If you're a member of a church, you have expectations for your pastor. You probably expect a decent sermon on Sunday morning. You want your pastor to be a caring person, to be available if you're going through a hard time. You expect your pastor to baptize your children or perform memorial services for your parents. You may believe that your pastor should be an effective leader of your church. Such expectations are common, and they are not necessarily wrong. But they easily reflect and nurture an assumption that pastors are the real ministers and that church members are those who receive ministry.
According to Ephesians 4:11-12, pastors and other church leaders are to do something for you. This something may indeed involve preaching and caring and leading. But the primary task of pastors is to equip God's people for their work of ministry. To make it more personal, the primary task of your pastor is to equip you for your ministry. Or, it might be better to say that your pastor's job is to equip you to live your whole life as ministry.
I realize that most church members do not expect their pastors to equip them for ministry. Our expectations have been shaped by centuries of church life that has exalted ordained ministry as "the ministry" and minimized the calling of all Christians to be ministers of Christ. Yet, in the last sixty years, Christians throughout the world have been rediscovering the biblical truth that all of God's people are ministers, and that pastors have the primary responsibility of training and encouraging the true ministers for their true ministry.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your expectations for your pastor? To what extent are your expectations shaped by the truth of Ephesians 4:11-12? Do you expect your pastor to help you do your ministry? Do you want your pastor to teach you to live your whole life as a minister of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to be equipped for a life of ministry?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the clarity of this passage about the chief role and responsibility of pastors and other leaders. Forgive us for how easily we have forgotten this truth, allowing our expectations for pastors to be shaped by things other than their God-given role. Help your church, Lord, to be shaped more and more by your Word. Help pastors to see their crucial calling to equip all of God's people for ministry. Help all believers to see themselves as ministers and as ministers in training. Show us how to live each moment as your ministers, doing all of our work for your purposes and glory. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.