I got saved in 1994. Later that year I was introduced to a long haired bible teacher called “Larry”. (at first I thought he was called “Harry”. “Harry the hairy”. But it was Larry). anyway, that’s all I knew him as. We never met but I was given a series of videos filmed at “twin peaks” (whatever THAT was). So I watched these videos: a verse-by-verse study of Romans. I still have the notes that I made.
The “Larry” was Dr Larry Taylor. He had also published a couple of booklets on being an assistant pastor that I had started reading. I have recently come across another booklet he has written and I’m going to include them here with some of my own thoughts.
The first chapter is entitled “What is ministry anyway”.
Ephesians 4:11-14 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until 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, so 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.
The difference between a minister’s calling and a believer’s calling is that the former is entirely supernatural, while the latter relies on talent and education.
Every individual human being is created in God’s image, and therefore has God-given dignity and importance. No human being is, and certainly no race of human beings is, superior in any way to any other. God loves each person profoundly, individually, and equally. He has no favorites, so there is no room for pride, superiority, or looking down our noses at anyone.
Further, the Bible clearly teaches that all believers are priests. In fact, we are a kingdom of priests. A kingdom is not a geographic area; it is a group of people under the authority of a king. When we submit our lives to the lordship of Christ, when we bow and kiss His scepter, when He is our sovereign, dictating our actions and motives, we are in the Kingdom of God.
Within that kingdom, God appoints us – all of us – to be priests. There is but one high priest – Jesus, our “high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” – and all believers are equally priests under Him. The exaltation of a priesthood over the laity is a false doctrine that God says He hates.
But what is the ministry of a priest? The priest’s primary job is to minister to God. And how can we minister to God? By promoting justice, doing what is right, caring for the disenfranchised and marginalized, the broken, hurting and addicted, and by offering our worship, love, praise, and prayers to God daily.
Further, every believer in Christ is gifted by God with abilities and strengths that make her unique and special in the kingdom. One has a musical gift, another an administrative flare, another is outgoing and hospitable, and another reserved but deep. The whole point of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is that one gift is not superior to another, all gifts are useful and needed, and all God’s people are needed to complete the mosaic of His kingdom.
There is a sense in which God “calls” everyone to something. He has a design, a plan for our lives, and put passions and potential within us. As we grow and gain education, we discover our passions and our abilities. We learn, we practice, we study, and as a result, we become musicians, attorneys, business owners, artists, sales reps, physicians, and psychologists. If we have analyzed ourselves rightly and applied ourselves faithfully, we become good at what we do, and hopefully we are doing something we enjoy, something we have a passion for. So it is legitimate to speak of God “calling” someone to the marketplace, or the courtroom, or the stage.
So, we are all important, we all have dignity, we all have equally important gifts, and we are all priests. Moreover, we all have talents, abilities, passions, and life-focuses that develop into careers and pursuits that can honor God if we engage in them christianly.
Nevertheless, the Bible is clear that God has placed some people in His church (His ecclesia, amongst those over whom He rules) as special gifts to the Body of Christ. Some people are charismata – gifts from God – in a way that is different than, but not superior to, others.
I’m talking about the four fold ministry gifts the Apostle describes in his circulatory letter to the Ephesians – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. While it is legitimate to speak of God calling someone to be a coach or an orthodontist, and you can certainly be either to His glory, that is not the same thing as being called into the four-fold ministry. There is a biblical and practical difference between being “called” into service as dentist and being Called by God into The Ministry.
In our Protestant insistence on the priesthood of all believers, we have come to see the offices of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers as no different than the passion someone might have to be a diplomat or a homebuilder. But there is a profound difference.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are themselves gifts of God to the church and cannot (indeed, dare not) undertake their divine task without supernatural anointing. We are missing the point when we jump from apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers not being superior or lording it over anyone to seeing these offices as just another profession.
The reasons why the Ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are seen as professions – like being a college professor, teacher, or physician – are several. First, the industrial age ushered in the Age of Reason, and modern humanity came to accept the very false idea that all that exists can be discovered and experienced, if not comprehended, by the intellect.
Christianity, as it sought to accommodate the world, became less focused on mystery and supernaturalism, and more focused on rationality. We re-wrote the scriptures to fit with a rational, scientific, occidental, modernistic world-view. We explained away the miracles, told people that demon possession was mental illness, and insisted that with the lone exception of the bodily resurrection of Christ, all could be understood rationally. We bowed at the altar of intellectualism and designed professional training schools for clergy modeled after the professional schools that train lawyers, doctors, and therapists. “Pastor” became another professional position alongside the other professions.
But we are Americans, democratic to our core, and we hate the idea of superiority. Besides, we were swept up in the revival of pop psychology and learned from our gurus that we mustn’t do anything to threaten the self-esteem of another.
(An aside – a school system in California recently began including medical information about obesity in their private confidential screenings of children, but found enormous opposition from parents more concerned that their children feel good about themselves than with obesity that causes heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. When social scientists found that our school systems were sadly neglecting the most intellectually precocious of our children, we instituted gifted and talented programs, only to very quickly redefine “gifted” to include everyone, thus negating the programs.)
We mistook uniformity for equality and redefined “profession” to include every type of work. When I was a child, the professions were carefully defined to include only those occupations that required an advanced doctoral degree – physician, attorney, professor. Then, the religious rationalists longed for the prestige of professionalism and “clergy” added itself to the list. Later, so as not to offend the tender self-esteem of anyone, we redefined “professionalism” to include everyone. Now we have professional plumbers, coal miners, truck drivers, and cement finishers. Virtually every employed person is a “professional”.
Of course, corporate America joined the cause when it discovered that titles were a good substitute for fair pay. You can give someone a McJob, pay them minimum wage without any health insurance, but call them “an associate” and they are content.
The logical issue was that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers became just jobs. Pastors were reduced to employees who catered to the whims of church boards and rich congregants. Our new rationalistic, modernistic theology redefined The Ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers in the same terms as the ministry of nurses and paramedics. Subsequently, seminaries turn out men and women with a passion for social work, coaching sports, classical scholarship, and promoting justice – all of which is right and good, and may in fact be God’s will for those individuals – but which has little or nothing to do with the Calling of God in setting aside some individuals to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers.
If God wants you to be coach, a boy scout leader, to direct a YWCA, to run a drug rehab, or design a program to provide housing for the poor, that’s wonderful, and you should pursue it with all the passion, education, and vigor you can muster, and do what you do for His glory. You are a minister – we all are – but you are not a Minister.
A Minister is someone set aside by God and supernaturally anointed to be an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, or a pastor-teacher.
Before we explore how we can tell whether we are called and anointed by God as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, or a pastor-teacher, we need to look at what each office is.
Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, and as such, are not needed or manifest in the same manner as they were in biblical times. A building only needs one foundation. Besides, one of the biblical qualifications for the office of apostle is to have personally seen the resurrected Jesus in the flesh. Now, I know there are people today who claim to have had visions of Christ, but that’s not what the Bible is talking about, even if those visions are legitimate. The prerequisite for being an apostle is to have seen Jesus in His resurrected physical body with your own physical eyes. In the strict New Testament sense, there are no apostles today.
There are, however, men and women who have apostolic like ministries and callings. We normally call them church planters or missionaries, and most would eschew the title “apostle” as less than humble. Nevertheless, they travel to virgin territory, preach the good news, win women and men to Christ, baptize them, disciple them, develop them spiritually, and watch over their souls just like Paul and John did two millennia ago. The proofs of their ministries are healthy, vibrant, doctrinally orthodox groups of believers who love each other and serve their communities.
(By the way, there is a woman named as an apostle in the Bible, so the office is not exclusively male.)
Similarly, prophets were foundational, and included the non-apostolic authors of the New Testament, like Mark, Luke, and the unnamed author of Hebrews. God is not writing new scripture, so there are also no prophets in the same sense as there were in biblical times. (Women are also listed amongst the prophets.)
Nevertheless, there certainly are people today supernaturally gifted by God with prophetic like ministries. Billy Graham, although only calling himself an evangelist, had a prophetic ministry to the nations as he not only preached the gospel to the lost, but also called whole societies to align with God’s will.
Evangelists are of course men and women supernaturally anointed by God to reach the lost. Evangelists have a burning passion for the unchurched and a fervent, unquenchable obsession with presenting the good news to them. Certainly, we are all called to evangelize, to share our faith, and surely, every pastor must regularly do the work of an evangelist by telling his listeners how they can be made right with God, but some are supernaturally called to be evangelists. They have a passion for the lost that won’t let them sleep, and they can no more keep silent than could Jeremiah.
Pastor-teacher is one gift. It is not “pastors and teachers”, but “pastor-teachers” in the original language. A pastor is a person supernaturally called and equipped by God with a burning unquenchable passion to see believers grow in their faith, discover and use their gifts, and a burning passion to study and teach God’s Word as the means to that end. The primary job of a pastor-teacher is to teach God’s Word with a loving, shepherd’s heart.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are given to the church to equip the people to do the work of the ministry. They are not people we hire so that they can do the work of the ministry – they are there to equip us to do that work.
And what is “the work of the ministry”? It is visiting widows and orphans, serving food to the hungry, providing housing for the homeless, working to remove racism and injustice, helping the addict be free of her addiction, visiting the sick in the hospitals, the shut-ins in their homes and in nursing homes, taking soup to a sick neighbor, helping a brother change a flat tire, shoveling snow from your neighbor’s walkway, and caring for those who are struggling.
The work of the ministry is helping people in the name of Jesus, and we are all to do that. The ministry of apostles (church planters and missionaries), prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers equips us to do the work of the ministry.
That, however, does not make all of us apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers. Those are special callings, special gifts, special supernatural anointings, given to specific women and men chosen for those offices by God. No council or ecclesiastical body elects apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers. They are chosen by God alone, and the Bible strongly exhorts us to never bad-mouth or slander them, but conversely, to provide for them financially and hold them in high esteem.
So, how do you tell whether you or someone else is called and anointed by God to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, or pastor-teacher, as opposed to being a priest like all believers with passions for service?
First, apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers are supernaturally called and equipped. No seminary or graduate school can train you to be an evangelist or a pastor-teacher. Seminaries are fine and valuable, but they cannot put in what God left out. There must be a supernatural choosing by God and a supernatural equipping with miraculous supernatural gifts.
An intelligent person can study hard and learn to be a physician or an attorney, but he cannot study hard and learn to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, or pastor-teacher. All apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers need to study hard and learn things, but only God can appoint to the office, and only God can give the supernatural ability to preach and teach in such a way as to bear spiritual fruit.
There is a profound difference between natural abilities that can be developed through effort, and supernatural giftedness that comes as a mantle from heaven. Without the mantle, there is no supernatural calling.
A wise pastor once exhorted me not to go into pastoral ministry unless I “could not do anything else”. He didn’t mean unless I were incapable of doing anything else – I could have been a teacher, or a professor, or a psychologist, for example – he meant, don’t go into pastoral ministry unless the call of God is so profound and clear on your life that you feel like St. Paul when he said, “Woe am I if I preach not the gospel.”
The calling of God must be so compelling that we feel as if we have no choice. We could no more stop being pastors than we could stop breathing for a week. We must preach and teach – it is more important to us than eating. Being a pastor-teacher is who we are, not just what we do. It defines us in a way that no profession or career ever can. It is who we are, not what we do for a living.
Further, if the call is genuine, we will have a consuming, burning, unquenchable, never-ending passion that goes far beyond simply loving one’s work or having a passion for something like art or music. A church planter has a heart for cross-cultural missions, a burning passion to reach the unchurched for Jesus and bring them to full maturity. An evangelist has an unquenchable insatiable desire to see lost people meet Jesus and consequently shares the gospel everywhere he goes. A called and anointed pastor-teacher carries God’s people on his heart, cries over them, prays for them, longs to see them grow in Christ, has a fiery passion to study God’s Word, and loves to teach it so that lives are transformed.
A true evangelist shares the gospel in restaurants, restrooms, airports – he can’t stop. I would teach God’s word to the wiener dogs if no one else would listen.
Those supernaturally called by God to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers are not in it for the glory, the prestige, or the money. They can never quit, they can never stop – their ministry is who they are. They get discouraged, they want to quit sometimes, they may even beg God to fire them, but He never does, and they cannot stop doing what the Holy Spirit compels them to do.
Those supernaturally called by God to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastor-teachers bear fruit because God is working in them. Church planters plant churches. Evangelists win souls. Pastor-teachers feed Christians the pure, untainted meat and milk of God’s Word, and people grow as a result.
A person without passion, a person without supernatural giftedness, or a person without fruit, is not a God-appointed apostle, prophet, evangelist, or pastor-teacher. And that’s ok. He can still be a great witness for Jesus in marketplace; he’s still important; he has dignity and purpose, and gifts and talents to use for God’s glory, but he is not an apostle, prophet, evangelist, or pastor-teacher in God’s eyes.
The kingdom would be greatly advanced and the church greatly aided in her mission if those who are not supernaturally called and equipped would stop calling themselves pastors or missionaries and serve God where He directs them. Similarly, the kingdom would be greatly advanced and the church greatly aided in her mission if individual Christians would recognize those who are supernaturally called and anointed to the four-fold Ministry of Ephesians 4 and esteem them highly for the sake of the ministry, holding up their arms, protecting their reputations, supplying their needs, and undergirding them with prayer so they can fulfill the pressing passion of their hearts.
1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
1 Timothy 5:17-19 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
1 Corinthians 9:6-9 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?
1 Chronicles 16:21, 22 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.