.” To lift one text from Ephesians 4 and make it into God’s newly discovered master plan for the whole church is sheer arrogance in my book. Wow, look! Creative theological technology kicks into high gear and, viola!, we can market new things and new books and new programs. Wading around in sheep shit is just not too cool for the trend-setters.

Browse Our Archives