When someone begins to talk or write about the organization of the church, eyes often begin to glaze over and attention wanders. Church organization is not thought to be the most practical or ministry-minded topic. After all, who is excited to learn about committee structures or meeting minutes? But the reality is that the organization of the church is a means that King Jesus uses to disciple His people and to bring the gospel to a lost and needy world. When Christ ascended into heaven, He did not leave His children as orphans (John 14:18); rather, He established a structure by which the Holy Spirit would work through men to build up the church. This involves the calling, equipping, and ordaining of pastors (Eph. 4:11), elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5), and deacons (Acts 6) in the church. The Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to bring the gospel of grace to the world (Matt. 28:18–20) and the path of every Christian culminates in the corporate worship of God for all eternity (Rev. 21). Thus, we need the gifts that Jesus has given to the church, including pastors and teachers, to fulfill this mission. There are three main reasons why we need pastors: first, pastors bring us the Word of God; second, pastors encourage us in our walk with Christ; and third, pastors equip us to do ministry. It should not surprise us that each of these needs corresponds to a provision from Christ.
Pastors Bring Us the Word of God
The first and most important reason we need pastors is because Christ has commanded them to be heralds of the Word of God. It is foundational to the office of pastor to deliver, expound, and explain God’s Word to His people. This task is so foundational that it is common to refer to a pastor as “preacher.” As our Mediator, Christ reveals to us by His Word the will of God so that we might be saved (John 20:31) and grow in grace as children of God (Acts 20:32). In the present age, Christ does this through the foolishness of preaching and preachers (1 Cor. 1:21). In a way that is similar in many respects to the role of the Old Testament prophets, pastors bring God’s Word to His people through preaching. The main difference is that pastors do not bring forth direct, new revelation from God. Instead, they study God’s Word and teach it to God’s people so that God’s people will know who God is and how and why they should obey Him. In this way, pastors are like the leaders in the book of Nehemiah, who not only read the law of God but also “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). We have examples throughout the book of Acts of pastors teaching God’s Word, including Peter before the crowds and Paul in Ephesus. This preaching and teaching role was not confined to the Apostles, as Paul directed Timothy and Titus to this task (2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:15) and encouraged hearers of the Word to provide for their teachers (Gal. 6:6). Paul understood that it was critical for pastors to bring God’s Word to His people, and he gave an example for all pastors who have followed him. The pastor must never “shrink from declaring . . . the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and must speak “not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that [the people’s] faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4–5).