O level Notes : FRS - Religious practitioners in Christianity

There are religious practitioners in Christianity just like in other religions. These people are very important in the day to day practices in different Christian sects. In Christianity at large, the practitioners include bishops, pastors, prophets, apostles, teachers, priests and evangelists.


There are religious practitioners in Christianity just like in other religions. These people are very important in the day to day practices in different Christian sects. In Christianity at large, the practitioners include bishops, pastors, prophets, apostles, teachers, priests and evangelists.

(a) Bishop

Bishops have huge tasks which they are supposed to perform in churches. A bishop is an ordained Pastor who has the role to supervise or oversee the whole church. A bishop is also known as “chief pastor” or “overseer”. A bishop gives spiritual supervision to the church. In some churches, a Bishop has authority which is above that of priests. Some of the bishops in Zimbabwe  include Bishop Chad Gandiya of the Anglican  Church, Bishop Samuel Mutendi of the Zion Christian Church and Bishop Manhango of Bethsaida Apostolic Church.

The bishop has roles which include:

  • oversee a group of priests or pastors and their congregations.
  • in churches  like the Anglican,  they are seen as the successors  of the twelve apostles.  They are entrusted with care of a local church (diocese).
  • they teach their congregations  as principal teachers of the word of God.
  • they also govern  the local church that is meeting  their needs and ensuring  that church laws are observed.
  • they also make church laws (in some cases).
  • they can ordain pastors and priests.
  • they baptise people.
  • they control church finances.
  • they solve disputes which take place in church.

(b) Pastor

A Pastor is an ordained spiritual Christian leader of a Church or congregation. There are female and male Pastors depending with the church or denomination. The term pastor is taken from a Latin word which means “shepherd”. In this sense a pastor is regarded as a shepherd  and the congregation  is the sheep. Pastors are supposed to live a way of life which must be emulated by the people they lead.

A pastor has a duty of takingcare of the congregation giving  it spiritual guidance. Pastors are responsible of giving  sermons in church. They provide religious, moraland emotionalsupporttothepeople they lead. They pray for the sick and exorcise demons. Pastors carry out  ceremonies  such  as baptism, weddings and funerals among others. Pastors also have administrative roles such as helping  church finance departments (this may differ with denominations).     

(c) Prophet and Prophetess

In Christianity, a prophet or prophetess is someone who is called by God to proclaim  the message  of God.  He or she is considered  as the spokesperson of God. For one to be a prophet or prophetess, he or she is supposed to be called by God. This follows the calling  of prophets in the Bible such as Moses and  Samuel.   The  issue  of calling  is another  way which people can use to distinguish  true and false prophets.

Whatever the prophet  or prophetess  proclaims  is considered as the pure word from God which must be followed by congregants. The message which is proclaimed  by the prophet is known  as prophecy. He or she has the gift of prophecy  which  enables him or her to foretell the future. In church, a prophet can  guide  people  with  the word  which  he  hears from God or help because of what he can foresee.

In Zimbabwe  there are several prophets who include Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International  Church, Prophet  T Freddy  of Goodness  and  Mercy Ministries, Prophet  Walter Magaya  of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries, Prophetess Ruth Makandiwa of United Family International Church, Prophetess Beullah Machiri of Champions Royal Assemby Zimbabwe.

Prophets have different roles which they play in church which include:

  • giving prophecies to guide people.
  • praying for the people.
  • performing miracles. Performing miracles is one of the duties which was done by prophets who are reflected in the Bible. Prophets in the Bible who performed various miracles include; Elijah, Elisha and Moses.
  • preaching the word of God to the people.
  • giving advice to the congregants. Prophets give advice to the congregants in various circumstances with the divine word from God.

(d) Evangelist

An evangelist is someone who was called to spread the gospel. An evangelist acts in the public proclaiming the gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ to those who do not know. An evangelist can move from one place to the other conducting crusades. Evangelists are motivated by the call of the great commission which encourages people to go out and preach the gospel to make disciples of all nations (Mathew 28:19).

The act of spreading  the gospel  by an evangelist  is known as evangelism. Nowadays, evangelists  can use media such as television and radio to spread their message. These ones are popularly  known  as televangelists. Another example of evangelists who are popular are the missionaries. Missionaries who established Christianity in Africa and Zimbabwe  in particular came from countries as far as Europe. The early Christian churches established in Zimbabwe  were started by the missionaries.

(e) Apostle

The word apostle means “one who is sent”. In Christianity, an apostle is someone who is sent to preach the gospel and establish congregations. The term apostle was first used referring to the disciples of Jesus.

However, in Christianity today it has a different meaning. An apostle is someone who lays a foundation of a church. For example, Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts of Apostles laid foundations of churches in different regions. An apostle is considered as the highest administrative and ministerial officer in Christianity.

The roles of apostles include:

  • establishing churches.
  • preaching the gospel and spreading Christianity.
  • writing biblical commentaries.
  • setting up church doctrines.

(f) Teacher

A teacher in Christianity is someone who was called to teach the gospel. A teacher is one of the important ministers of the gospel in the five-fold ministry. Although all other religious practitioners can teach, a teacher has a deeper revelation and understanding. A teacher can help to make it easy to understand scriptures which might  be difficult to understand. He or she provides an understanding  by imparting  knowledge through divine revelation and inspiration.

(g) Deacons and deaconesses

Historically, deacons  were appointed  when  there was disgruntlement  among  Hellenist widows  on the sharing of food during the early church (Acts 6). The apostles wanted to concentrate on evangelism than on the physical needs of the church and they appointed deacons who were men of good repute like Stephen, Nicanor, Phillip, Prochorus  and  Pamenas  among  others. The term deacon  is derived  from Greek word diakonos meaning helper.

These are responsible for taking care of the physical needs of the church like giving  food. They also help in the preaching of the word of God in the absence of other church leaders. Stephen is one of the early deacons of the primitive Christian church who ended up being an evangelist. There were also female deacons like Phoebe (Romans 16:1-3). In the Seventh Day Church, deacons are responsible for collecting offerings during church services as well as preaching in the church.  They help in practical ministry by freeing elders to focus more on the spiritual welfare of the church.