Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Church-Centered Ministry

To say that American sentiment has influenced and shaped Christian ministry in the twenty-first century would be an understatement. Americans are busy pursuing their dreams, becoming all they can be, and finding their niche. The American idea of independence and the pursuit of personal happiness have illegitimately transferred into the Christian community. Many Christians are encouraged to go find what God has “called you to do” and just do it. As a result, the Church experiences numerous individuals who are self-appointed servants, serving in isolation from the Church so to speak. They are Jesus “entrepreneurs.” The number of people in the Christian community who have gone off untrained and self-appointed for this ministry or that ministry is, quite frankly, staggering. Like it or not, the Christian community must gain control of the situation and establish a process to identify gifted individuals and then build upon that a disciplined system where accountability and discipleship can serve those individuals better by providing them with the kind of structure, guidance, instruction, oversight, and accountability they so desperately need.

Every Church ministry must be borne from the Christian community, that is, from the Church herself. Moreover, since no one stands apart from the leadership of the Church, servants of ministries must be identified and recognized by church leadership. In addition, not only are servants to be selected by the leadership, but ministries must be identified by this same body. Leadership then will recognize talented and gifted individuals along with specific needs of the body and bring these together (needs and servants) in order to accomplish a particular purpose. No genuine ministry of the Church ought to arise outside of the direct involvement and oversight of the Church’s spiritual leaders, that is to say, her pastor, and elders. In addition, those servants and ministries that are acknowledged and installed by the Church must submit wholly to the Church as unto the Lord. This submission is a continuous process designed to ensure protection against error and immorality. The danger for arrogance, pride, and an over-zealous disposition seem to be very common proclivities for those men called into leadership. Hence, spiritual leaders need to help one another with these wicked temptations for the sake of their own spiritual well-being, and especially for the sake of the Body over which they will give an account.

One of the highest qualities among servant-leaders is humility. These leaders fully understand and recognize the need for authority. They completely acknowledge the congruent relationship between order and authority. God leads His Church is an orderly fashion. That order has a clear structure according to Scripture. While it may appear that some ministers arose in the NT without formal appointment by God, such a conclusion is based on hasty assumptions. The lack of a recorded process does not indicate a process did not exist. Secondly, the NT Church sprang into existence as an infant, as it was and not a mature organism. Failure to take this into consideration can result in tragic and even egregious error.

Everywhere we turn in the human experience, we see order, structure, and authority. I work for a very large financial firm. We have policies and procedures in place for very specific reasons guiding us in nearly everything we do. While these systems allow for creativity and art and a degree of flexibility, they do not foster wholesale autonomy. Imagine if every employee were permitted to come to work and simply do as they please. I could go to work and instead of completing my work, I could just switch roles and do something else. I may or may not inform my director of my new activities. I used to be in the military. Imagine going into battle, each soldier doing as he pleases. You could end up with 999 soldiers hanging back in artillery and 1 charging the field. That would be utter chaos. If there is anything we know about God, we know He is a God of order.

We see the following offices in the church: Pastor/elder, teacher, apostle, evangelist, prophet, and deacon. In addition to this, we see the additional gifts: giving, leading, mercy. While these latter gifts are separate from the roles previously mentioned, I am sympathetic to the idea that they can fold up into the roles mentioned.

The purpose of these offices and roles is very clear: the edification of the body of Christ. These gifts and offices are installed by God into His Church in an orderly fashion so that the body would grow in the knowledge, grace, and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gifts do not exist to make us feel useful. They do not exist to give us something to do. They do not exist so that we can store up rewards for ourselves in heaven. The gifts we have are for the blessing of others. It is in that blessing that we are blessed.
However, we treat our gifts and talents in the Church like a secular American treats their career. The typical American decides that he or she will set their hand to make a difference and off they go, to do whatever their heart desires. All this is not to say that you should not apply yourself to your vocation as the calling of God. Indeed you should. However, unlike secular leadership, Christian leadership is a dangerous endeavor. In the first place it requires we touch Scripture at a very intimate level and that increases the our own potential hazard. Secondly, when you err as a leader, you take others with you for whom you shall give an account. God help us never to influence someone into error. Few things are as spiritually dangerous as leading others into error.

For these reasons, ministries and those involved in them must be guided and directed by a plurality of Church leaders, pastors, and elders. There is safety in this approach. One man may be in err, but three reduces that risk and five or ten even more so. This does not guarantee against error, but it certainly helps to mitigate the risk. Moreover, I am not suggesting the model for pragmatic reasons. I am suggesting it because it is the model that God has ordained and placed in the body. That we can clearly see its benefits does not infer pragmatism.

If you think you are called to a ministry and God is stirring your heart, convicting you in a certain way, go talk to your pastor or elder. There is a system in place to protect you and the church as well as to support you and provide you with the kind of training every leader needs to carry out the most important work in their life: their divine calling to serve.



1 comment:

  1. I believe you button holed it well! Seems we are heading down this road as in the days of old?

    2Ch 36:14 All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the LORD that he had made holy in Jerusalem.
    2Ch 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.
    2Ch 36:16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

    No remedy in sight?


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