A Brief Call to Pastoral Discipleship
- Thursday, February 24, 2005
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, much of the church seemed to experience a rediscovery as it were, of the importance of the role of the pastor as equipper. Paul wrote in Eph. 4:11-12, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ...."
Rightly has it been said that 20 percent of the church performs 80 percent of the work. This estimate may even be generous with the regard to the non-working majority. If the church is to function as God intended, if the church is to be obedient to the command of Christ to "make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19)," the pastor will have to fulfill his role as equipper while the saints will have to fulfill their role as minister.
Large numbers of persons in the church today seemingly remain ignorant to the biblical revelation regarding the respective roles of the pastor and saint. Many Christians remain ignorant not only to the equipping ministry of the pastor, but also to the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit as He gifts His people for works of service (1 Corinthians 12).
The church is in dire need of pastors who will understand their role and in turn teach the people their role that the cause of Christ might be advanced. A need exists for pastors to follow Christ, not only by way of personal discipleship, but by way of obedience to His command to make disciples by "teaching them to obey all things [He] has commanded (Matt. 28:20)." Moreover, a need exists for pastors to follow Christ in His example of training.
In his book, "The Master Plan of Discipleship," Robert E. Coleman points out that in being disciple-makers, pastors are to be learners of Christ and are to make learners of Christ. "It shouldn't seem strange that the Master Teacher places such a high priority on discipling. After all, Jesus was simply asking His followers to do what He had done with them. That is why they could understand it. As they had freely received, now they were to transmit what they had learned to other seekers of truth. The mandate was the articulation of the rule by which Christ had directed His ministry. Though slow, and not accomplished without great sacrifice, He knew His way would succeed. For as individuals learn of Him and follow the pattern of His life they will invariably become disciplers, and as their disciples in turn do the same, someday through multiplication the world will come to know Him whom to know aright is life everlasting."
The goal of the pastor is to make disciples who will in turn make disciples of others. As pastors learn of Christ, they can teach others to learn of Christ. This process of learning and teaching to learn can only occur if the focus is upon the Master, Christ Himself. A. B. Bruce, in his classic work "The Training of the Twelve," noted, "To be a dutiful under-shepherd is, in another view, to be a faithful sheep, following the chief Shepherd withersoever He goes. Pastors are not lords over God's heritage, but mere servants of Christ, the great head of the Church, bound to regard His will as their law, and His life as their model."
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