“Getting the Role of Pastor Right Again”
August 15, 2005
John H. Armstrong
For a long time I have had serious doubts about many of the models of pastoral ministry used and promoted in the West. These models range from academic and biblical teacher models to chief counselor and care-giver. In my estimation they all fail the biblical test at some crucial point, and some fall even further short than others. Worse still these various models generally hinder the church from being the church in the best sense. Until these models are radically altered I do not believe that we will see the kind of renewal that we need in the church in America.
Put very simply, the primary vision of ministry that we gave to pastors, from the time of the Protestant Reformation right down to the present, has been that of a well-trained teacher explaining the Bible to the flock. In response to the specialized priestly role that had developed among the leadership of the church over the course of centuries, the Reformers recovered the centrality of the preaching of the Word of God and restored a pulpit to the church. For this recovery I am profoundly grateful. But, it was by this means that the minister became the primary teacher of the flock in time. When seminaries arose they were specifically designed to prepare the pastor to be the primary specialist in Bible and theology and thus the best teacher in the local church setting. (In reality, Calvin saw two different roles in the Ephesians 4 description of "pastor-teacher." He thought the church was best served by two different persons, the pastor who cared for the flock and the teacher who was the resident theologian who made sure the truth of the gospel was preserved and taught.)