Every Christian carries pastoral responsibility

Jesus declared that He was the only good shepherd, or pastor: But Paul gave another dimension, referring to Christians, as Christ’s body:  “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27) (ESV). The pastoral responsibility is, therefore, bestowed on every Christian.

Paul reveals that as members of Christ’s body, Christians are spiritually gifted to individually serve towards the common good of the church. Jesus, the only good shepherd (pastor), uses His body, the Church, ministering to the membership.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:11-16) (ESV).

According to Paul, no member can claim credit, even when spiritually gifted more than others (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). It is God’s Spirit that takes credit, using whoever, at any given time. The good shepherd uses respective members’ spiritual gifts for the benefit of the entire body, the church.

If what Paul said (1 Corinthians 12) is accurately understood; the pastoral responsibility cannot be claimed by one person in any church. We have to indulge onto the question: How did the pastoral responsibility degenerate into being conferred on one person, then?

There are many factors, prime of which were taken from Paul’s epistles or letters to the churches under his authority. Paul was sent to introduce Christianity to the Gentiles who did not have ideas on Jewish religion, except taking everything directly from Paul.

Being a leading figure in those Gentile areas, Paul had to contend with people who could not appreciate the work of the Spirit. They were putting value on human beings, more than appreciating the work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:3-11).

But the most important thing to appreciate is that, though used by God, Paul was also as human as we are. While reading most of what is recorded in Paul’s epistles, not everything is doctrine.

The law, as instrument of governance, could not effectively be separated from Paul, and the other apostles. This is notwithstanding that Paul perfectly understood the principle of grace.  It is only Christ’s instructions that ought to be taken verbatim, unless the Spirit communicates through other means, just as in Peter’s case (Acts 10:9-43).

The most important lesson on Peter’s vision is that God communicated clearly, showing how what had been unclean had become clean. Peter’s vision, revealed that the Gentiles had become clean, through Christ (Acts 10:15).

While Peter took this as new datum, Jesus had dined with sinners and non-Jews. Of the Roman Army Captain, Jesus had declared not having found anyone as faithful, in Israel (Matthew 8:10).  Also, Peter ought to have understood the Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:25-37). If still having problems with God’s grace, Peter had not fully understood Jesus’ principles.

Image result for the body of christ pictures

Common sense dictates that, when lost, one needs to go back to the origins. Any other way would actually further complicate the deviation from the original source. Jesus is our authority, on whom our salvation hinges. He is stable datum, if error is to be avoided.

Jesus stated that whatever is bound by two or three people, in agreement, is also bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18).  The agreement is between two or three people. And this does not mean that such agreement would necessarily be authentic. But, the process of ordination is not doctrine.

The Great commission, recorded by Matthew and Mark, shows that Jesus expects those repenting to be baptized. Unlike ordination, baptism confirms the Holy Spirit to fill up those committing themselves to the new way of life (Acts 2:38).

The precedent of ordaining the seven deacons makes interesting reading. In Acts 6 we see the rising of an administrative problem confronting the apostles. The disciples were increasing in number, leading to administrative challenges, triggered by quarrels between the Hellenists and the Hebrews.

I suppose this was pointing to pastoral needs? However, it was not the apostles who made the appointments. The apostles, simply instructed the brethren to pick, among men of the Spirit and of wisdom.

The responsibility of selecting was conferred on the brethren who, obviously, selected, based on the fruits displayed, as per requirements. The subsequent laying on of hands ceremony had nothing to do with the work of the Spirit.

Remember, the appointees were observed as having had the Spirit and wisdom already (Acts 6:3). The ordination ceremony just confirmed what the Spirit, had long conferred, on those devout men. This is like a wedding ceremony, used to solemnize the matrimony of a couple already in love.

The ordination ceremony itself was not instructed by Jesus. Its historical context originated from Moses. However, its usage implies inability to differentiate between Old and New Covenants. The New Covenant, authenticated by the words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, does not require ceremonies. However, nothing appears sinful about practicing such customs, which should not be taken as doctrine.

The distinct manifestations of the Holy Spirit were at Pentecost (Acts 2). And also when instructing the apostles to set apart Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2). Paul attributes the individual member’s gifts to the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). But not all the apostles’ opinions, were necessarily the work of the Spirit, unless when in conformity with Jesus’ words.

The New Covenant stands on the foundation of Jesus’ teachings. When experiencing problems of distinguishing whether the Spirit is of God or not, what Jesus taught is stable data. However, the Spirit may communicate directly; similarly to how He communicated to Peter, concerning Cornelius.

Most of Paul’s instructions to the churches, through his epistles, were merely administrative, based on standing culture at the time, and Paul’s opinion, more than the work of the Spirit.

A good example of this is where Paul instructs women not to speak before men (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). What Paul said here, is not universally applicable. Unless conforming to what Jesus taught, what Paul said had nothing to do with the Spirit.

Paul, himself, at times made clarifications between his opinion and the Lord’s teachings (1 Corinthians 7:6, 10). What is important is to know that Paul was as human as all of us are. We ought to look to Jesus more than we look to Paul, or any other human being.

It feels good to identify oneself as pastor. But, as the term ‘pastor’ is only mentioned once (Ephesians 4:11), in the entire New Testament, spontaneous questions arise. If the term is as important as known today, why did Jesus not talk about it? If pastoring implies one person catering for the needs of the flock, what did Paul mean:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…..” (1 Corinthians 12:26)?

Apparently, being a Christian implies pastoring to other Christians, depending on the spiritual gift conferred on one. Equally, those other Christians are also pastors, depending on their spiritual gifts, as well.

But, the actual pastoral responsibility is ensconced on Jesus, who declares that eventually, “there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). This leaves no room for those declaring to be sole pastors, needing to be accorded respect and honor by congregants. They suppress congregants, limiting them to tithing for the Pastor’s upkeep?

Most, such pastors suppose they do not need shepherding by people considered junior. But did not Christ say all are brethren, therefore, equal? (Matthew 23:8-12).  I am not sure, of the reason why Christ emphasized that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. But when considering His teachings on humility, (Matthew 20:1-16) Jesus was serious about removing hierarchical structures in His Church.

Conversion means moving away from self-centredness towards serving other people, which simply means pastoring others. However, an average Christian today understands conversion as implying regular church attendance and tithing. [See the wrong way of church financing]

Some of these wolves know plainly, that they are dubious, taking advantage of the ignorant people. But, most pastors may be sincere; having been assured at ordination that they would be vicars of Christ. Yet, ironically, Christ never lived on people’s tithes.

The informed ones are known to refuse to take up pastoral responsibilities. But, most of them, just get enticed by the pecks that the ordination authorities dangle. However, in Zimbabwe, most pastors get disappointed. Zimbabweans, currently reeling under extreme poverty cannot faithfully keep up with tithing, as much as pastors expect them to tithe [see here] [here] and also [here].

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.

The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com  for $6.99