I have no idea where I’d be apart from the continual impact made on my life by those whom God has called to be shepherds and teachers in the Church. My local pastors and elders have played a vital and indispensable role in my life. They’ve taught me the Word. They’ve discipled me holistically. In their patient and steadfast love toward me, they’ve helped me to believe more and more that God really does love me – a reality I’ve struggled to embrace. And beyond the local level, there are “celebrity pastors” (a label none of them embrace!) that have sharpened me tremendously. Matt Chandler, David Platt, John Piper, Tim Keller, and R.C. Sproul are, in my opinion, some of the greatest teachers of God’s Word walking the earth today. My love for Christ and grasp of the gospel is largely owing to having sat under these guys’ solid teaching for hundreds and hundreds of hours.
I am so thankful, with every fiber of my being, that God has raised up gifted men to teach, lead, and care for his Church.Without them, my life would be a big hot mess (well, more so than it already is!).
But I think sometimes, in our great adoration of them, we tend to view the men who occupy the pulpit as the only ones God has enabled and holds responsible to advance Christ’s Kingdom. Sure, we do our part. We fund the ministry of the church with our tithes and offerings. We teach a Sunday school class or serve in the nursery some weekends. But the Kingdom advancement stuff . . . that evangelism stuff . . . yeah, that’s Pastor’s job.
Oh, how far off the biblical base we are.
Sure, it’s true that our pastors play a massive role in the advancement of God’s Kingdom. And yes, it’s true they are designated by God to feed us and teach us – but for what purpose? To what end? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us a partial answer to this question.
“And [Jesus] gave … the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” – Ephesians 4:11-12.
Who are the “saints”? Paul, Peter, St. Valentine, and whoever else the Roman Catholic Church deems worthy of the title? Nope. You and I are the saints. What this verse says is that one reason God gives us shepherds and teachers is to equip us to be ministers of the gospel. I think the phrase “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4:12 is applicable to both our work in the local church (which is why we shouldn’t neglect teaching Sunday School classes or serving in the nursery!) and our work in evangelism. God’s vision is that all of his children would be priests who serve in the weekly functioning of the Church . . . and prophets who proclaim Jesus to a lost and dying word.
The advancement of God’s Kingdom rests upon every Christian’s shoulders, not just upon the shoulders of those who preach on Sundays. Every born-again believer in Jesus is appointed and divinely empowered to carry the gospel into our homes, schools, work places, recreational activities, or any other sphere that belongs to our everyday life. Our pastors are gifts from God to help us do this. They feed us from the pulpit and impart to us their wisdom in order that we can carry the saving love and knowledge of Jesus to the world.
One of the pivotal moments of my walk with Jesus occurred in mid-2013 when I realized that it was my personal responsibility to reach my friends and coworkers with his gospel. It was not my pastor’s job to evangelize them. I wasn’t divinely placed in their lives just to invite them to church so they could hear my awesome pastor talk about my awesome Savior. No! God sovereignly connected me with these folks that I – Matt Moore – might be a conduit of gospel grace and truth to them. I definitely needed to invite them to church, but my church invitations needed to supplement my personal gospel witness to them, not replace it.
Though my evangelistic endeavors have been disastrously imperfect sometimes, and though I’ve had seasons where my passion and proclamation of the gospel has waned, I have been fortunate enough to see God bless my efforts by saving and transforming my friends. However . . . even when my gospel-words and gospel-actions seem to fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts (which is what usually happens), my soul still surges with joy every time I point someone to Jesus. Speaking of the glorious God of the Scriptures and serving others for his sake always gives me life, regardless of how others respond. Evangelism is a joyful experience, no matter how great or small the immediate fruit.
It is good news that the advancement of God’s Kingdom does not rest on the backs of our pastors, because that means it’s not just they who are allowed to get in on the pleasure and excitement of the work. We are all invited (and commanded) to partake of the soul-satisfaction of gospel multiplication! It can be very difficult, and it’s met with violent opposition sometimes, but I promise you, nothing feels more “right” than speaking of Jesus to people who need Jesus. It is what we are still here in this fallen world to do.
I know there are probably people reading this who are thinking, “I know this is true. I know I should be sharing the gospel with the people in my life . . . and I want to! But I just feel so unable to do it. I don’t even know where to start!” Well, back to Ephesians chapter 4 – this is why God has given us shepherds and teachers. Go to your pastor or to another leader in your church and ask him or her to help you gain the knowledge and wisdom you need to “go out and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). It should be – and hopefully will be – your pastor or teacher’s joy to come alongside you and equip you to be a more confident and effective minister of the gospel.