By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

“11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, 

some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 


for the edifying of the body of Christ, 

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-13  NKJV

   I’ve been challenged to continue some more on this passage this week.
   Let me ask y’all what could be some most profound questions:  when you think of all the pastors whose ministry you have been under,  what are some things which stand out in their ministry?  Is there any one pastor who is/was so overwhelming to you that his name comes right to your mind instantly?
   So what makes that pastor special?  Let me give you a personal example:  Rev. Herman A. Underwood (who went Home to glory in 2005).  In his 80 plus years, he served as a pastor in churches throughout New York State and Canada, as well as for many years was President of the Seaway Baptist Bible institute in Williamstown, Ontario.  I first met him about 2 months after I was saved in 1971.  As a new believer and a first year student at a college in WAY upstate New York, I soon learned from the Lord that believers should attend church!   First Baptist Church, Canton, New York.  Pastor:  Herman Underwood.  He was there 13 years before resigning to become President at Seaway. 

I remember his final messages.  He introduced his last study from the Book of Daniel this way:  “I’ve had a few days to reflect upon my ministry here.  It soon became apparent to me that in my 13 years I’ve preached through every book of the Bible except Daniel.  So here we go!”.  
   So he was a good Bible teacher.  What else?  Visitation?  Yep!  Prison ministry?  Yep! Ongoing hospital ministry?  Yep!  Ministry to people?  Yep!  Personal?  Ministering as easily to an individual as he would to a group?  You bet! 
   I went to his funeral in Canada in 2005.  Believe it or not, even though he hadn’t pastored in Canton for around 30 years, many – yes many, some in their 90’s! – of his former First Baptist parishioners came to the service.  Why?  I asked one of them, himself a retired professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, as to why so many from First Baptist were at the service.  His reply?  Listen CAREFULLY:  “even though it has been over 3 decades since Pastor Underwood was our pastor, people IN THE COMMUNITY are still talking about him!  His care for his parishioners was quite evident.  But his connection with the community – the hospital, the jail ministry, the individuals on the street – they all remember him STILL.”  
   Allow me to bring back a little comparison I shared with you last week, comparing Ephesians 4:11-12 in the King James Version with the same passage in the New King James Version:
    “KJV:  “…he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… “
NKJV:  “…He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”.
   Did you notice any difference between the King James Version and the New King James Version?   Let’s hypothesize:  let’s say a pastoral candidate comes to your church and in the process of his meeting with you, you let him know what you expect of him.  You would say, according to one of the above versions, “We want you to visit, call, serve, start and lead a vibrant youth group, prepare and deliver great sermons, and do all the work that needs to be done to get our church going strong again.”  Which version was that?
   The same pastoral candidate goes to another church and cautiously asks, “what do you expect your pastor to do on a regular basis?”.  In this church, the leadership say, “we would like you to train us, either one on one or as a group, to learn how to do the work of the ministry in our town.  We are only 30 strong, but 30 of us can be in 30 more places at one time than you can.”  Which version was that?
What made the difference?  Our beloved KJV authors, as well intentioned as they were, put in an unfortunate COMMA between “saints” and “for”.  Thus the passage implies that the PASTOR DOES ALL THE WORK!   And you and I know MANY churches – perhaps even your church – where the pastor is expected to do just that:  do all the visitation both purposely throughout the community and on a moment’s notice when any one needs attention.  In addition to his leading the services, he is to teach, teach, teach, work, work, work.  The end result often is a most burned out pastor who lasts maybe, if the church is fortunate, 2-5 years in that church’s pastorate.
   But the NKJV (and the Greek, dear people) does NOT have that COMMA!  So as the pastor trains the people, WHO according to the Scriptures, are accountable and joyfully do the work of the ministry?  THE BODY OF CHRIST!  Yet in our society there are unfortunately MANY well intentioned churches that expect the pastor to do it all.  I knew of a church once where a pastoral candidate was told the above proverbial list of expectations of the pastor-to-be’s qualities.  And you know what he had the nerve to ask in reply?  “And what are YOU going to do while I do all the work of the ministry?”  You know what?  He stayed 20 years there and trained the people, and today they are still reaching out to their community as a body of believers, showing the entire village the love of God in Christ wherever the Lord has wisely placed each one.  THAT’s what Ephesians 4:11-12 is supposed to look like in action!”
   All right.  I began with my mentor and beloved Pastor Underwood.  He was a brother in Christ and servant of the Lord who epitomized the servant found in the above New King James Version text.  
   I want to share how what I call a “King James Version” pastor looks like.  BUT BEFORE I DO, please – PLEASE! – know that I am NOT criticizing a text which is beloved to many of you.  But I AM trying to show how one measly little comma can change not only the intent of the Holy Spirit but also of the outworking ministry of a pastor guided by that version.
   I am familiar with a church whose pastor retired after many years of service to that same church.  He was an excellent Bible teacher.  His sermons were, well, enlightening to the truth.  Outwardly, he was everything you would want a pastor to be.  Until…
   When he retired, certain things began to appear, strange things, all of which were discovered by the leadership who were left to continue the work of the ministry of the church in the community until a new pastor would be called.  There were little things – like a parsonage which really wasn’t kept up.  Perhaps some of that should have been shared with the trustees, but the pastor and his family kept those shortcomings to himself.
   But then?  The leadership soon learned a most amazing and at the same time most sad reality:  the former pastor’s name was on every – yes EVERY – account connected with the church.   Bank accounts.  Fuel accounts.  Every account of the church was in his name.  His oversight.  Seemingly his control.  Insurance accounts were in his name in agencies which were familiar to him from his old home town.  
   The church leadership had no idea how controlling of the church the pastor really had.
   And when many started reflecting, they realized that after a decade, he really was not known in the community. “Pastor who?”, many asked.  “Your pastor left?  When?  We really didn’t know him.”
   Remember again the old King James Version:  “…He gave some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting [“maturing”] of the saints COMMA, for the work of the ministry…”. This implies that the pastor, while involved in maturing the saints, is responsible to do all the work of the ministry.  That’s why a church under such leadership is always asking, “Why hasn’t the pastor done this?  Visit them?  Gone here?  Gone there?  WHY is he so lazy?”  And the body of believers of that well meaning church rarely ask, “WHY IS THE PASTOR SO TIRED ALL THE TIME?”.
   Let me close with one more example from the life and ministry of Pastor Underwood.   After my freshman (and turns out, only) year at the local college, I met with Pastor.  I said to him, “one thing the Lord has shown me in this my first year as a believer is that I need to, I WANT TO learn how to serve the Lord.”  Without even putting together any thoughts – AND APPARENTLY WITHOUT EVEN ASKING HIS DEAR WIFE ! – Pastor said to me, “Why don’t you come live with us this summer?”.  And I DID!  I learned how to memorize scripture, how to study the Word of the Lord, how to go on visitation, how to teach Vacation Bible School (back then, brace yourselves, it was a THREE WEEK school!); be involved in the local Bible Club Movement ministry, teach Sunday school, and among many of the highlights, be a counselor at a Bible camp for 3 weeks.  And Pastor often had me lead the mid-week prayer meeting and Bible studies.  By the end of the summer I said to Pastor, “I believe the Lord is calling me to Bible School”.  And the rest, they say, is history.   ALMOST…
Let’s advance to near the end of 2004.  I was in my 18th year (ultimately of just over 20 total) in my first pastorate.  I was in my 10th year serving as president of the old (established 1844) Tioga River Christian Conference, at one time a booming fellowship of fundamental churches throughout Pennsylvania and New York State.  I had learned that Pastor Underwood’s health was poor, his cancer had returned, his time on this earth would soon be over.  So I sat down to write what would become a long thank you note to him.  I just wanted him to know how much I appreciated his taking me under his wing, and for the better part of 30 years still mentoring me, loving me unconditionally.  About a week after I sent the letter, late one night the phone rang.  At the other end of the line was the low, raspy, yet still very distinguishable voice of Herman Underwood.  He wanted to talk one more time!  And while I was concerned that this call would make him overly tired, he continued to talk.  He was overwhelmed with my letter, and thanked me for being his disciple, his brother in Christ, his friend.  We reminisced.  A LOT.  
   And then near the end of our conversation he asked me a most unusual question.  He asked, “Is Clarence Jones still alive?”.  Pastor Jones was one of the patriarchs of our conference, having served at many pastorates as well as taught at the old Practical Bible Training School near Johnson City, New York.  Pastor Jones,  in addition to all his church and school ministries, had served over 50 years in all the ministries of our conference.  A godly man, a love of missionary work – a love which spread to his family.  His daughter Grace Fabian, now in her 80’s, is continuing to spread in the United States her love for the Papua New Guinea ministry in which she and her late husband Edmund served for decades with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  
   “Is Clarence Jones still alive?”.  YES!  I said.  And I shared all that I knew about his ministry, about his last message before the conference in which he gave his testimony for Christ.  And then it hit me:  Pastor Underwood – HOW do YOU know Clarence Jones?”
   His answer:  “Back in the 1940’s he was MY first pastor.  He was MY mentor.  Why he even invited ME into his home so I could learn from him how to do the work of the ministry.”
   I shared Pastor Underwood’s story at Pastor Jones’ funeral.  I told the well-numbered congregation that day:  “Pastor Jones was a mentor.  If it wasn’t for Pastor Jones, it is possible that young Herman Underwood might not have been a servant of the Lord.  And if it wasn’t for Pastor Underwood, I would not be before you today.  WAIT!  Let me re-word that:  If it wasn’t for Clarence Jones, I definitely WOULD NOT be before you today.”  
   Over 80 years – plus my years – of “the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry”.  
   Is your pastor an equipping pastor?


Is your pastor a controlling/must do all the work pastor?

The answer to that question might be the life or death of your church.

WHY the answer to that question might be the life or death 

of YOUR spiritual health.