One of the oversights of the 16th Century Reformation was the unconscious way the single pastor model of local ministry succeeded the single priest model that had prevailed for centuries. The churches that broke from the Roman obedience carried the culture they had known into their polity. Even those who adopted Calvin’s attempt to reclaim an earlier pattern (as he understood it) soon had a practical, if not theoretical, focus on the single leader. The preaching minister was (and usually is still) seen as and honored as “the Minister.” In a congregation with one “Minister” the apostolic teaching that all the people of God have gifts for ministry is hard to recover. To this day, in ordinary conversation, Christian people and leaders speak of someone “going in to the ministry” when they mean someone who is becoming a full time ordained servant of the church. It is not consistent with biblical truth, and it has not brought spiritual health to the body of Christ. A new reformation demands every member ministry be recovered.
Apostolic teaching makes clear that when someone comes to the Lord in repentance and faith, the Spirit of God takes up residence in them. It is also clear that Spirit gives gifts to all believers, and that the Lord assigns the ministry each is to walk in. This must be grasped by the people of God and their leaders, and then applied in the life of the congregation. What are some steps for this to happen?
First the whole congregation must be taught that this is a component of biblical Christianity. It is not optional. The move from conversion to ministry is meant to be a natural progression, guided by the Lord over time, and discerned and embraced by each believer with the help of the body and the leaders. A survey of the Holy Scriptures will quickly show that over two dozen gifts and ministries are identified specifically, and the actual number is greater and only known to the Lord. But each one is called to be a steward of the gifts they are given. Their stewardship means using their gifts in ministry for the common good. First for the good of their marriage, family and the church, and then – for some in particular- for the blessing of the world.
Second, there needs to be a clear pathway, owned and supported by all, that assists in the discovery of the gifts and ministry of each disciple. This may require an elaborate system in a large congregation, or may be organically lived in a smaller one, but the members of the body must all understand it, and be unwilling for any to be thought to be maturing in Christ if they are not discovering and growing in their ministry. Not the basics of following Jesus, the behaviors and life patterns that are simply Christian, but the particular calling for each follower. The basics should be learned in the homes of the people, parents and older siblings serving the younger ones, and extended family members sharing in this nurture. Basic nurture is not particular, it is universal. But the gifts and ministries of God’s people are varied and distinct.
Finally, there must be a congregational pattern of ordered guidance, leadership, and accountability. All the ministries are to work together for the common good.
Next Week: 11) The Principle of Recognition
Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/