As we looked at re-forming the way we teach pastors we found that our expectations of the role of the pastor strongly influenced the structures needed in the classroom. What is the purpose of a pastor? As we gathered our first list of activities from a wide range of people in different countries we found that nearly every possible activity was expected of a pastor by one person or another. From, preaching, to maintenance, to building skills, to legal skills, community organizing, leading music, visiting everyone and anyone who was sick, or needed guidance, the pastor was the counselor, and guide for everyone all the time!
Whew! That is exhausting!
What is the role of a pastor and a congregation? In Ephesians Paul lays out five different types of ministers; apostles, evangelists, prophets, shepherds and teachers. Each of these has a different set of activities, types of ministries and a bit different focus but the main point of each of their ministry is the SAME. Paul points them all to the follow outcomes,
for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:12-16 World English Bible (public domain).
This SAME ministry is to the whole BODY of Christ, those local congregations who are expressions of the Body of Christ. It is the ministry of building up the body to the fullness of the measure of Christ, as each part does its work. This means that while we are equipping the student to be a beginning pastor – the role of that beginning pastor is to equip the whole body for ministry. This means that we need to make sure that the pastor is able to teach and train others for ministry! We need to make sure the pastor is equipped to perfect the saints in THEIR work of service (according to the working in measure of each individual part). We cannot assume the students are able to do this, we need to see them demonstrate that ability – often – during their classes in the Course of Study. We need to build into them the expectation that this is their role, and the confidence that they are able to fill it.
Thus every lesson we teach should have the local believer, the local congregation, and the community where these “lay persons” will be ministering in mind. This is the reasoning behind having four engagements in every class. If what we are teaching the student cannot be applied by a congregation as they minister in a community it does not need to be a part of our curriculum.
This is a congregational focus.