Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

Free The Church

Organic Pastors

Published on: Apr 9, 2009

Danny DeVito defines character as actually caring about people, instead of selling Jesus to people.

I have posted this video of Danny DeVito in the “Big Kahuna” because he provides a rough illustration of organic pastoring. In a previous article I made the case that we all have only one Pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus referred to all His help as “hirelings” who care not for the sheep, but will flee when wolves arrive (John 10:12-13). I stand by this still. Only Jesus knows everything about us and cares about all the details of our lives. It is impossible for another human being to do so.

Later on I wrote another article on the organic functions of the “5 fold ministries” in which I explained the temporary nature of ministry. God brings people into our lives from the body of Christ to meet needs temporarily in those seasons of our lives when we have such needs. Pastoring is one such ministry, even though we are all hirelings while we are in His service.

The case has been made by Frank Viola and others that there is only one mention of the word “Pastor” in the entire New Testament (Eph 4:11). The word “pastor” is the Latin translation of the Greek word, “poimen,” which is translated into English as “shepherd” every other time. And, in all those other translations into “shepherd” in the New Testament, it refers to Jesus Christ alone.

When we compare the three main listings of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:9-10, Eph. 4:11 and Rom 12:6-8) commonly called the “gifts of the Spirit,” “5 Fold Ministry Gifts,” and the “Motivational Gifts” respectively, we find an overlap of several gifts. For example the prophetic gift is listed in all three citations. However, the pastoral gift is only mentioned this one time in Ephesians 4:11, so there is no real definition of a pastor given. Understanding a pastor is determined by the examples of Jesus as a shepherd.

The motivational gifts are giftings that are given naturally at birth. One does not have to be a Christian to have the motivational gifts. Teachers are teachers in personality and character regardless of whether they are teaching the Bible, in an educational system or not at all. They remain teachers all their lives.

While Pastors are not listed in the motivational gift listings of Romans 12:6-8, I am convinced that a couple motivational gifts combined make up the Pastor as a natural gifting in people that they are born with whether they serve in “pastoral ministry” or not.

The list includes these seven characteristics:

  1. prophet
  2. servant
  3. teacher
  4. encourager
  5. giver
  6. administrator
  7. merciful

The pastor is the combination of the servant, encourager and the merciful. There are genuine pastors in the pulpit, but I can state categorically that it is impossible to pastor from the pulpit. Pastoring is a one on one activity. The pulpit is a medium for group teaching and exhortation. Exhorting is a pastoral characteristic, but exhorting a group is, at best, a very weak form of pastoring.

Genuine pastoring requires knowing a person and being there for a person. In the video of Danny DeVito in the “Big Kahuna” above Danny is acting as a pastor to this young man. He knows the man and is speaking into his life for his good, not his harm, even though the young man is taking the discourse as a rebuke. As I said in my first paragraph, he makes a rough illustration of pastoral care.

As I look back on the last 24 years of my walk with Christ, I can state that I have never been in a congregation where the pastor was an actual pastor. They have been teachers, preachers, and administrators. The only pulpit pastors I know of I have heard on the radio. Jack Hayford is a genuine pastor, but what pastoral work he actually does is not from the pulpit. And frankly, because of practical limitations, only a handful actually get the benefit of his pastoral relationship. The vast majority of his congregation will gain their pastoral relationships with other members of the body, or some other pastoral staff members if they are genuine pastors.

Before I left the system of the professional clergy, a series of incidents over time showed me that men calling themselves “pastors” were not pastors, and the real pastors that God brought into my life made no claim on the title. This title for the system would better serve the body and eliminate the confusion that it creates if they simply called themselves CEO’s of the business, or teachers, or preachers in the pulpit.

These are the significant incidents that brought me to this conclusion. I moved to Dallas to attend Christ for the Nations in 1990. Many people contributed to my first semester tuition (contributions that I did not ask for, by the way). One was a congregational offering given to me by the pastor of the Assembly of God’s fellowship that I attended before moving. When I graduated from CFNI I received a letter from this pastor who was then demanding that I return to his congregation because he was my “pastor” and I was subject to his authority. After reading the letter, I thought to myself, what gall this man had. The majority of the money that came to me was not from that congregation, nor was the money given me from his own pocket, but was from the congregation. And apart from handing me any money, he never gave me any one on one pastoral care.

After I graduated from CFNI I met Linda who Father had planned for me to marry. We went to the congregation that she was already attending. We bought a house, that turned out to be 2 blocks from the pastor’s own home. Linda and I married late in life (I was 38 and she was 36). Because of this late age we could not have children due to complications that required her to have a hysterectomy. She was bed ridden for 7 days. To my surprise, the pastor who only lived 2 blocks away, never once stopped in to see how she was doing or to pray for her. I confronted him about this matter and he apologized and said that I was right and that he should have visited. However, even after the confrontation, he never visited nor tried to befriend us. It was in him that I first realized that men with the title are not necessarily pastors.

We left that congregation and attended a Baptist congregation through the invitation of our next door neighbor. The pastor there boasted that he had no gift of mercy, and that he was an administrator. But we stayed because the Sunday School teacher was a genuine pastor. We left that congregation when the official pastor was threatened by the Sunday School teacher’s popularity. A popularity that happened because he genuinely took an interest in everyone’s life that he came across. So when he was expelled by the pastor, we left, too. We wanted to be in a charismatic congregation so we did not follow him. However, we have remained friends with him and his famly over the last 15 years, and have continued to support him financially when he went on as a church planter through E3 Ministries.

At this time I would like to honor the men that Jesus brought into my life that were real, organic pastors. Organic pastors come from the body. Because of the professional clergy mindset that creates a bias in our reading of the Bible, it should be noted at this time that the so called “5 fold ministries” of Ephesians 4:11 are part of the overall discussion of unity in the body by the Spirit of the entire chapter. Therefore we should remember that Ephesians 4:11 is meant to be read in the context of versus 15 and 16.

Eph 4:15-16
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (KJV)

First, it is Christ who is directing these temporary services of ministry intended to help us mature in Him. Second, the five ministries of 4:11 come from verse 16, the body, which joined together (by Christ) every joint (or minister) supplies to every part (other members in need). These 5 ministries are the operations of fellow members of the body edifying itself in love.

Technically, everyone agrees that those in “offices” (which also is not in the Bible, for the Greek word is “praxis” which means a temporary function) are part of the body, too. But because of the professional clergy mentality, we tend to subconsciously separate them from the body. This blinds us from seeing the actual pastors in the congregation that Jesus brings into our lives at that time to meet our needs. I challenge all my readers to look back on your own lives and identify those people who actually came into your life in a pastoral manner. Most of the time you will see that they were fellow members of the congregation and not those getting paid on staff.

So, here are the men that God brought into my life as pastors. I wish to publicly acknowledge them and thank them for caring about me and my wife.

Phil Wilson

The first organic pastor I had was Phil Wilson. When I came to Christ I was led to Christ by a messianic Jew from Russia who brought acrobatics to a national level with his program in New Orleans. We were all young in Christ. They were only 7 or 8 years in the Lord when I was led to Christ by them.

After a year I was elsewhere in New Orleans, and they decided to start their own professional clergy in a house. I could call it a “house church” but they had no current thought on house churches. They were trying to build their own church business. The fellowship was in Phil’s house. I had been fired for praying with my kids at the gym where I worked. They invited me to participate in their new “ministry”. The man who led me to Christ had little compassion for me and my circumstance. He has no gift as a pastor. He is gifted as an evangelist. But Phil was a pastor, and was there for me in many ways. He had a heart of compassion as large as he was wide. Sadly for both of them, things did not turn out well. They were too immature to embark on such an undertaking. Phil lost his family through divorce and later died. The other went on to Jews for Jesus, which I was glad to hear. However, he recently left that organization, having sent me a letter saying that he was going to start his own one-man 5-fold-ministry band. He still does not understand the body life. Both are tragic figures in my memory.

Mike Talley

Mike is the Sunday School teacher that works for E3 Ministries now that I mentioned earlier. Mike is a wise man who carefully chooses his words in how he speaks to people. That wisdom and discretion is the tent of his character that is also filled with good humor and normal natural character. Christian and non Christian alike love him. I have gone with him on several campaigns to Venezuela in church planting. I have seen him genuinely weep for the people of Venezuela, specifically when we were lying in our room together and the Lord was telling Him that he had to move his work to Africa. Mike told me in the morning that it broke his heart to have to move on.

Paul Kozar

For a season, Linda and I were attending a Free Evangel congregation that was pastored by Paul. Paul had the pulpit as the pastor, and genuinely has a pastor’s heart. I fell in love with Paul when he invited me to meet with him at Barne’s and Noble to sit in a public forum to discuss Christ so others passing by might join in the discussion. Regrettably, we fell out of fellowship when we were at his house discussing background checks for personnel caring for the children. After the discussion was over, I made the casual suggestion that we should pray about this to see what the Lord wanted to do. The man who was making the case for background checks blew up at me as if I had personally insulted him. He said that prayer was a “given” and “did not need mentioning.” I was nonplussed by this sudden turn of events. I expected Paul to defend me. Instead he was trying to please the other man and me at the same time, which accomplished nothing. After that experience I realized that he had a Reuben personality that could not take a stand since he wanted to please everyone. We left his fellowship after that. But I still love him and want the friendship restored. Regrettably he has spurned every offer I have made for getting together on our own. Paul has lost my friendship, not because Ido not want to be his friend, but because he is trapped by the clergy system that says no one can be their friends unless they are actively supporting their business. But we will be friends again, for we are in the same family and have the same Father. My lesson here is that this life is filled with seasons, but those seasons will all come to an end later.

Rich Trevino

Rich was my employer for 12 years. Rich kept his faith in Christ private, because of his business. I do not know how close he walks with Christ, if at all. Christ is most clearly walking with him, though. He is like the Danny DeVito character in the “Big Kahuna” clip. He is a pastor in the rough. As an employer, he often hired men who were not qualified for the job, yet prosperity still surrounded his business. At a competition in our gym I realized, that is, I think the Lord caused me to realize, that he was a pastor, and I told him so. He agreed with me. He hired these people because of his compassion for them, even though they were not necessarily competent or skilled. Rich was my first example of someone functioning as an organic pastor in the work world. To this day, I am still not certain that he is even a Christian through the new birth. But he is a born pastor, and God is clearly involved with his life.

Bill Benninghoff

At about the same time that I left Rich’s gym, I left the professional clergy system, which was four years ago. Through a season of some house churches, then no organized gatherings at all, I met Bill at a Dallas wide picnic. Bill took an interest in my life and asked me to have lunch with him, which occurred about once a month. He knew we were not in any organized fellowship so invited us to attend his house church, which, I had not understood was “pastored” by a woman. Since my wife was in more need than I for fellowship, I agreed. Regrettably, they did not like me as a group. I had unintentionally offended several members. They wanted me to refrain from speaking, and when I did, to qualify all my views with, “I think” or “in my opinion.” I made it clear that I would not qualify things that I knew for sure, and that I already qualified those statements that I was not sure. That was not good enough for them so they asked me not to come anymore. Despite this, I am still friends with Bill. He has no ill will towards me, and I now understand that their group is a much more fragile group than I realized. I know I can be a bull in a china shop, and when I understand that I am in a china shop, I usually leave, for I can not stop being me.

John Underwood

John is a father whose daughter is enrolled in my own gym. When I left Rich’s business, I began my own. My business is a frankly Christian school in gymnastics. I am not concerned that I will not attract those who do not believe in Christ, but, this is what the Lord wants me to do. John and his family are not involved with the professional clergy system because they want to encourage the faith of their children in Christ. They home school their kids, and are working with them in helping them to hear God for themselves. John asked me to meet with him on a weekly basis since he is a business man who also allows Jesus to be the CEO of his business. The Lord gave me that same realization that John also is an organic pastor, ministering to people on a one on one basis as the Lord directs him. Our meetings have been mutually edifying. He also needs my input as a prophetic teacher into his life. Our meetings are the workings of the Spirit according to Ephesians 4:16. We are mutually edifying each other as brothers, not as offices.

I have been writing the series on Ecclesiastes and the Dark Side of the Moon, but this has been pressing my spirit for awhile, so I have taken the time to write this post. There are many of you who read my blog who are not involved in organized gatherings, whether professional clergy or house church in format. And perhaps there are many readers who are in those gatherings, too. The hope I have is that this post will encourage you to look at your own life in Christ and see the organic pastors that Jesus has brought into your life and family.

Your pastor is, and always will be, Jesus Christ. However, He will raise up brothers and sisters who will function in a temporary fashion organically as pastors in your life. They will not necessarily claim the title. None of the men that I listed ever claimed the title, yet I knew by the Lord that they were pastors. None of them ever tried to contol me or my wife. They all took a genuine interest in us and displayed those characteristics of service, encouragement and mercy. And for all these men I still have a genuine love and respect for them. The love of the brethren has never existed in the large group, but has always existed in the natural friendships and relationships that God organically grows around you. No matter where you go or what you do, God will always have pastors who will serve you temporarily when you have the need. Why? Because your Pastor, Jesus Christ, is always taking care of you.

Comments to Original Post

Submitted on 04/09/2009

This is a great post. You have made me think deeply now about the people who have pastored me (and also about the temporariness of the gifts, which I shall have to give more thought to). I’m going to take a stab at remembering my own pastors on my own blogsite.

Submitted on 04/09/2009

For me, Kat, it is the Lord taking me through the circle of understanding the Church. With the frustration of the professional clergy system that caused me to leave their business, I also had a negative taste in my mouth regarding pastors. I am now at a point where I don’t care at all about the choice of formats that people gather by, but I am passionate about Christ and His Bride.

It is a shame that the pastoral ministry has been exalted so high above all other ministries, for all ministries are needed in the true organic church. So, the Lord has caused me to meditate upon this point. At one point I was meeting with both Bill and John in the same time frame when the Lord spoke to my heart that these godly men were pastors.

Now I can truly say that I love the pastoral ministry as Christ organically uses them in the body life. Now I appreciate them on equal footing with apostolic ministry and the others of Ephesians 4:11.

Thanks for your comments. I always appreciate your feedback.

Doug S.
Submitted on 04/09/2009

Very good insight Alex. As I posted on FB, your article reaffirms that people function with the gift not with the title. That is why I said that to me it really is a verb. People are pastoring even though they don’t take the noun form of the title “pastor”. Those who usually pastor best are those who do not call themselves pastor; they are functioning with the natural gifting that God gave them.

This is what I see for the body at large. We need to stop worrying about trying to figure out what our personal function is and just live our lives in Christ. What happens next will happen so naturally, organically if you will, it will appear effortless.

There are too many who feel they are “called” into various ministries and therefore seek to define their function with a title. The house church movement is not immune from this problem. My view is to tell people to stop worrying about figuring out your “calling” and just live your lives with Jesus at the center. Then and only then will you eyes be opened for the opportunities that the Lord has in store for you to truly be a part of the bride of Christ. Ultimately it is such a natural part of our lives we dont’ even think about it anymore than we think about remembering to breath.

Submitted on 04/09/2009

Thanks, Doug. I concur with your assessment. However, we are not all gifted as pastors. My giftings are in prophetic teaching. But that does not mean that the Lord will not use me in a pastoral capacity for a given need. As for callings, they are quite real, although they are often outside the religious box. The Lord has reaffirmed His calling upon me to be in the acrobatic gymnastics industry. That does not mean any ministerial gift is pigeon-holed. It is in what ever way Father wants to use me for that community. We are His children, but we are also His tools. He knows what we are made for, so He is not going to use those who are “screwdrivers” as “hammers”.

Thank you for your comments, Doug. Organic living in Christ is so much more enjoyable than those things that are worked up by men.

Bill Benninghoff
Submitted on 04/10/2009

Thanks for your kind comments about me Alex and I remain your friend.

Submitted on /04/10/2009

And that is why you are one of the organic pastors that I am writing about. Bless you my friend!

barry segal
Submitted on 04/10/2009

Thanks for sharing this.
TESTIMONY not TITLE would be a good heading.
It does not take a calling or gifting to “keep your eyes open” (from the Chronicles of Narnia) to what God the Father is calling a person to do on a daily basis.
It takes time to process what you wrote, but I wanted to comment quickly to say that I was encougaged and to encourage you to continue with this and to continue to encourgae others.

I hope to be coming to Coppel soon, so maybe see you again in a month or so,

Submitted on 04/10/2009

I like your quote from Lewis. Your comment is like Doug’s. It is just a matter of being available. But we should also recognize those who have made themselves available and appreciate their contributions to our lives and the body as a whole. Barry, you are definitely a blessing to the body as a whole, too. Thank you.

Doug S.
Submitted on 04/10/2009

BTW, Alex I thought that was pretty cool you mentioning these guys. I never really thought about it until you made your list. It’s caused me to reflect on those who have pastored me through the years. As a result its brought back some memories of some incredible Christian men in my life dating back to when I first gave my heart to the Lord almost 41 years ago. Of course top of my list is my mom, an incredible Christian lady who has been the guiding light of our family.

I agree with you about us being “called”. I guess what I really meant is how that phrase is used in traditional Christendom today (e.g. you’re not in ministry unless you’re “called” into it). As for me, I’ll take the organic life any day of the week. That’s where the Lord has called me to use the gifts He’s given me. Its spontaneous, never dull, challenging, and the best part is I love to see who the Lord is putting in my path each and every day.

Submitted on 04/10/2009

Thanks, Doug. I was not sure about giving out the names of these awesome men, but it turns out that it has been encouraging for others, too. Kat wrote her own blog thanking those who God has used as personal organic pastors in her life. When I read her list and testimony I was moved in the reading. We look too much at the hype and not enough at the hope.

Kat mentioned her Mom, too. I should also add my Uncle David who God used from a distance when I first came to Christ. I understood your meaning in “calling,” but added my own call in gymnastics as a contrast to this “call to ministry” that is also hyped up.

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