The Pastor’s Teaching Responsibility: A Pauline Theology of Pastoral Teaching of Believers

Note: Articles classified as essays may be long, advanced, or esoteric.

Paul’s instructions on pastoral teaching run throughout his epistles and Acts, with the greatest concentration in 1-2 Timothy and Titus.1 Paul addresses the following aspects of pastoral teaching: the qualifications, motivation, goals, contents, methods of pastoral teaching as well as the relationship of teaching to other pastoral functions.

I have attempted to outline the essential features of Paul’s view of pastoral teaching. The major points of the outline are as follows:

  1. Relationship of Teaching to other Pastoral Functions – What is the relationship of teaching to other pastoral functions?
  2. Qualifications – Who is qualified to teach?
  3. Rationale & Motivation – What should motivate pastors te teach?
  4. Purposes/Goals – What are the goals of pastoral teaching?
  5. Content/Scope – What content should the pastor teach?
  6. Methods – How does the pastor teach?

The detailed version of the outline can be found here. My goal in this paper is to explore four propositions about pastoral teaching.

Propositions:

  1. Elders must be able to teach.
  2. Preaching and teaching are distinct yet overlapping responsibilities of pastors.
  3. The teaching responsibilities Paul gives Timothy and Titus cannot be accomplished by one elder in two sermons on Sunday and a devotional on Wednesday night.
  4. We must change our church culture’s expectations of pastors if we are going to fulfill the biblical mandate.

The Scriptures Require Elders to be “Able to Teach.”

1 Timothy 3:2
KJV A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; NAS An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, LEB Therefore the overseer must be irreproachable, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, skillful in teaching,
2 Timothy 2:24
KJV And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, NAS The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, LEB And the slave of the Lord must not quarrel, but be kind toward everyone, skillful in teaching, tolerant,

What is involved in “able to teach?”2 Titus 1:9 identifies three dimensions to the elder’s ability to teach.

Titus 1:9
KJV Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. NAS holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. LEB holding fast to the faithful message according to the teaching, in order that he may be able both to exhort with sound instruction and to reprove those who speak against it.

 

  1. “holding fast the faithful word” = knowledge of and adherence to truth, both cognitively and behavioral. There is no substitution for obedience.
  2. “exhort in sound doctrine” = encourage by means of sound instruction. The word “doctrine” in English has acquired the technical sense of a formalized set of systematic theological beliefs held and taught by a church. Paul uses the word didaskalia in a non-technical sense of something that is taught.3
  3. “refute those who contradict” = correction/rebuke of contrary claims. The word translated “convince” (KJV), “refute” (NASB), and “reprove” (LEB) is elencho. It can mean “(1) convince, convict, (2) reprove, correct in the sense of setting right or, (3) in an intensified sense rebuke, discipline, punish.” Out of the eight times Paul uses elencho, this is the only time the NASB translates it “refute.” BDAG prefers “convince, convict” in the sense of “to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing,” though it notes the sense of ‘refute’ in extra-biblical literature.

Ability to teach need not be fully mature to be detected. The spiritually young may exhibit a teaching gift in a variety of settings: their homes, one-on-one, small groups. In general such ability will be exhibited in six ways: 1) accuracy, 2) clarity, 3) conceptual coherence, 4) logical cogency, 5) effective application, and 6) audience appreciation. Accurate knowledge of the Scriptures and of their message, regardless of how such knowledge’s extensiveness, is essential for passing on the faith effectively. Clarity, coherence, and cogency should be evaluated both by a mentor and by those being taught. Effective application and audience appreciation both require some period of teaching so assessment is capturing more than first impressions. In order to discern teaching ability, a leader should solicit evaluative input from those who have been taught. To mentor its maturation, opportunities in a variety of settings and formative feedback should be provided.

Preaching and Teaching are Distinct yet Overlapping Responsibilities of Pastors

The offices of preacher, apostle, and teacher are distinguished.

2 Timothy 1:11
KJV Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. NAS for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. LEB for which I was appointed a proclaimer and an apostle and a teacher,

The distinction between preacher and teacher is less clear but still observable in 1 Timothy 2:7.

1 Timothy 2:7
KJV Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. NAS For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. LEB for which I was appointed a herald and an apostle– I am speaking the truth, I am not lying– a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Paul exhorts Timothy to devote himself to both exhortation and teaching, not one to the exclusion of the other.

1 Timothy 4:13
KJV Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. NAS Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. LEB Until I come, pay attention to the public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.

That some preaching is teaching or, at least, involves teaching is indicated by 2 Timothy 4:2.

2 Timothy 4:2
KJV Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. NAS preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. LEB preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and instruction.

Paul identifies among the gifted individuals whom Christ gives to His church the category of “pastors and teachers.”

Ephesians 4:11
KJV And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; NAS And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, LEB And he himself gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers

Scripture commands teaching as well as preaching. Note in 2 Tim. 4:2 (above) that the command to preach the word involved teaching. On the other hand, the command to teach does not necessarily involve preaching. For example, in 1 Tim. 4:11 Paul directs, “Command and teach these things.” In 1 Tim. 5:2, he directs, “Teach and exhort these things.”

The Teaching Responsibilities Paul Gives Timothy and Titus Cannot Be Accomplished by One Elder in Two Sermons on Sunday and a Devotional on Wednesday Night

Of the many goals of pastoral teaching, two stand out.

2 Timothy 2:2
KJV And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. NAS The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. LEB and the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these things to faithful people who will be competent to teach others also.

Pastors are directed to 1) identify men who are faithful and able to teach, and 2) entrust them with the content of apostolic teaching for the purpose of teaching others also.

Some have regarded this responsibility as having been delegated to Bible Colleges. As a professor at a Bible College and one trained in a Bible College, I believe Bible Colleges can and do contribute to fulfilling this command. However, there are a number of problems that are easily observed.

First, there is little involvement by elders in the identification and selection of faithful men who should be entrusted with a teaching ministry. Our tradition is almost entirely self-selecting. Students choose their focus of study. 1 Tim. 3:1 opens the door to self-selection, but the rest of Paul’s instructions imply that other elders are needed to validate, confirm, and train faithful men.

Second, Bible Colleges do not produce enough trained men to fill the pulpits of the churches that we have now. Paul envisions multiple elders serving in teaching capacities,4 to say nothing of the NT expectation that mature believers should themselves become discipling teachers (Hebrews 5:12; Matt. 28:18-19).

Third, Bible Colleges tend to focus on cognitive and skills-oriented development, and give less attention to development of faithful obedience and character. Further, it is rare that college-trained persons return to the church from which they were sent. As a result, there is a constant siphoning off of trained men from the local church.

Fourth, and perhaps most problematic, many pastors are hindered in fulfilling this responsibility by fears—fears about their own inability, fears about loss of power or influence, or fears about interpersonal conflicts arising from theological disagreements.

There is probably little disagreement with my diagnosis, but what is the solution? I believe the key to the solution is found in Ephesians 4:11-12.

Ephesians 4:11-13
KJV And he gave some, …, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: NAS And He gave some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, 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 mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. LEB And he himself gave some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all reach the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to a measure of the maturity of the fullness of Christ,

Here is the classic passage on the purpose of Christ’s gift of gifted individuals to the church, among them pastor-teachers. Ephesians 4:12 identifies their purpose as “equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.” The KJV’s ‘perfecting’ had the sense ‘to complete’ in 1611 as in “a process of adjustment that results in a complete preparedness.”5 Equip communicates the same idea. The purpose of pastor-teachers is to equip saints to do the work of service/ministry.

Equipping necessarily involves teaching, modeling, and mentoring. But the purpose of equipping is not emergency backup or the creation of a second-string team to fill in if the first-string is temporarily out of the game. The purpose of equipping is to prepare and deploy trained people to build up the body of Christ.6

It appears to me that many pastors don’t have time to equip anyone else to do the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body because they are so busy doing it themselves! If the saints were equipped and empowered to serve and support the body of Christ, pastor-teachers could focus on their God-given responsibility to be equippers.

Acts 6 provides us an example of spiritual leadership refusing to be diverted from its appointed functions into legitimate and necessary ministry tasks. The apostles commissioned men chosen by the church for their good reputation, wisdom, and Spirit-filled lives to take responsibility for the material needs of the congregation. We need to follow their example.

We Must Change Our Church Culture’s Expectations Of Pastors If We Are Going To Fulfill The Biblical Mandate

To follow the apostles’ example, first, both pastors and laymen must be convinced that the Scriptures expect pastors to be training faithful men to train others. This cascading relationship of training appears to be missing from our tradition’s conception of pastoral ministry. Second, and as a correlate of the first, both pastors and laymen must be convinced from Scripture that pastors are not responsible and should not be tasked with many of the ministry functions with which they are currently tasked. For example, you will find no instruction in the Pastorals for elders about maintaining infrastructure, regularly visiting shut-ins and the hospitalized, taking care of widows, running Christmas programs, or most of the items that fill the time of the normal pastor.

What practical steps can pastors take to move their church in this direction? I have suggested the following and know of some pastors who have implemented some of these things:

  1. Commit to and engage in relationship building.7 Trust is the currency of change. Without it, your people will not participate.
  2. Prayerfully identify faithful men in your congregation whom you believe could be mentored or could mentor others.
  3. Ask them to consider a time-limited commitment to explore what Scripture says about this topic and consider becoming such a person.
  4. Invest in your current leadership by studying through the Scriptures’ expectations for pastors with them. You are establishing both your own job description and shaping expectations for future pastors.
  5. Once your church leadership is on board, evaluate what structural impediments (e.g., church by-laws, job descriptions, membership issues) hinder implementation.
  6. Consider having faithful men teach through the material you have already covered in an adult SS class for the church membership and key non-leadership adults. Slow, inductive movement through the Scriptural data should be designed to allow the saints to discover for themselves what God expects from pastor-teachers and from them.
  7. Expect spiritual war to break out. The enemy hates all movement in the direction of implementing Scripture.
  8. Expect and prepare your leadership to handle the same kinds of problems that Timothy was faced with in Ephesus: the teaching of demons (1 Tim. 4:1); worldly or old-wives fables (1 Tim. 4:7); wrangling about words (2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:4); fruitless discussions (1 Tim. 1:6); foolish controversies, genealogies, as well as strife and disputes about the Law (Tit. 3:9); and wolves arising from existing elders (Acts 20:29-30).
  9. Create a structured accountability system for on-going interaction with and mentoring of faithful men as they mentor other faithful men.

This process I am describing has been implemented in other faith traditions in recent years. A wealth of resources has been made available, particularly through 9Marks.com. The differences in theological perspective from baptist or Presbyterian churches have no bearing on the implementation of these biblical principles.

Discussion Opportunity

What questions does this study raise for you?

What practical suggestions can you offer from your experience on implementing a biblical perspective on the pastoral-teaching responsibility?

 


[1] In the pastoral epistles, the *διδαχ* root (teach* / instruct*) occurs 31 times and includes the following terms: διδασκω, διδασκαλια, διδαχη, διδασκαλος, διδακτικος, ετεροδιδασκαλεω, νομοδιδασκαλος, καλοδιδασκαλος  (1 Tim. 1:3, 7, 10; 2:7, 12; 3:2; 4:1, 6, 11, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:1, 2, 3; 2 Tim. 1:11; 2:2, 24; 3:10, 16; 4:2, 3; Tit. 1:9, 11; 2:1, 3, 7, 10). The root παιδ* (instruction / discipline) occurs four times (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:16; Tit. 2:12).

[2] I found the following articles on “able to teach” helpful. David Mathis, “Must Elders be Skilled in Teaching” on http://www.desiringgod.org; Thabiti Anyabwile, “9 Considerations: What Does Paul Mean by “Able to Teach”?” on http://www.crossway.org.

[3] Evidence for understanding didaskalia as a non-technical term may be seen in Paul’s use of it in reference to false teaching (Eph. 4:14), the teaching of men (Col. 2:22), the teachings of demons (1 Tim. 4:1), and the variety of ways he describes his teaching: “sound/healthy teaching” (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1), “good teaching” (1 Tim. 4:6), “teaching that accords with godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3), and “teaching of God our Savior” (Tit. 2:10).

[4] Evidence that argues for a plurality of elders in NT churches includes the following: 1) Hebrews 13:17 “obey them (pl) that have the rule over you”; 2) 1 Thess. 5:12-13 “appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge (pl) over you in the Lord and give you instruction”; 3) Acts 14:23; 20:18 both suggest that Paul established a plurality of elders in the churches he founded (Acts 14:23; 20:18). 4) Paul’s admonition to Titus to ordain elders in every city supports the conclusion that he expected a church to have a plurality of elders (Titus 1:5). 5) Paul’s comments on how elders who labor in the word and teaching are worthy of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17) also suggest a plurality of teaching elders in the church at Ephesus.

[5] Friberg, s.v., καταρτισμός.

[6] The structure of Paul’s sentence in Greek supports this understanding. Specifically, Paul uses two prepositions (πρὸς and εἰς) to structure his sentence so that “for the equipping of the saints” is followed by two purpose clauses both of which begin with the same preposition: 1) for the work of the ministry, and 2) for the upbuilding of the body of Christ. Whether the second purpose clause is logically dependent upon the first does not affect the fact that both are purposes which are distinguished from the means by which they are accomplished (the equipping of the saints).

[7] Thanks to Duane Quesenberry for pointing this out during the 2018 Aldersgate Forum.