A thought came to me last night: God gave what we know as the “leadership positions” in the body of Christ with an end in mind of UNITY, among other things. Sadly, this isn’t what is readily apparent on the surface of things within the visible “church.” I believe this unity is in spirit, not doctrine. This unity is in Truth, not dogma or scripture. This unity is with God, not other men. This unity can’t be forced and is not all-encompassing. This unity is not fully manifested yet, but is coming, and those in this unity are patient and loving with others in hopes they come as well. The Father Himself will facilitate it in His time, through the revelation of Christ in his body, the church.
(Ephesians 4): 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—…
You probably noticed “pastors” in verse 11 above. I was surprised to learn recently that this is the ONLY use of the word “pastor” in the entire New Testament. Some translations read “shepherd,” which is closer to the intended meaning. In a typical “church” as we know it today, why aren’t teachers, prophets, apostles, and evangelists as distinct, noticeable and revered as pastors? All these things are just various functions in the body of Christ. Nothing more, really. And they all serve to, in selfless love and humble service, equip all those who have been set apart for the Father’s use by faith in Jesus Christ to then minister to God themselves.
All these functions are only temporary, you’ll notice. In verse 13, Paul writes all these functions are given UNTIL… There is coming a time when they won’t be needed anymore, because the body of Christ has manifested “perfect” and complete; this time in spirit in a worldwide, corporate body – the Church. Christ will literally walk the earth again as a corporate body made up of many “members.” This is the Church as God sees it. It’s coming, praise God. But first, much of what we know and see will have to be destroyed or removed.
A “pastor” is nothing more or less than a member of the body of Christ who is called of God to care for God’s people, as a shepherd. Not to lead them in the sense of hearing God for them or teaching them (“teachers” are listed as a separate gift), not in the sense of heading up a “church,” preaching weekly, etc. This is shepherding in the sense of bandaging wounds of soul and spirit, serving selflessly with zero notoriety or recognition, protecting the weak and wounded from wolves, showing love, etc. – all to lead these sheep back to the fold of their shepherd in good health, to then hear and be led of the Shepherd himself. An important function, for sure. But nothing like many Christians know it today.
I simply pray we will all unify under the headship and “pastorate” of Jesus Christ. This was a prophecy of Paul the apostle and a prayer of Jesus himself. It will come, but woe to those who oppose it, even though this opposition was inevitable for a time. A body works in unity when all members respond to the head. Jesus Christ is the head of the body the church, but many members of it have lost connection with him. I beg of anyone who believes in Jesus Christ to “forsake all that you have,” as Jesus said (Luke 14:33). In this case, I ask you to forsake the doctrines you’ve been taught, the way you’ve known “church,” the way you want or think things should be, for whatever reason. If you don’t do this, you CANNOT be a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said this, as plainly as he could possibly have said it.
Let me repeat this exclusive demand of Jesus (Luke 14:33 ESV): “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Did Jesus demand that every follower of his for all time sell every material possession they have and live on the streets, with friends, or in homeless shelters? Should we all right now put our homes on the market for sale, then give all the proceeds away? Or maybe we should, right now, leave our computers behind and walk out the door, leaving our homes, cars, and everything else behind, permanently? No, that is not what Jesus was talking about. I believe he was speaking of things deeper than the physical world, as he always did. I believe he was saying that we must “renounce” everything that is of US. Everything that WE have accumulated in the invisible realms – our beliefs, preconceptions, religions, doubts, resentments, etc.
To be a “disciple” is to be a “learner and a follower.” One who follows and learns from their master so closely that they come to look exactly like them. This is the call of Jesus – to follow him in his example of pursuit, devotion, submission, and obedience to the Father. If we don’t give up what WE have gathered, how can we follow Jesus? Either we are going to serve what we have come to know, or we will forsake it all and follow Jesus Christ into ever-increasing knowledge of the Father. When all do this, true unity begins. Amen.
“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” –Eric Hoffer