Today we’re looking at two gifts that are often confused with each other, teaching and pastoring. Let’s start with our base verse:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.(Ephesians 4:11)
The fact that God had Paul write this verse as “…and some as pastors and teachers” rather than “and some as pastors, and some as teachers” tells me that these two gifts are closely related. However, because they are listed separately, and because they are two distinct words in the original Greek, they’re also clearly separate. Let’s look into those differences a bit.
It’s All Greek to Me – Getting the Basics Down
First up, pastoring. Ephesians 4:11 is actually the only place in the entire Bible where the word pastors (or pastor, pastoring, etc.) appears. The Greek word is poimen, which literally means shepherd (and poimen is most often rendered as shepherd in translations). A couple of relevant verses where this word is used:
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”(John 21:16)
[Paul speaking to church leaders at Ephesus:] “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”(Acts 20:28)
Switching gears to teaching really quickly before we look at pastoring in more depth. The spiritual gift of teaching is listed as such in three places: Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:7, and 1 Corinthians 12:28. All three verses use variations of the same word, didaskalos, which at its root has the meaning of teaching, instruction, and doctrine. The vast majority of the times you see the words teacher, teaching, etc. in the New Testament, it is a grammatical variation of this word (the most prevalent exceptions are when referring to Pharisees as “teachers of the Law”).
That’s Enough Linguistics – How Does It Affect Us?
All pastors are teachers (that is, are supposed to be – see 1 Timothy 3:2), but all teachers are not pastors.
Teaching is a fairly common gift. Parents reading Bible stories to their children, small group Bible study leaders (myself included), Christian writers, Sunday school teachers, even that friend of yours who always wants to share something they just discovered in the Bible – all of these entail the gift of teaching (to varying degrees, of course) And that’s just from my personal experience. The Bible backs up the fact that the gift of teaching is common, too. Consider in Titus 2:3-5 when Paul instructs the older women to teach (a variation of didaskalos, again) the younger women how to live godly lifestyles.
(Also note that teaching can be teaching Scripture and/or teaching Scriptural principles.)
Pastoring, by contrast, has a whole set of other duties in addition to teaching – including offering counseling, welcoming members of “the flock” into your home all the time, and organizing and leading various events and ministries within that specific congregation. No wonder a lot of pastors suffer from burnout and fall!
It is also for this that there are a ton of specific qualifications laid out for a pastor [read: church leader – see note below] in 1 Timothy 3, including having been a believer for a long time, having a good reputation, and having good control of your own family. All these demonstrate that you do have what it takes to handle the immense pressure of pastoring. Recall Acts 20:28 – it is a dangerous world, and Satan and his demons will specifically target church leaders, because if they can knock down the leader, the sheep will scatter (Matthew 26:31). Before a person becomes a pastor, it is imperative – utterly critical – that they are sure they are strong enough the handle the spiritual battle before taking responsibility for that many people.
(Note that pastors in the American sense of the word are only a part of the Biblical description of a person with the gift of pastoring – the latter includes church elders, leaders of specific ministries [e.g. women’s ministry, children’s ministry], and in some cases, small group leaders [if the environment is one of fellowship and accountability, with the actual Bible study only being a part of each meeting].)
Rapid-Fire Closing Thoughts
1 – If there’s someone in your life who has pastored (shepherded) you and really made an impact on your life, take the time to thank them – it’s a rough job that entails a lot more than just writing sermons.
2 – Remember that there are a lot of teachers out there. Be on the lookout for them! I imagine there are a lot of believers you know who are “en cognito” because it’s daunting to express to others that you have the gift of teaching when you’re young, or a new believer, or female, or a number of other things (I speak from experience). So like I said, be on the lookout – they have a lot of Biblical knowledge to share with you.
3 – Don’t forget the very basic point of today’s study – all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors.
Talk to Me!
Do you have the gift of teaching or pastoring (remember, pastoring includes a lot more people than our official American title of “Pastor”)? Do you know any people who are “en cognito” teachers? Who are some people whose teaching and/or pastoring has really impacted your life? Any other questions or comments?