I find it more and more common today for people to either be ignorant of the pastoral office, the prophetic office, or the distinction between the two. True, the mistake may be made in naiveté, but nevertheless the distinction is overlooked and often untaught, and I personally think it’s to the harm and detriment of the church. Here are some thoughts, both on the definitions and the differences.
First, the pastor (who preaches a previously revealed Word) is not a prophet (who reveals a the Word originally), at least not in the technical sense of the word. True, many people use the word prophet in a diluted sense, to describe the job and function of the pastor. However, E. J. Young writes, “The prophets were recipients of Divine revelation and not merely religious leaders with gifted insight” (My Servants the Prophets, 153). Thus, a pastor preaches a previously revealed Word, and a prophet is the one who originally relayed the revelation from God. Both the Old and New Testament prophets received the Word of God directly from Him (examples are here and here), and subsequently spoke that word with introductory formulas indicating that the world they were speaking didn’t originate with them (see, e.g., Ezekiel 34:1 and Amos 5:4).
Next, the pastor and the prophet both have intended audiences, but they are and were quit different. Pastor’s preach to flocks of God’s people, local churches, whom they also care for on a day-to-day basis, while prophets were (essentially) entrusted with the responsibility of revealing God’s Word exclusively. Thus, the pastor’s work is far from done once he has finished preaching, but the prophet’s work is done once he has faithfully delivered God’s revelation. This brings the final point.
Finally, the pastor and the prophet do have this in common–the gauge by which God measures their work is faithfulness, not the acceptance of or popularity with the people to whom they are preaching. Jeremiah, as they say, didn’t have one convert before Jerusalem’s capture and exile. Ezekiel was a prophet in the exile. Timothy didn’t receive respect as a pastor, because he was considered too young.
These offices will be further explored in part 2.