“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?” I Corinthians 12:29 NKJV
It is quite an assumption that everyone who plants a church, oversees one, shepherds one or who preaches the gospel at all is a pastor. Full time ministers and many Christians assume it ought to be so. Today, it is my hope to help people who are struggling with stereotypes and their God-given convictions come out of their confusion into the glorious liberty of identifying their God-given purposes and embrace their unique gifting style and serve God in the distinctiveness of their callings in Christ Jesus.
Broadly speaking, the work of the ministry is one work. However, there are various aspects of the work which Jesus referred to as the building of His church (Matthew 16:17) and which Paul referred to as God’s building and God’s husbandry (1 Corinthians 3:9). In the construction of a building, various workers and specialists are needed. God’s house is the same, hence the need for diversities of gifts, ministries and operations (1 Corinthians 12:3). Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 lists various gifts and ministries we can be equipped with and called to in the body of Christ. One certainty is that every member of the body has one function or the other. The five listed in Ephesians 4:11 in particular are the ministries of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ who are called to equip the rest of the church for the work of the ministry which will result in the edification or building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Some preachers are Apostles who are specially sent with a message or to a people. This ministry gift is endowed with special abilities to pioneer new works or a new message, hence most of them are church planters or missionaries who pioneer the gospel in new areas or pioneer new areas of ministry. The ministry is usually itinerant except for seasons of church planting or in instances where there is a gift mix with the office of a pastor which is stationary. Prophets preach and teach the word of God by inspiration and are endowed with a regular and unusual manifestation of revelatory gifts. Like Apostles, this ministry is itinerant except combined with the office of a pastor. An Evangelist is a bearer of good tidings and is therefore more endowed than other preachers to win the lost to the Lord Jesus Christ, particularly through mass evangelism. He is itinerant except the gift is combined with the office of the pastor. He constantly reminds the body of Christ of the mission of the church to reach the lost. The Pastor lives with the flock, caring for and feeding the flock. Most shepherds are endowed with the teaching gift, hence the original Greek rendition connects the two gifts as a gift mix. His supreme task is to feed the flock. Other ministry gifts could be combined with the teaching gift who explains and expounds the word of God in detail that other gifts cannot. He is systematic, consistent and methodical. He is itinerant except a pastor also.
The above explanations will let us realize that not all ministry gifts are pastors. They may be led by God to start churches but are not necessarily called to sit with a certain community of believers for a long time or for life. We must learn to embrace diversity and not put everyone in a box. I have struggled to sit down to pastor a church for very long seasons like others but it never worked. A season of restlessness comes that compels me to move on to start another church or travel more as an evangelist till I cannot even imagine sitting still anymore. The Lord Jesus itinerated throughout his three and a half years of ministry. Paul the Apostle itinerated mostly but spent weeks or months at a time nurturing young church plants and even spent about thirty months with the church at Ephesus. He was however not called to sit still. Why everyone is being compelled to sit still today is beyond my understanding as it has no biblical foundation. It is however pertinent that all church and particularly ministry leaders with branches, multiple locations and campuses understand their gift mixes and develop structures that ensure the adequate care of God’s people and that there is no lack of the full measure of Christ’s ministry in their local
I also want to sound a note of objection to the idea of all travelling ministers thinking they are Apostles. There are itinerant prophets, evangelists and teachers also. Travelling ministry does not make one an Apostle except the ministry is proven by the special signs of an Apostle coupled with the ability to pioneer churches or a message or a new area of ministry in the body of Christ. We should also understand that more often than not, those called to the office of the Apostle do not start out in that office but develop into it over time. Paul and Barnabas started out as prophets and teachers, Timothy as a Pastor and Apollos as a teacher. We do grow and evolve in ministry. Church members should also embrace changes and diversities. It is certainly preferable to have a pastor who is always at home with them but they should be understanding if their own leader is different. They should also accept replacements and new leadership in times of transition. Some are called to plant and others to water. The result at the end of the day is an increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). We are not all pastors but rather God has several more gifts for us to enjoy in the body of Christ. Let us open up to them all and be edified.