What’s a pastor do all day? I mean, c’mon, the guy works an hour a week, right? Some years ago, Thom Rainer—current head of Lifeway, the company behind the local Christian bookstore—asked 12 of his church deacons to list the responsibilities they expect a pastor to accomplish in a typical work week. Here’s what the landed on:
- Prayer at the church: 14 hours
- Sermon preparation: 18 hours
- Outreach and evangelism: 10 hours
- Counseling: 10 hours
- Hospital and home visits: 15 hours
- Administrative functions: 18 hours
- Community involvement: 5 hours
- Denominational involvement: 5 hours
- Church meetings: 5 hours
- Worship services/preaching: 4 hours
- Other: 10 hours
Add the total up, and it comes out to 114 hours per week. Assuming your pastor takes a day off, that means his typical day starts at 19 hours long. I guess it’s too bad that sleeping didn’t make the list.
We laugh, but the truth is there’s a lot expected of pastors and leaders. If we survey the list, we don’t find that any of these activities are unreasonable expectations. And in some ways the allotted time might not be terribly unreasonable. But no one man can accomplish all of this. If he did, then he’d soon find himself spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Thankfully, the body of Christ is served best by a plurality of leaders.
A PLURALITY OF LEADERS
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes that Jesus descended to earth to offer salvation, but then in the body of Christ we find many leaders with many gifts. He starts by saying:
11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11)
So Paul names 4-5 separate job titles here. Let’s unpack them a bit.
- Apostles are said to the foundation of the church (see Ephesians 2:20, 3:5). The authority of an apostle could come in three ways: (a) having been with Christ, which included the 12 (including Matthias, who replaced Judas – see Acts 1:21-22), (b) having been appointed by Christ, which was the case for Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, Galatians 1:1, 2:6-9) and (c) having been recognized as apostles by the early church. This category includes such prominent Biblical figures as James (1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 1:19), Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 1 Corinthians 9:6) as well as others. This third category was typically recognized as having the gift of apostleship, though it is worth mention that they were not regarded on the same as the twelve and Paul, who had experienced Christ directly either through His earthly ministry or, in Paul’s case, through a vision (Acts 9). Nonetheless, by this time the term “apostle” had come to mean anyone who carried the gospel message with God’s authority. Apostle most likely meant, “One sent as an authoritative delegate.”
- Prophets in the New Testament were a bit different than those in the Old Testament. Their role, according to 1 Corinthians 14:3, was to provide edification, exhortation and comfort, and may have revealed God’s will prior to the completion of the Biblical canon. Prophets are not often spoken of following the first century, primarily because those believers viewed the apostles as foundational to the church.
- “Evangelist” refers to anyone who spread the gospel, and in many ways the term is analogous to the modern day term “missionary.”
- & (5) Pastors and teachers are traditionally viewed together. In fact, in the Greek, Paul lists each position with the article “the” in front of it (“the apostles, the prophets…”) but uses the article “the” before the phrase “pastors and teachers,” grouping them together. These terms most likely refer to those who ministered to congregations, as opposed to apostles and evangelists who lived itinerant lifestyles in the spread of the gospel. In all likelihood, the terms “pastor” and “teacher”, though not synonymous, refers to the dual role of the same person (i.e., a minister must both shepherd his flock as well as instruct them).
But we should probably not see this as an exhaustive list. I think what we might see are three broad levels of leadership within the church:
- Elder-level leaders
These would include everyone bearing the title of “elder,” but also would include “pastors” and “bishops.” In his famous work on eldership, Alexander Strauch summarizes this role:
“Elders lead the church [1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:1–2], teach and preach the Word [1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9], protect the church from false teachers [Acts 20:17, 28–31], exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine [1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:13–17; Titus 1:9], visit the sick and pray [James 5:14; Acts 6:4], and judge doctrinal issues [Acts 15:6]. In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church.”
Biblically, I don’t know that you can make a strong case for a distinction between “elder” and “pastor.” But what we might see is that pastors fulfill their role in a very specific way within the church. Likewise, we might find “bishops” who oversee the pastors and provide accountability and guidance. Now, we might not use the word “bishop” in our denomination, but much of this function is fulfilled by our denomination as a whole and our superintendents in particular. It’s always tragic when we see a church built around a leader where there is no denomination and no accountability. We should be thankful for denominations and for oversight.
- Deacon-level leaders
If you recall from Acts 6, the role of “deacon” was introduced as a way to ensure that the immediate needs of the community were met and that pastors were not pre-occupied with waiting on tables and that sort of thing.
I’m using the term a bit more broadly to refer to those leadership positions that are not at the level of elder. We might see this as volunteers within the church, whether this includes our youth leaders, our children’s ministry workers or our greeters. They are all important, and contribute to the body.
Finally, we have our missionaries. It might be tempting to forget that they play such a vital role in the church, especially since so many of them serve in overseas. But these important men and women serve the body by fulfilling the Church’s mission outside the walls. We are therefore thankful for our missionaries—both locally as well as globally—and what they do for the body.
EQUIPPERS, NOT PERFORMERS
Finally, we must read Paul carefully now to see what he says about the role of church leaders
11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
It’s tempting to think of leaders as hired hands who do what they are paid to do. If the church is only an organization, then this model would make sense. But the church is an organization but also an organism—the body of Christ. Therefore the church is not a program you attend but a community to embody. No one “goes” to church; if you follow Jesus, you are the church. Leaders therefore aren’t performing the work of the ministry. They are equipping others so that we can share in the work of the ministry.
 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, p. 16.