I believe there is a great need to re-think how we ‘do’ Church in light of its God-given role in the world. Let’s reflect on that last statement for a minute. If I was to ask most Christians if they believe God desires to use the Church to impact the world and achieve His purposes – I am sure they would all agree wholeheartedly. But what if I was to ask if they think Satan desires to use the world to impact the Church and achieve his purposes? I would guess most people have never been asked to consider that possibility and yet the Bible (and our experience) tells us that Satan is very keen to infiltrate the Church with worldly philosophies, ideals and ways of operating.
Now I could pick a hundred examples of this right off the top of my head, but for the sake of this post, let me address the issue of ministry and leadership within the Church. In the world if we want leaders and workers we first create a job. Then we draw up a detailed job-description and perhaps even a contract and then we go looking for the right person to fit our pre-determined criteria. The person who ticks the most boxes usually gets the job. That is the way of the world.
So what about in the Church? This is where we need to take a deep breath and be prepared to face some hard truths. In a growing number of Churches people are appointed to various positions in exactly the same way as in the world. So what’s wrong with that? It’s efficient. It’s successful in most situations in the world – so why not follow suit in the Church? The simple answer is because it is the exact opposite to how the Church is suppose to operate.
In the world, we create a position, decide on a course of action and a list of tasks required to achieve a pre-determined goal – and then we try and fit a human being into the mould we have made. In the Kingdom of God, we do the opposite. We identify the gifts, passions, calling and vision of the people God has given us at any point in time and we build ministries around those people. That is why every ministry and every Congregation across the Body of Christ will be unique – because their people are unique. There are no two ministries which share the same gift-mix or share exactly the same vision.
Now we may consider that some positions like Pastor, Elder, Deacon, Treasurer etc. are universally required across all Churches, but I would suggest that even then, we must let God provide the people who are called to and equipped in those areas to be raised up. Most Churches have at least one Pastor but many don’t and until that changes, the ministry is done by those who feel the call of God and are willing to offer themselves to serve in one or more of those areas.
A Biblical view of ministry is particularly important when appointing a Pastor. Even using a term like ‘appointing’ can be misleading. It sounds like Pastors are employed by Congregations and appointed like other leaders across the community. That should never be the case. The primary responsibility of a Congregation in search of a Pastor is to discern the will of God and ask God to lead them to the person who already feels a sense of call to that Church and that position. After much prayer, discussion and more prayer, a Church affirms the call of God in that person and embraces them as their new God-ordained Pastor. Why does it need to happen this way? The Apostle Paul tells us:
“But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design.” (1 Corinthians 12:18.)
This is one of those verses we can so easily brush over and not allow it to impact us like it should. I believe we need to take this verse as literally as possible and understand that in the Kingdom of God, it is not we who organise ‘staff’ to fulfil certain roles in the Church. It is God who calls, equips and empowers people to exercise the gifts He has given the Church, through them and it is God Who should be ‘appointing’ and anointing all ministry leaders!
So in practical terms how should that play out in today’s Church? It’s simple to understand really – but for many of us it may be the hardest change we have made to our thinking about Church. Once we accept that it is God Who arranges all parts of the Body – that it is God Who prepares, calls, equips and anoints those people He desires in all areas of ministry – then our task is to hear from God and partner with Him in that process! When we really get this, then there will be many things which will simply stop happening in the Church.
First and foremost we will stop propping up ministries which no longer have called, gifted people available to lead them. When a person leaves a position in the Church, for whatever reason, our first task is to ask God to affirm if that ministry or that position should continue or whether this person’s departure also signals the end of that season and we should celebrate what has happened to that point and let the ministry end. If we really feel this is a vital ministry which God does not want to see close, then we pray for the Lord to raise up another person with the appropriate calling and gifts to fulfil that role. We don’t go looking for someone just to fill the job so the ministry doesn’t end. It is far better for a ministry to have a good finish than it is to prop up that ministry by putting the wrong person in there to keep it going.
This is what ‘letting God arrange the parts of the Body’ looks like and it can be really hard to let go of a ministry when its time but often God is doing a new thing and with limited personnel He may not raise up a new ministry until another one comes to an end. Letting God arrange the parts of the Body is not limited to which ministries we have and who runs them. We also need to led God do a new thing when a new person takes over a ministry. This is especially true for Pastors. One of the ways the world has impacted the Church is in the way we appoint and assess Pastors. When you appoint a CEO in the business world, that person is given a detailed job description and a list of very specific tasks which need to be accomplished and that person will be reviewed and judged according to that pre-determined criteria.
Sadly, that mindset has crept into the Church – especially in large Churches – and I know of Pastors who have been given job descriptions and are expected to perform in the areas listed. Most of the time the job description is nothing other than a list of the things the previous Pastor did. Or, if the Church leaders didn’t like the previous Pastor, then they write a job description which matches the last Pastor they did like! This never ends well for the Pastor or the Congregation and I think we all know why. Every Pastor is unique. They come with a specific skill-set and a gift-mix which will rarely be the same as the last Pastor. One of the ways a Church really lets God ‘arrange the parts of the body’ is to accept that the ministry which is build around and flows from their next Pastor will be different to what they have experienced before because they have never had this Pastor before. It’s really that simple.
So much energy is wasted in Churches when people mourn the loss of a previous era when things were different. The ‘good old days’ are great to remember and thank God for but not at the expense of today. What happens in this era will be the ‘good old days’ of tomorrow – but only if we let God have His way and only if we stop hanging on to the past. In a day when so many Congregations are ageing and shrinking, there are many people wishing it could be like it once was. They remember the full Sunday Schools, the thriving youth groups, the multiple Bible Study groups and the many young families who packed their Worship Centre every Sunday. They long to see more children again in Church, but can’t see anyone with those gifts or that calling. They mourn the loss of youth activities but fail to accept that at this point in time God has not given them people with the skills, calling or gifting to be youth leaders and build a new youth ministry.
The cold hard reality is that in 2022 the Church in our nation has not just lost a generation of people as we have grown older, we have now lost two generations. So for people in the 50-80yrs age bracket to be talking about kids ministries and youth programs is a torturous waste of time. We need to relate to and witness to people our own age and maybe our kid’s age and when they start to come back to Church, they will be the ones who bring in the generation behind them and so on. You don’t go from an aged Congregation to a young Congregation overnight. It took us 30 years or more to lose those two generations, it will take some time to get them back and we certainly won’t do it with the buildings, music and programs we had 30 years ago!
For many years now I have been encouraging people to ask God two questions every single morning. “What are you doing, Lord?” and “How can I be part of it?” Whole Congregations need to do the same. We need know what God is doing in the people He has given us at this time – not those who used to be here – not those we wish were here – but the parts of the Body God has already arranged and given us now. Are we seeing the gifts, calling and passion of all our members being utilised in fulfilling the mission of Christ in our community? If not, why not?
As we are crying out to God to move among us and bring back the good old days, perhaps God is waiting for us to work with what He has already given us first and see where that takes us.
Just some food for thought . . .