HE GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN (published in 1992)
The Pastor and The Local Church
There are two primary organizations or institutions that God has put His approval on. Number one, the home and family. He instituted that first. Number two, the church. And really, the local church is like a family; it is a church family. Have you ever noticed that the family and the church are the two things the devil attacks more than anything else?
People are always asking, "What is God doing today?" as if God is going to do something new everyday. One of the main things God is doing today is emphasizing the local church. But that's not new.
God has always put his blessing, approval, and emphasis on the local church, but because some of these things have gotten out of balance, He is reemphasizing the local church to let us know it is a priority with Him.
Actually, God is just directing us back to where we ought to be.
I'll tell you exactly what God wants to do in the Body of Christ today.
Number one, He wants to build strong local churches. Number two, he wants members of local churches to learn to flow in the Spirit.
We need to realize that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, is the One who instituted the local church and set the pastoral office in the Body of Christ. Notice something Jesus said about the pastoral office in:
Matthew chapter 9.
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, AS SHEEP HAVING NO SHEPHERD.
In this passage, the Bible doesn't say that when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion because the people fainted as sheep without an apostle or prophet. It doesn't say the multitude fainted as sheep without an evangelist or teacher. No! It says that they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep without a shepherd! Sheep need a shepherd!
Jesus knew the sheep would be scattered without a pastor. The evangelist [APOSTLE AND PROPHETS - Keith Hunt] don't have the same anointing on them to take care of the sheep and nurture them.
No Substitute for the Local Church
That's the reason I take umbrage with some of these teachers who downgrade the local church and encourage folks to be independent from a church body. They leave the impression that folks don't need the local church.
One Bible teacher I knew actually said to several pastors, "I don't much believe in the local church. If folks will listen to me on radio and television and read my books and listen to my tapes, they can stay home and grow spiritually just as much as anyone who goes to church."
That's not scriptural. By saying that, he did away with the pastoral office, which Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, set in the local body! Folks may grow some just by listening to tapes and television ministries, but it will be a lopsided spiritual growth. They need a pastor — a shepherd. The shepherd holds a unique place in the fivefold ministry because he is the one who has been set in the Church by Jesus to nurture and tend the sheep.
I said, "Isn't it awful that poor ole Jesus didn't know that folks could grow spiritually with just the ministry of teachers, so He went ahead and put shepherds in the local body. Poor ole Jesus is not as smart as that fellow! He must not have known what He was doing by setting pastors in the Church."
But then this teacher admitted, "I don't like to be around people and take care of their problems." But, you see, that is a shepherd's job. A pastor is on call twenty-four hours a day for the needs of the sheep.
When I say God put his approval on the church, that means the local body, not someone's television ministry. That's not the church. That is just an arm of ministry, and it can never substitute for the local body. A radio ministry can never take the place of the local church, nor can crusades or seminars.
Radio and television ministries and crusades and seminars are just supplements or outreaches of the church; they are not the local church.
People who think they can quit going to church and just listen to television ministries and go to crusades and seminars is like someone trying to stay alive eating only vitamin supplements instead of food!
You can see how unreasonable it would be for someone to say, "I'm going to quit eating food and just take vitamins." No, if a person did that he would die.
It's the same way with the local church. If you quit going to church and just try to grow spiritually by relying on radio or television ministries for your spiritual diet, your spiritual health will suffer.
Some of these radio and television ministries want you to send them your tithes and offerings. I won't even listen to television or radio ministers who try to get people to send tithes to them. Actually, television and radio preachers shouldn't drain money away from the local church.
I'm not against Christians supporting other preachers if they think they are worthy. But television or radio ministries can't take the place of the local church and they shouldn't encourage folks to send their tithes to them.
I've told people for years, "Send-your-tithes to your local church. After you've paid your tithes and offerings to your local church, then you can send an offering to another ministry if you want to."
I've never asked anyone to send me their tithes because I believe the tenth belongs to the local church (Lev. 27:32; Mai. 3:10).
When you are sick or in the hospital, do these television ministers who want your tithes and offerings come and minister to you? When you get married, do they come and counsel you and perform the ceremony? Do they help you in times of trouble and family bereavement? No!
No, the pastor is the one who performs those functions in the local church. And he is the one who makes sure the flock of God is fed a balanced spiritual diet. For that reason he holds a unique place among the sheep. He is like the daddy of a family. He loves the sheep in a way that an evangelist, prophet, or teacher can't love them because he has the shepherd's anointing on him.
You see, the evangelist can preach, but when the service is over, he can walk out the door. And the teacher and the prophet can come along and hold a teaching crusade at a church and teach the people, but when it's over, they can leave.
But the pastor can't leave the sheep that have been committed to his care, nor does he want to — not if he's a true shepherd. His ministry is stationary in the local body. He's got to stay right there with the people and help nurture them.
Let me say something else while I'm at it. Teaching centers cannot take the place of the local church. Some of these teaching centers have one or two services a week, but there is no shepherd, only a teacher. That's not having church.
A pastor will either be a preacher or a teacher of the Word, but his main office is to pastor. But if a minister just has the teaching gift, then his ministry gift is teaching, not the pastoral office. Just because a person can preach or teach, doesn't make him a shepherd.
[AN ELDER, PASTOR, MUST BE A TEACHER; TAKING CARE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH IS IN PART, TEACHING THE WORD OF GOD; THIS IS WHY IT’S A FOUR FOLD MINISTRY NOT FIVE. YOU CAN HAVE GOOD TEACHERS FOR SABBATH BIBLE STUDIES, BUT THEY ARE NOT PART OF THE ELDERSHIP CALLED BY GOD - Keith Hunt]
A pastor can be a teacher, don't misunderstand me. But if a minister is just a teacher, and he isn't called to the pastoral office, then his teaching center can't take the place of the local church. If he's just a teacher, he ought to teach the people about getting into a good home church.
Then there are those fellows who claim to be pastors, but they run in and preach …. and they're gone all the rest of the time. That's not a true shepherd! They ought to stay home and pastor their flock.
It's all right for a pastor to be gone once in a while. But for the most part a pastor ought to be in the local body tending the sheep. Some pastors wonder why their people aren't growing spiritually. Sometimes it's because the pastor isn't tending the sheep properly.
What has happened in the Body of Christ is that we have gotten some of these things out of balance….. but many really didn't know the purpose of the local church so they didn't esteem it properly.
As wonderful as crusades and seminars are for our spiritual growth and edification, they cannot take the place of the local church. You cannot run a church like you would a crusade or a seminar……
But a pastor can't do that in the local assembly — not if he is a true shepherd. When I was a pastor, I was the first one in the church to greet the people, and I was the last one to leave, shaking hands and fellow-shipping with people after the service was over.
As a pastor, the people needed to know I was available and that I was there to serve them. You can't run a church service like you do a seminar. You might have a crusade in the church, and the minister holding the crusade might act that way, but the pastor can't. Besides, a pastor would rather minister to the needs of the sheep than do anything else.
That's the reason it is readily apparent that some folks aren't called to the pastoral office. They don't want to be with the sheep.
I recently heard about a fellow who was supposedly a pastor. But after several years, he was still only running twenty-five people in his congregation. It's no wonder because when he finished preaching, he would turn and walk out the back door! That man either wasn't called to the pastoral office, or he was misled as to the true nature of the shepherd's role in the local body. That's not the pastoral office in demonstration.
No, the true shepherd loves the sheep. He'd rather die than to see them hurt. He wants to see the sheep blessed and helped more than anything else.
The Local Church Is a Church Family
As a church family, the local church is going to have some of the same problems that any natural family will have because it's made up of people. The pastor will have to deal with those problems, whether it is discipline problems, financial problems, or any other kind of problems. It is not the job of some so-called apostle or prophet who doesn't even know the sheep to come in and start disciplining another man's sheep.
In the natural realm, children in a family sometimes get into disobedience and need a father's guidance. Sometimes the father of a family needs to provide correction. When your children need discipline, you don't call an outsider in to take care of disciplining them, do you? Of course not.
It's the same way in the local body. That local pastor is like the daddy of the local church. The sheep in a church body need the shepherd to nurture them with the Word of God and care for them in the sheepfold. And if they need discipline, they need a pastor who has their best interests at heart to administer biblical correction in a loving way.
The shepherd is the one who is qualified to correct the sheep spiritually if they need it because he is there all the time with them. He knows his congregation and has a genuine care and concern for their welfare. If his flock sometimes needs to be corrected, it is certainly not the teacher's responsibility, any more than it is the apostle's or prophet's responsibility, to come in and spiritually correct a pastor's church members.
No, people need a shepherd! They can't be perfected without the pastor of the local body. Actually, all the other ministry gifts would labor in vain if it weren't for the pastor, because he is the one who is responsible to tend, care for, and nurture the sheep with the Word of God.
Sheep will never grow spiritually and never reach full maturity without a shepherd and the local church.
Because the local church is a family, the church ought to see after their own members, just as a family takes care of its own family members.
If church members are sick and in the hospital, the pastoral staff ought to be right there to minister to them. When folks want to get married, the pastor is there to counsel them and perform the ceremony. When someone dies in a person's family, the pastor and that church family is right there to surround that family with love and support.
If you don't belong to a local church, or you only go once in a while, how would anyone in the church know if you needed prayer or were sick?
The benefit of the local church goes beyond just the spiritual side of life. The local church was also instituted by God to be a blessing to people on the natural side of life.
You see, there's the spiritual side of life, but there's also the natural side of life. You can't just live in the Spirit all the time; you're not supposed to because you're still living in the natural realm.
You've got to walk in the Spirit as you live in this natural world. Of course, the local church is to feed people spiritually, but it can also be a blessing to its members in certain natural ways too.
That's why the local church is so important. At one time or another in our lives, all of us need help in the natural realm as well as in the spiritual realm.
God puts each of us with a group of believers in the local body with whom we can fellowship and grow spiritually. And in times of trouble we all need those to whom we can turn for edification and comfort.
For example, who did the disciples go to in times of trouble? When they were thrown into jail, threatened, and finally released, the Bible says the disciples ". . . went to their own COMPANY. . ." (Acts 4:23).
Yes, you can turn in prayer requests to some other ministry, but sometimes you need more than prayer. Sometimes you need the fellowship of other believers of like faith; you need the physical presence of brothers and sisters around you, surrounding you with their faith and love.
A Pastor Is a Shepherd — Not a Dictator
The pastor of the local body is like the daddy of the local church. He's not to be a dictator. But sometimes it takes a man who is seasoned in patience to be the shepherd of the local body.
By pastoring God's sheep, a pastor learns some things about dealing with people he just can't learn any other way. Among other things, he learns some patience, and if he's wise, he will learn to love people just as they are.
I was talking to a certain minister who ten years before I got there had pastored the same church I was then pastoring. When he was the pastor, he had known one of my board members. At the time, this man was an unstable Christian.
The pastor told me, "When I pastored that church, that man had been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit for many years, yet he was the most unfaithful church member you ever saw. He rarely came to church, and he never put one dime in the offering. How in the world he ever turned out to be such a stalwart Christian, I don't know."
Then he added, "I'll tell you one thing. When he did show up for church, I was laying in wait for him!" That pastor gave himself away.
I replied, "That's the trouble. Even an old hog would have enough sense to quit coming to the feeding trough if you took a baseball bat and beat him in the head every time he came to eat! After you left, some of us pastors who came after you started feeding him spiritually with the Word, and he outgrew some of those babyhood traits of Christianity and developed into a stalwart Christian."
A pastor is always going to have baby Christians in his congregation. But he can't beat the sheep over the head to try to make them grow and develop! When I pastored, I was careful not to beat the sheep spiritually. I tried to see them through the eyes of faith as they could be, because I practiced walking by faith, not by sight.
Pastors need to learn to see their flock through the eyes of faith. If pastors walk by sight, many times from the pulpit they would probably want to skin people's hide, salt them down, and hang them on the wall to dry! But even in this area of spiritual growth, a pastor needs to walk by faith, not by sight. A good shepherd sees the people in his congregation as they could be with the right nurturing and spiritual diet.
How are the sheep going to mature and outgrow the babyhood stage of Christianity? By the pastor feeding them the right diet and treating them with love. That's how you see people through the eyes of faith. Then given time, they can become stalwart Christians. I know what I'm talking about because I practiced that as a pastor.
The shepherd has to give his life for the sheep, even in this area of seeing people through the eyes of faith, because that's not always easy.
A pastor has a grave responsibility to tend and nurture the sheep in a loving attitude. But having the oversight of the sheep doesn't mean lording it over people or mistreating them.
I remember a revival I held for a pastor once down in Texas. He was one of those hard-hitters who had the attitude, Everyone is wrong but me. He was legalistic and wouldn't allow a woman to sing in the choir if she had short hair or wore makeup.
But when I went back several years later to hold another revival at his church, his attitude had totally changed. I asked him what had happened to him.
He said, "I started seeking the Lord because over a seventeen-year period, none of the churches I'd pastored ever grew. The people supported me, and I'd always had plenty of money, even in Depression Days. I wasn't lacking, but none of the churches ever grew — not in numbers or spiritually."
He said, "I began to fast and pray about it. I went over to the church guest quarters, and I told my wife, 'Don't disturb me because I'm going to fast and pray and seek God.' I stayed there five days fasting, just drinking water and seeking God in the Word and in prayer.
"I asked the Lord, 'Lord, what is wrong? I've been pastoring all these years, and not one of my churches has ever grown. We never get any new members and spiritually the people don't seem to grow.'"
The Lord answered me. He said, "One problem is that you kill off all the lambs, so you never have any full-grown sheep. Your congregation can't grow if you're continually killing all the lambs."
Jesus said, "You leave the lambs alone. Feed and nurture them, but just leave them to Me. They're going to romp around and run in and out, and sometimes they may run off yonder over the hill because they're little lambs. And you might even think they are gone for good. But before you know it, they'll come back. Just leave them alone."
"Not only that," Jesus said, "but you kill off all the sick sheep in your flock instead of nurturing them and taking care of them. If some of the people in your congregation need a spiritual operation, instead of praying for them and nurturing them, you butcher them up.
"In the natural, if one of your church members had something wrong with him, you might be able to find the problem by taking a butcher knife and opening him up and cutting out the infected area. But what kind of mess would he be in when you got through with him?
But spiritually speaking that's exactly what you do to your sick sheep!"
The Lord said, "You need to nurture sick sheep, not butcher them! You could get most of them healed if you'd give them the Word. And if any of them do need an 'operation,' you just leave that to Me, and let Me operate on them."
The Lord continued, "And, of course, you've done well financially because you kicked all the people out of the church who didn't pay tithes. So, of course, everyone in the church pays tithes."
This pastor said to the Lord, "Lord, I've been wrong. I repent. God, please forgive me."
Then this pastor said to me, "I repented to the Lord, and I changed. Since I've changed, the church has been growing."
Thank God for those with a true shepherd's heart. A good shepherd gives his life for the sheep (John 10:11). He puts them first. He is the one who has oversight of the sheep. He is the one in charge of the sheep and has the best interests of the sheep at heart.
In all the years I pastored, I always told the people, "If you find another church where you are fed better than you are here and can grow spiritually more than you can here, I encourage you to go there. In fact, I insist that you go because I've got your best interests at heart."
If pastors try to control people's lives and make them do what they want them to do, they will probably end up losing half of their congregation!….
Pastors are not to be dictators! Of course, if a minister is teaching doctrine that is harmful to people, then a pastor is obligated to warn his flock. But on the other hand, if a pastor just keeps feeding the people, they will keep coming back and not stray …..
Governing the Local Body Spiritually and Naturally
There is both the spiritual and the natural side to the word "governments" in First Corinthians 12:28. In other words, the pastor has the spiritual oversight of the church, but he also has to deal with the natural side of running a church. For example, pastors have to oversee the buying of property, building new buildings, buying equipment, and so forth. All of those things are accomplished in the natural realm.
Well, is the pastor to oversee all of that? Yes, to some extent. However, if he just spends all his time on things in the natural realm, he won't be ready to preach, nor will he have the anointing to preach! So he will have to maintain some balance in this area. I have seen some pastors spend so much of their time in the daily running of the church that the anointing to preach and teach the Word began to wane.
As his church grows and develops, the pastor needs to have enough wisdom to delegate some of the natural tasks and responsibilities.
On the natural side of running a church, the pastor will not necessarily handle the finances of the church. But he needs to maintain some oversight in the financial area.
In other words, he can delegate that responsibility to someone else, but he still needs to know what is going on financially in his church. Some pastors delegate all of the natural responsibilities to others and eventually lose their church because they do not know about or oversee any of the natural functions. There is a balance.
Also, just because a minister is a preacher doesn't necessarily mean he is a businessman or that he will have ability or expertise in natural tasks such as church building projects. Some pastors do and some pastors don't. But whether a pastor has natural ability or not, it would be wise for him to have some kind of advisory board to counsel him in the business matters of the church.
But by the word "governments," the Bible is saying that the pastor is the spiritual head of the local assembly. In the local church there is no higher spiritual authority than the pastor because he has the spiritual oversight of the local body.
We see an example of the natural tasks and responsibilities of running a church being delegated to others in the Early Church. These men who were chosen to assist in the natural affairs in the church were the first deacons.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of HONEST REPORT, FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST and WISDOM, whom we may APPOINT OVER THIS BUSINESS.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
Remember, the apostles were the only ministers the Early Church had to begin with, and at first the church at Jerusalem was the only local body in existence. But by the time this account in Acts 6 occurred, the local body at Jerusalem had grown large enough that it became necessary to choose men who could administer the business and the natural affairs of the church.
We know from the Scriptures that the Jerusalem church had grown to at least 8,120 members (Acts 1:15; 2:41; 4:4). Up until this time, the apostles had done all the work of the ministry; they had carried out both the spiritual and the natural tasks.
The Greek word "deacon" means an attendant or generally speaking, a helper. Because these deacons helped in the natural affairs of the church, it left the apostles free to preach and teach the Word of God.
In Acts 6:3, we can see the limits of the deacons' ministry: ". . . men . . . whom we may appoint over this BUSINESS." Nowhere in the New Testament will you find deacon boards deciding doctrine of the church or having the spiritual oversight of the church. The apostles delegated the natural tasks and the business affairs of the church to this group of men, and these deacons were chosen on the basis of certain qualifications.
First, these deacons were chosen for their honest reputation. They had to be full of the Holy Ghost. But notice they were also required to have wisdom. If deacons, who are just helpers in the church, need to have an honest report and wisdom — how much more should preachers of the gospel!
The reason some preachers fail is that they don't have an honest report, and they lack wisdom in dealing with money. Or some ministers fail because they put people in positions of handling money who don't have an honest report or any practical wisdom in business affairs. That's unscriptural. People shouldn't handle money if they don't have an honest report or if they lack wisdom in financial affairs.
But here's another place where some pastors are missing it.
Some pastors of small congregations put an administrator over the practical business affairs so they can give themselves to prayer and the Word. Then these pastors go to the other extreme and don't keep track of the business affairs of the church at all.
But if a pastor doesn't check up on the financial affairs of the church, his church could get in a mess financially, and he wouldn't even know it until it was too late. That's why a pastor needs to know what is going on financially in his church even if he has delegated the financial tasks to others……
Pastors and Church Boards
……In every single church I pastored, I found out that the previous pastors had had trouble with their church boards.
I didn't think the church government was just exactly right in any one of the churches where I pastored. I knew from the Word that the pastor has the oversight of the local church both spiritually and naturally. Yet some of these church boards in these churches where I pastored wanted to run the church both naturally and spiritually……
[ACTUALLY GOD’S TRUE CHURCHES DO NOT HAVE “BOARDS” - THAT IS THE REASON WE HEAR ABOUT “ELDERS” WITH AN S - IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. IF A PASTOR MOVES OR DIES, AND THERE IS NO OTHER ELDER IN THE LOCAL CHURCH, THEY MAY HAVE TO LISTEN TO SERMONS VIA DVD OR LIVE STREAMING; UNTIL A PASTOR IS AVAILABLE FOR THEM - Keith Hunt]
God is more interested in us walking in love and in unity with one another than He is in our having what we might technically consider to be the right structure……
[WITHOUT A PASTOR A LOCAL CHURCH CAN STILL WORK IN LOVE AMONG EACH OTHER, AND PRAY THEY WILL HAVE A PASTOR ONE DAY; IF NOT THEY HAVE ACCESS TODAY AS I’VE JUST MENTIONED— TO DVDs AND LIVE-STREAMING - Keith Hunt]