Called to Equip

by Eddie Rasnake

We've looked at getting a pastor in place, but once a person called by God is affirmed by the local body, the job is not finished. He must be given a biblical job description. What does God expect a pastor to do? The one passage where the term "pastor" is used in the New Testament is often the most overlooked when defining his job description. It spells out specifically what he is to do, and what he is not to do.

Ephesians 4:11-12 tell us: "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." A pastor's main job is to equip the saints to be effective in serving the Lord. It is not his job to do all the work of service. A church where the pastor is seen as the minister and the congregation as spectators will accomplish little for the Kingdom. More than anything else, a pastor is called to be an equipper.

This principle of equipping is true regardless of a pastor's appointed role. A youth pastor needs to equip leaders to minister to the youth. An education director needs to spend his time equipping teachers. All pastors are to be equippers, and if they don't equip they aren't being pastors, regardless of what we call them.

How does the pastor equip? By ministering God's Word. We see in 2 Timothy 3:17 that it is the Word of God which equips us for every good work.

This priority is illustrated beautifully in the first century church. When more ministry was needed, the early church leaders didn't neglect their primary task to meet the need. Instead, they equipped and unleashed the laity. James said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:1-7). As a result of these right priorities, "the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem."

Wrapping It Up and Taking It Home

Those entrusted with the task of looking for a church staff member must understand the dual-focus of their role. They are responsible to hear from God, and to communicate with the body what they are hearing from God. To fulfill this first dimension of hearing from God, plurality and unanimity are essential.

While Samuel was the sole person tasked with calling David, this would not be a wise approach today unless you have a prophet in your midst with direct access to God. What God did through individual representatives in the Old Testament, He chooses to do through a plurality in the New Testament. Whether that plurality is a group of elders or a committee, they answer to the body they serve and to the Lord whom they seek.

(Virtually every time church leadership is mentioned in the New Testament it is plural. The term "elder" [presbteros] always appears in the plural except when a biblical author uses it of himself-see 2 and 3 John and 1 Peter 5:1. The term "overseer" [epskopos] is always used in the plural. The term "pastor" is only used in Ephesians 4:11, where it is plural.)

Plurality brings accountability to the process and decentralizes power. This group of people will need the strength, sensitivity, and differing gifts of each other as they bear the responsibility of hearing God. They must understand that hearing God is their job. Their task is not to give opinions but to hear God. For this reason, you want your most spiritual people in this group.

Because the job is to hear from God, those charged with the decision should be unanimous. God will not be saying two different things. If the committee is divided, some or all have yet to hear God.

The second dimension of the selection committee's focus is to communicate what they are hearing from God to those who entrusted the task to them. The confidence a congregation has in the outcome of the process is directly related to how well that process is communicated as it plays out. The most effective process is shared as it happens, not just at the end.

To be concluded

Eddie Rasnake is associate pastor of Discipleship Ministries at Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. Among other writings, he has authored or co-authored nearly all of the Following God series published by AMG Publishing in Chattanooga

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