Previously I submitted that one person may be endowed with the gifts of pastor and teacher (where the person is pastor) or these gifts may be distributed to distinct persons (where teachers only are involved). That is, all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. In this post I will address: How prominent should teaching be for those who are also called and gifted as pastors? Related questions include: Are pastors required to be highly skilled in the gift of teaching before they are recognized as pastor? If not, then how much skill in teaching should a pastor have? By what means is the effectiveness and quality of a pastor’s teaching measured?

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

—Ephesians 4:11-12

Before turning to this text and these questions, however, and in order to set the framework around the topic I wish to address, I’ve a few notes on the context and syntax of the surrounding pericope (Eph 4:7-16; see Frank Thielman‘s fine commentary on Ephesians for many of these findings).

  • Paul is listing gifts and not offices. Thus, the function of a member in the Body of Christ is what is stressed here, not a title or office. Emphasis is placed on activities that gifted individuals perform. It is activities and not positions that are stressed here. To confuse the two can result in considerable anachronistic errors in ecclesiology, which may find support from church history but not from Scripture.
  • Correspondingly, every member of Christ’s Body has a gift (Eph 4:7; 1 Cor 12:7, 11; Rom 12:4; 1 Pet 4:10) but not everyone holds an office or title. Of course, since all believers have gifts, and those who hold a recognized office or title are believers, then those who hold an office or title are gifted. Yet, the Body of Christ would be well served in keeping the gifts and the offices distinct, especially where Scripture does so.
  • Similarly, Paul’s burden is the role and ministry of all believers as it pertains to the unity and spiritual maturity of the Church, not simply to focus on a subset of persons who are specifically gifted (cf. especially the bookend effect of the language surrounding this pericope; 4:7 “to each one of us,” and again 4:16, “as each part”).
  • The “works of service” (“εἰς ἔργον διακονίας,” Eph 4:12) are performed not by a select few, but by every member; it is the few who are selected and gifted by Christ to enable and encourage all toward the penultimate goal “so that the body of Christ may be built up” (εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ). As Thielman writes:

    Its [Christ’s Body] foundation is the apostles and prophets, Christ is its guiding and crowning stone, and its building blocks are believers from both Jews and Gentiles…evangelists, pastors, and teachers are involved in addition to the apostles and prophets, and their job is to equip all believers (‘the saints’) to participate in the construction.” (p 280).

Christ has bestowed his gifts on the few for outfitting every member in his Church with the requisite tools for increasing spiritual maturity. “Each part” performs its “work of service” by deploying their gifts in the Church and in the world, which include pastoring and teaching.

But how much of each should leaders have before they are equipped to “gear up” the Body? Should pastors make teaching a priority, devoting a large part of their time and energy to study, or should pastoring take the foreground and teaching be relegated to second place in the daily grind of ministry? While there may be fewer concerns understanding the role of pastor (which has come to mean “people care”), what exactly is teaching? Is this just someone who can do a decent job speaking publicly about the Bible and motivate others to action?

I do wish I can point to clear biblical texts that answer these questions specifically, but I’m afraid I can only draw out principles from the Scriptures.

  1. Shocking though it may be, but in some broad sense all believers are or should be teachers (see Rom 15:14; 1 Cor 14:26; Col 3:16; Heb 5:12). This be true, then all pastors are or should be teachers, since all pastors are believers. Contrary to a consumer-driven culture, the Church is not a place to “sit and soak, but to serve….being a Christian means being a minister” (Arnold, p 274) and this ministry will take on the form of teaching, in the broadest sense.
  2. That said, how well or how much a pastor “pastors” versus “teaches” is not clearly spelled out in God’s Word. This is not to excuse anyone who is gifted as a pastor from the important and often arduous task of teaching. A gift of pastoring may be especially pronounced and publicly recognized over and above a person’s abilities to unpack details around a biblical text in the way an experienced exegete might.
  3. The gifts of teaching and pastoring are unique, though there is significant overlap. Whereas pastoring involves human interaction on a more personal level, teaching is primarily public in nature. A teacher may appreciate the import of parsing Greek verbs or analyzing the nuances of Christological controversies in church history, a pastor will typically identify practical needs or discern spiritual struggles while assisting others in finding resources to mend brokenness. It could be the case that a person’s brokenness is built upon a faulty teaching and so pastoring involves teaching (cf., 1 Cor 6:12-13).
  4. Conversely, teachers necessarily engage in pastoring minds and hearts by helping construct a holistic Christian world and life view. As I’ve said elsewhere everyone lives from the inside out and not only how we think matters, but so too does what we think matter. Our thought life dictates the course of action that we take. But a biblical model of teaching does not come full circle when others become merely informed. No amount of hermeneutically sound or theologically profound information can substitute for a life that is transformed, however gradually, by the the Scriptures. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (Jn 13:17). Though knowing precedes doing, it is blessing that results from implementation and every teacher worth their biblical salt must long for changed lives as well as enriched minds.
  5. It could be that teaching is involved in all 5 of the gifts mentioned from Eph 4:11. After all, every role (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) involves speaking and all teaching involves speaking. Ergo, all those who are pastors necessarily teach. Some might push back arguing that this commits the fallacy of ambiguity (a.k.a. suffering the death of a thousand qualifications) by imposing other tacit requirements, such as the property of “existence” before one could fulfill a role. Logic aside (dare I?), teaching is not so far removed from the context. To achieve “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” and to “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming,” one must continually be “speaking the truth in love,” which seemingly invokes some kind of teaching.
  6. Evaluating a pastor’s or a teacher’s effectiveness has the wrong starting point. Instead, leadership effectiveness should be identified by the affect upon God’s people. Questions such as “How are others better equipped as a result of the pastor or teacher efforts?” “How many people are engaged in ministry activities as a direct result of the pastor or teacher?” (see Arnold, p 275). Looking at the results of a pastor or teacher can be a more accurate means of determining the skill of a pastor or teacher, rather than simply evaluating their performance.
  7. Finally, it is no mistake that 5 gifts are bestowed by Christ upon certain individuals and that all 5 of the gifts listed are plural. In other words, it takes a village! Not one gift is sufficient, but all gifts work together in a plurality of individuals to achieve Christ’s goal for his Church. And, given that all the gifts listed in Eph 4:11 do not reside in one person, then necessarily it requires a team effort. Quite frankly, I get weary hearing about John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, David Platt, et al. when no doubt there are countless, unnamed others in these leaders’ churches who work hard and faithfully to serve in just as important a role as these leaders.

In summary, pastors and teachers are shepherds of minds and hearts, which entails teaching sound doctrine and encouraging every member in Christ’s Church to employ their Christ-given ability(ies) to build itself up in love “as each part does its work.”

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