One of the pivotal passages in the NT on gifts of the spirit is this one:
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
The key point here is that certain gifts were given explicitly with the idea of teaching others (e.g., the gift of Pastor/Teacher). Hence from this the church derives the common current structure that, in general, a congregation is lead by a Pastor/Teacher, or a group of them.
However, the objective of the gift is not focused on organizing the programs of the church, but rather equipping others to become "a mature man", and candidly we see little of this apparently happening today. The "pastor" part is largely emphasized meaning usually preaching the same routine message every Sunday, marrying, burying and of course maintaining a position of power and leadership.
Rather than first looking at the gift, I think looking at understanding the objective makes a more logical approach. Just what does a "a mature man (or woman) mean"? Of course it means character and lifestyle, however I think some other passages suggest that this desired maturity includes that the mature one is fluent in the scripture and the mindset of our Lord and becomes able to teach as well. Consider these compelling words from Jesus himself:
"A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher"
Well, amongst many qualities, Jesus is the premier teacher. And the writer of Hebrews further confirms the universal nature of this expectation for all, not just those with a certain gift, when he admonishes that they have fallen short of this objective, as follows:
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
This is also compelling language as it suggests that failure to reach this place restricts one to being a perpetual "infant", and further ineffectual and impotent to help others. It is a curious thing that many that have occupied a seat in church for years cannot even attest to having read the entire bible just once, let alone teach it. If compared to the basic education we see in the secular world just to teach a child from kindergarten through even high school, this is stunning. How many books has the average high school graduate read? Certainly at least one cover-to-cover, to say nothing of the required text books used.
Further, the passage continues in Hebrews 6 to admonish them for just teaching over-and-over the basics:
1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
3 And this we will do, if God permits.
And on this topic we have all been bored to numbness with years of the same routine sermons about beings saved, going to hell and being "straight-laced, sober and sad". This is precisely the problem the writer of Hebrews wants to correct and liberate all from being chained to a life of being a perpetual infant.
Therefore, it appears to me that most of what we see today in the church is a Pastor/Teacher who teaches very little and concentrates on what is believed to be the "pastor" side of the equation. However, this is also open to examination in my view as Paul writes:
Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to [2 Cor 12:15; 1 John 3:16] impart to you not only the [Rom 1:1] gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. (NASB)
It does not take a great leap of conjecture to see that Paul understood that sharing his own life was how we would see one we might call a "mentor". Paul seems to clearly understand that one teaches best when one has shared their life and "loves the student" as well as the material being taught. This makes sense to me as the right model.
So, my view of these scriptures is that the intention of this gift of the spirit is to create numerous "Mentor/Teachers" who will share their lives and teach others with the objective that these others will become "mature and be able to teach" as well.
A suggestion I think has merit, and one that benefited me greatly when I was twenty and wanted to understand the bible, is to search for a church where there is a "Mentor/Teacher". Or, if impossible to find in just one church, find one wherever you can find one. So, for now you need a "Mentor/Teacher", however the intention and desire of our Lord is that you will become one as well.
Carl E. Gallivan, April 11, 2003
P.S.: A valuable view to complement the development of the individual is this development of a "community" where God dwells. A lot like Augustine's "The City of God" a great place to live and hang out!
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.