Isn’t a pastor mainly a teacher?

By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Much of my formative ministry experience took place at a summer Bible Conference in New Hampshire. What I would see was a famous preacher speaking to a crowd of 500 people every morning and night, wowing them with his expositions. In fact, it was sitting in one session where I sensed God’s call for me to go into ministry.

Because of that background, I pictured “pastoral ministry” as me standing in front of a huge crowd, expounding the Bible for an hour, then setting them loose to, well, be Christians. As it turns out, that is not what happens, nor should it happen that way. Paul did not teach that way. If I can use an illustration that I mean without any hint of condescension, being a pastor is less like giving a college lecture, and more like kindergarten where the “teacher” sits next to the students, to show them how to use the scissors, the paste, the sparkles. As the old army statement goes, “Don’t tell a soldier what to do, show him.”

4 thoughts on “Isn’t a pastor mainly a teacher?

  1. Eutychus might disagree :0)

    But seriously, I don’t see any reason to insert and either/or here. Preaching/proclamation/public ministry is important. So is study for that. So is one-on-one discipleship.

    1. Well…Eutychus was in an extraordinary situation. If I had Paul in my church for 24 hours I would tell him, “the pulpit is yours until your voice dies.”

      Public ministry is vitally important, although in NT times even that would seem like a smallish group (a dozen or so adults?). “Preaching” would bear little resemblance to a solo speaker standing before thousands or even hundreds. Besides which, our Reformation image of a long weekly discourse by a regular preacher does not fit easily with 1 Cor 14:26 – “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.”

      As much as I value preaching, it might become like lobbing grenades, where mano a mano is a better medium.

      I read the Acts 20 passage the other day, and it occurs to me that Luke mentions Eutychus’ name (“Lucky” in the Greek) only because he found it so funny. If he were named Gaius, I bet his name wouldn’t appear in the story, just “some young man”.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Gary. Back at PCB, I envisioned myself a pastor teaching my flock Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday evenings. In my role at Crossbridge, I find myself doing a little exposition and a lot of leading. It’s more one-on-one training than anything else.

    1. Very cool! Did I show you the section from my commentary on 1 Thess 1, where I speak about the use of pattern-imitation in discipleship? Funny, how we say “preach the Word, like Paul did!” but don’t actually study how he did it!

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