I recently wrote a short post for my denomination’s blog about our need to repent of ‘one size fits all ministry. You can read it here. We desperately need to repent of that idea that there is one composite set of gifts and and passions that every ‘pastor’ is to strive toward. This is simply not at all biblical and has caused pain and frustration for both ‘ministers’ and congregations.
It’s also not enough to just acknowledge this. This conversation desperately needs to come down from the conceptual level to the ground level. We need to be able to discern (in community) our callings and name them for what they are, even if that requires some non-category fitting nuance.
So, I’m leading by example in the comment that I shared under that post and will re-post here.
I am a teacher.
I am not a shepherd.
Several years before having read any APEST (see Ephesians 4) literature, my experiences showed me that not everyone who serves in existing ministry roles have the same gifts. In my case it was that myself and the other pastor I served with complemented each other quite well. At the time I didn’t have the framework to think about it, but I now believe he is a shepherd and I am a teacher.
There is a fairly robust discussion in the exegesis of Ephesians 4:11 about whether shepherds and teachers are one role or two. I’ll save that conversation for another day, but I (along with the majority of those who have put APEST in to practice) believe that these are different callings.
Of course, we can see in the New Testament (see 1 Peter 5 for example) that there is in some way a collective shepherding function of local elders, but some people are particularly called and passionate about shepherding the church. They tend to prioritize relationships and community building. They often thrive on caring for others, take note of when people are missing and are hurt when people leave their ‘fold.’ Shepherds don’t often have to be talked into making calls and visits to check up on people. One quality of the ministry of shepherds I know personally is encouragement. They excel and thrive on building people up, making them feel loved and wanted.
This is all wonderful stuff, but it doesn’t characterize my primary God-given passion. I ‘can’ shepherd competently, but I have to talk myself into making checkup visits. I’d much rather challenge people to grow then tell them they’re doing well. I’m not really that bothered when people decide they’d rather go to another church. In short, I’m a pretty lousy shepherd because I’m not gifted to be a shepherd.
I am a teacher. I actually resisted this because of a stereotype I had of a teacher (in the church sense, not the public school sense) as someone who relates information. Truth be told, I would like to be a prophet, but I am not. But once I began to understand what a teacher is, particularly through an APEST assessment that involved feedback from other people who know me and my thinking and ministry.
And, Neil Cole’s book Primal Fire. For me, this is probably the best, practical book on APEST and ‘leadership.’
When Neil describes the teacher, I said, ‘yes, yes, yes…’ over and over again.
Teaching isn’t about information but transformation. Putting knowledge into practice.
According to Cole, teachers facilitate the learning of truth and a kingdom lifestyle.
He says that the treachers greatest motivation is the dual task of exposing false assumptions and replacing those errors with truth. Yes! That’s what I do.
A teacher is a learner – with an insatiable curiosity and fascination. This one got me: “A teacher doesn’t have to be prompted to study. Books are like friends.”
This is Cole’s definition of teaching: “Facilitating the learning of others so that they know, do and pass on to others relevant and meaningful truth.”
Alan Hirsch’s book ‘The Permanent Revolution’ further solidified my understanding of my calling. He says that “The teaching ministry as the Bible intends it is more oriented toward life and obedience then toward ideas divorced from life.
I could go on and on, but I just want to say that I am a teacher. I am not a shepherd.
What about you?