“Pastor” comes from the Latin word for shepherd, and is commonly used as a description for the person leading a congregation. You know how many times the term is used in that sense in the Bible?
Once: Ephesians 4:11.
The other ministries Paul lists there – apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers – are much more described and discussed in the Scriptures. Still, in many churches and denominations today, pastors are much more common than apostles and prophets (and often evangelists as well).
Let’s focus on the ministry of the apostle. The Greek word describes someone who have been send, a clear illustration to Matthew 28:18-20. Looking at the lives of Peter, James, John, Paul and the others we see that their ministry simply is about missions and church planting. It’s a translocal ministry that equip local churches and start new ones so that the Gospel may reach the end of the world.
Catholics and Orthodoxs have tried to replace the ministry of the apostle with church tradition. Protestants have tried to replace it with the Bible. In both cases, apostleship is viewed as something cessational and temporary, a ministry that gave us the foundation of our faith only in order to disappear after that. This is contradicted by the simple facts that:
1. Apostleship is never described in the Scriptures as something that would cease or decline; on the contrary, more and more apostles pop up the further we read the New Testament (Rom 16:7, 2 Cor 8:23).
2. Apostleship is never defined in the Bible as a ministry to have the authority to write the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the canonization of Scripture. What I mean is that most of the apostles never wrote biblical texts, and the Old Testament was not written by apostles. It is not because they had the ministry of the apostle per se that Matthew, Paul and the others could write canonized Scripture, but because they were the first apostles who had seen Jesus and His first disciples and are therefore the best sources for our doctrine.
3. People today have the ministry of the apostle, wether we like it or not. Heidi Baker, Surprise Sithole, Randy Clark – they’re all having a translocal ministry leading people to the Lord through missions and church planting. We should recognize them as what they really are and see their role as normal as pastoring.
Of course, you don’t have to be a Christian megastar to be an apostle. James, the brother of John, didn’t even leave Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection – but he was still an apostle, because he had the right calling and the right heart. A local church planter or missionary is walking in an apostolic anointing.
Furthermore, just as the whole local church should evangelise, prophesy etc., is should be apostolic. Missions is something the whole congregation should care about. Church planting should be its main goal – to continually expand and plant church babies.
Don’t get me wrong, pastors are great. But if they work alone, they’re unbiblical. Apostles, prophets and evangelists must rise and find their home and support in the local church. Christian paraorganizations like YWAM and Cru are great, but their mere existence show that apostleship and evangelism is not being welcomed in all churches. We need to embrace apostleship, we need to go back to the church model in the book of Acts. Only then will we see revival like in the book of Acts.
I agree with you. The only concern I have is when people start to label themselves as “Apostle Yyyyy” or “Prophet Xxxxx”. I think it makes too big a claim, and is liable to lead to overemphasis on that person’s authority.
I know what you mean. John Wimber refused to be labelled as an apostle wéven though he clearly was one, since he knew that many people would misinterpret the word. However, in an ideal world we should not view the word differently than “pastor”.
And rightly so, an apostle who proclaims himself is likely not an apostle. Apostleship is, among other criteria recognized in community as are other offices; although to a different degree a single local church can appoint a pastor but not an apostle. The apostle is commissioned by the a local church body and recognized by other leaders, apostles and prophets.
People like Bill Johnson, Randy Clark, Heidi Baker, among others did not wake up one morning and decide they were apostles.
Great article although I would have to slightly disagree with the focus on church-planting and missions, although it becomes an natural overflow of the apostles life, I would say that the main role of the apostle is that of a father/mother to churches.
Yes, fair point. I would probably prefer not to label anyone Pastor Zzzzzz either – let’s all simply be people seeking to use the gifts God has given us to perform the ministry and live the life he calls us to.