Fulfill Your Ministry – 1 Timothy 4:11-16

– 1/3/21 p.m. sermon
– Speaker: Justin P. Sivley
– Parts of Paul’s letter to Timothy are very personal, and are a great source of understanding what should be expected of preachers.  Our study in these verses considers these words to the young preacher, but also to understand how they can apply to all Christians in our own respective ministries.

I’m Not a Pastor

I get phone calls every week that begin, “Can I please speak to the pastor?”  A couple of weeks ago, more than one friend posted a picture to my Facebook timeline; the picture was of a T-shirt, that had a saying written on the back, “Pastor, because hardcore devil stomping ninja isn’t an official job title.”  I will admit I got quite a chuckle out of that T-shirt (and I appreciated the sentiment behind sharing it). I understand exactly what people usually mean when they call the church building and ask to speak to the pastor, but the fact of the matter is, I AM NOT A PASTOR.

For many in the religious world, the pastor is the person who stands in front of the congregation and preaches a sermon every Sunday, who presides over the ceremony when two people decide to get married, who gives the message at a funeral.

In the most reliable translations of the Bible, the word pastor is only used once in the entire New Testament.  In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Eph 4:11-12 NASB

The KJV uses the word a handful of times in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, where it usually refers to shepherds in a figurative sense (see Jer. 2:8: 3:15: 10:21; 12:10; 22:22; 23:1,2).  This would be consistent with the word from which it is translated in the New Testament, the Greek word, poimen, a word that literally refers to a shepherd or a herdsman, and is used in that sense throughout Luke 2, but also figuratively, such as when Jesus refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd” in John 10, and in other places such as 1 Peter 2:25 and Heb. 13:20.

It is related the Greek verb, poimaino, which Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines as, “to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep.”  It is used in the proper sense in Luke 17:7 and 1 Cor. 9:7. In Revelation it is used in a figurative sense 3 times, where it is translated “rule” (see Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).

But, we want to look at one particular way that it is used in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  Acts 20:28 NASB

 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 1 Peter 5:2 NASB

 Both of these statements are directed, not to preachers, but to the elders, or overseers of the church. Paul is speaking to the elders from Ephesus in Acts 20, and Peter begins 1 Peter 5, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you…” The point to be made is this: those who are called to shepherd, to be pastors of the church, are those who are qualified (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9) and have been appointed (Titus 1:5) as elders in the church.  In short, when you read the word “pastors” in Ephesians 4:11, you should be thinking of the elders (overseers) of the church, not the preacher.

Much more could be said about what the work of the shepherds of the church involves, and the differences between the work of a pastor and a preacher, but the purpose of this article is to illustrate how “pastor” is not a proper title, nor description, for the work of a preacher.  If time and space permitted, we could also note the error of using terms such as “reverend,” “bishop,” “father,” and others like these to refer to the preacher but we will have to save that discussion for another time.