Things A Pastor Isn’t: THE Minister

from Pyromaniacs:

by Dan Phillips

It’s common to refer to a pastor as “a minister,” or “the minister.” I’m sure many use it out of common usage or force of habit.

However… is that an accurate distinctive title of a Biblically-faithful pastor? Is it a Biblical title?

The words minister (noun and verb) and ministry in the New Testament commonly translates the Greek words diakonos , diakoneō, or diakonia, (διάκονος, διακονέω, διακονία), respectively. The words don’t have any great and specific holy or religious significance per se. They just denote servant, serve, and service. They are used to describe the civil authority (Romans 13:4), angels (Matthew 4:11), women who helped out with the Lord’s daily necessities (Mark 15:41), a Gospel worker (Ephesians 6:21), a king’s attendants (Matthew 22:13), waiters at a marriage feast (John 2:5), and deacons (Philippians 1:1), among others.

Wide variety of referents, and none of them distinctively confined to the pastor of a congregation.

What is the relationship between the pastor and ministry? The most telling and instructive passage in this connection is Ephesians 4:10-16

10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The four categories of gifted men include the foundational fits of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), evangelists, and pastor-teachers. The Greek syntax suggests (but doesn’t demand) that “shepherds [pastors] and teachers” indicates one category of gifted man: the pastor-and-teacher.

And what is he said to be? “The Minister”? Hardly. In fact, Paul expressly says that the purpose of the office is to equip the saints for the work of service — of ministry (diakonia)!

So the pastor is not the vicarious representative of the congregation, doing the work of ministry in their stead. He does not serve God, as they gaze on idly, perhaps holding up score-numbers, like judges at the Olympics. No, the pastor equips the saints, and they minister, they serve. The saints are the ministers.

I loved the way a pastor friend has represented it at the church he serves. I had the pleasure of preaching at Sun Oak Baptist Church two Sundays ago, and appreciated the way the bulletin was done. The “staff” was listed on the cover in this way:

I loved that, and it’s exactly right. The pastor is the pastor, the members are the ministers. Of course, the pastor ministers too, he serves; he’s sort of a player-manager.

The pastor is a minister, a servant — as is every believing member of the church he serves.

But if a pastor is in fact the minister of some particular church (let alone The minister), it is a real indictment. Perhaps of him, for being autocratic or tight-fisted; perhaps of the flock, for being lazy and unresponsive.

Either way, it’s not good.


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