Goodbye Pastor Phil, hello Pastor One-Another (some more thoughts on the function of the pastor)
Considering the prominent place of the Pastor in the makeup of the modern local church scene (though dating back to Constantine), it is surprising how little the New Testament has to say about such an individual. Practically nothing. The word ‘pastor’ is used once and it is in fact almost impossible to find a clear reference in the New Testament to a local church led by one man.
Mind you, it is also hard to find a local church that looks anything like what we’ve come to know as a local church today – a distinctively named assembly (such as Keppel Coast Christian Fellowship) with its own vision, building and man in charge.
Rather what we find are churches that embrace the whole city, with no separately owned ‘church’ buildings and a plural eldership belonging to all.
And a style of pastoring that did not seem to centre around any special individual but was spead out between ‘one-another’.
Not that the early church lacked leaders but there is very little exhortation in any of the epistles for believers go seek out a leader for advise, counselling, healing or encouragement. Rather the exhortation is to practise this stuff on ‘one-another’. Over 60 times this (or a similar) expression is used in the apostolic letters.
Here is an example of the ‘one-anothers’.
- live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
- care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
- serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
- bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
- speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)
- submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
- forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
- teach one another (Col. 3:16)
- wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)
- love one another. (John 13:34)
- be devoted to one another … Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
- stop passing judgment on one another. (Romans 14:13)
- instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
- agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10)
- be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
- teach and admonish one another Colossians 3:16)
- encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- encourage one another daily, (Hebrews 3:13)
- consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
- confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16)
- offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
- clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
- have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
Note that the apostles felt that the saints were quite competent to teach and instruct each other, correct each other, hear each other’s confessions, pray for their healing, encourage each other, build each other up etc etc. They were well equipped to pastor one another.
John, in facts, encouraged them to believe that each of them had ‘an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.’ (1 John 2:20) If this is so and such a hidden and under-used anointing exists in the body of Christ then the task of the ‘fivefold ministries’ is surely to encourage its release.
Considering the huge burn-out rate that exists is in traditional pastoral ministry perhaps those in ministry would do a great service, both to themselves and to the local body they serve, by
- encouraging people to believe that they don’t need ‘the Pastor’ as much as they think they do
- foster the kind of intimate ekklessia where people can actively practise the ‘one-anothers’.
- actively step back from ‘doing the stuff’ themselves and let the Holy Spirit bring out the aforesaid anointing among the saints.
I suspect that the result of this would be to release leaders to spend more time seeking each other out , seeking the Lord together and exploring ways to advance the Kingdom within the city (Acts13).
In order for that to happen perhaps the great need of the local church is not another Pastor Some-One but the release of Pastor One-Another.