17 Oct, 2010 What is it that the Church of today lacks?
What an interesting question. I’m sure there could be a good variety of answers
(I may request answers from ministry friends on this question to place in this blog at a later date).
Here are two answers
1. The Ephesians 4 diversity in leadership (see below in this blog)
2. The Church has lost the centrality of the gospel
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What is it that the Church of today lacks? [ Diversity in leadership ]
We’re back to Ephesians 4 again. But unlike a previous blog on this the emphasis is not that the role of leaders is equippers, but to discuss the diversity of leadership giftings God has given for leading His Church.
In Ephesians four a ‘five fold’ ministry highlighted to us by Paul. He spoke of five ‘offices’, or leadership positions, in Gods Church, these being of 1. Apostles 2. Prophets 3. Evangelists 4. Pastors and 5. Teachers.
The oft mentioned observation is that today’s Church is dominated by the Pastors and Teachers. This means that we are often missing the leadership input at the ‘top’ of our leadership structures from three out of the five biblically mandated leadership roles.
Considering the missing roles:
- The word Apostle means ‘sent out one’. The Apostles are those who pioneer new ground, though may also (as in the case of the first Apostles) give regional leadership.
- The Prophets are those recognised to have special anointing to bring God’s messages for today to His Church.
- The Evangelists are those gifted to mobilised and help lead the Church into its mission of reaching out to the ‘lost’.
To understand exactly what Paul might be referring to when referring to these five words…
…I believe these are not the sorts of gifts that all of us will have one of. These are not ‘gifts’ as much as ‘offices’ (or ‘a few anointed leaders’). These are key senior leadership functions that God has gifted and anointed a small number within His Church to be able to function in. These roles do not refer just to those leading congregations – but to those who, in the bigger picture of God’s Church (regional or national), are able to bring these kinds of leadership. I hope that makes sense. We’re talking about a few ‘top’ leadership roles that might be appointed by God – sometimes within the structures of our Church, but also sometimes outside of them. These might be preachers who bring fiery messages that stir God’s people up (‘Prophets’), or those gifted to rally and mobilise a great number of believers to outreach (they are called ‘Evangelists’).
What also needs noting is that the function all these roles is to be equippers in their area of ‘gifting’ or ‘expertise’. Prophets do not just ‘preach’ anointed messages – their RESPONSIBILITY (in the text) is to equip all God’s people to do that. Evangelists to not just evangelise – their RESPONSIBILITY is to equip all God’s people to do that!
The Church needs the leadership that those with these gifts provide too – not just the Pastors and Teachers.
Why are we missing these roles?
- Maybe because of a lack of finance in our Churches to even consider employing people beyond the many pastors of individual congregations,
- Maybe more significantly it’s probably because of the whole paradigm how we ‘do Church’ that we are stuck in. Our ‘formats‘ for Church are maybe somewhat rigid, and so releasing the roles of ‘Apostle’, ‘Prophet‘ and ‘evangelist‘ thus seem somewhat risky!
However, I suggest that there are people in each nation or area who might be ‘gifted’ by God to fulfil these particular functions – serving God’s Church (and most likely with little concern for denominational boundaries). Those with these gifts do exist. Where are they? Sadly, they are probably pastors of congregations, or in other cases working in ‘secular’ jobs, as alternative options or roles do not exists for them within the prevalent paradigm.
[By Paradigm I am thinking of a paradigm of thinking, not so much of our structures. The conclusion below will point toward this].
At the heart of the matter: ‘Shaking leadership’ Vs ‘Settling leadership’
If we spoke in very generalised terms, the Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists are ‘leadership’ roles that bring outward looking focus, encourage change, and encourage action. Maybe we could call this ‘shaking leadership’. They bring the ‘cutting edge’ to the Church. They shake things up!
In contrast the Pastors and Teachers are more ‘inward looking’ roles, bringing care and understanding within the community of believers. Without them the Church might fail to truly care for its people, or be in some way deceived by subtle false teachings. We could generalise this as ‘Settling leadership’.
There is thus an obvious tension between these two style. If you have observed small Churches in New Zealand you may have seen some pendulum swing between more visionary pastors and more ‘pastoral’ pastors.
The ‘unsettling leaders’ quite obviously won’t always make life easier for us – that is the ROLE of the Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists – to move us to greater godliness and action!
The ‘settling leaders’ however do – that is the role of the Pastors and Teachers (broadly speaking).
We like and pay the comforting leaders – but we do not so like or pay the dynamic leaders!
We have created a system that favours and sustains a ‘Church’ that looks after us – rather than a Church that is significantly all about looking after all those ‘others’ who are around us each day!
Whose responsibility is it to get the Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists to arise?
Some might say, for example, “If someone truly has a call from God to be an Evangelist, they should be willing to do it even without salary!”
Firstly, many with these gifts may not have actually discerned that they have them. They are living within the paradigm of thinking of how we ‘do Church’ with the rest of us. Such people may have passions, dreams, ideas and thoughts, but have no platforms to really share or speak out what God has placed within them. The ‘anointing’ is there, but latent! (this is what I think is happening!)
Secondly, some, while maybe recognising they may possible have these kinds of leadership gifts, lack the conviction and faith to take the risky step of ‘stepping out’ to serve in their ministry area with no guarantee of any income or support (this is why many are probably in pastoral leadership roles). I suspect that most believers are unable to really handle living at a level of income similar to, or below, what might be received on the unemployment benefit – so its not fair to put this responsibility on these leaders. Such incomes are what some who have stepped out into evangelistic ministry live on, and unfortunately many of those do not last for long because of the pressures this brings to their lives and families. I propose that what we are needing is a small perspective change in all who are involved in our Churches leadership teams.
Interesting question: Are we really without the influence and leadership of all of ‘Apostles’, ‘Prophets’ and ‘Evangelists’?
Considering the role of the Apostle, just as an example, it is possible that people with this kind of gift (or ‘anointing’) may have naturally risen to serve in national leadership positions in denominations and paraChurch organisations. In such positions they are able to bring a level of fresh and anointed leadership to the wider picture of ‘the Church’. I am convinced that some leaders with the Apostolic anointing will be found in these kind of leadership positions all across a nation, giving the very kind of leadership God has anointed them for!
However, as a caution, it seems just as likely in this scenario that Pastors or Teachers with considerable pastoral experience, known reputation, trustworthiness and stability, might just as easily be ‘promoted’ to these ‘senior leadership roles’ in their more senior years. In other words – the ‘senior’ roles are given to those with vast pastoral experience, rather than those gifted with pioneer or evangelistic leadership. In this scenario, the Pastors and Teachers would again ‘rule the roost’, just as in many local Churches, bringing caring leadership, but possibly without the direction (Apostles), divine revelation (Prophets) or mission focus (Evangelists) that is needed for the Churches under them to be brought to the fruitfulness that might otherwise be possible.
So, what is the way forward?
Maybe simply that we be aware. Consider this answer
a. To help the ‘Apostles’ arise:
Maybe the next time we see amazing and anointed leadership at a regional level, or someone showing outstanding effectiveness (as compared to others) in pioneering a work in a new area, we could give thought as to how we could encourage or help that person to continue in what they are doing (helping save them from the seemingly pre-determined destiny of having to fulfill a pastoral position). Also, the next time we see such a person ‘trapped’ in a pastoral position, it could be considered how to release them to a position where they could give 90% of their time to that gifting, rather than leaving them in the painful position of having to squeeze their primary ministry calling into the short gaps that exist between fulfilling all their other pastoral responsibilities. It may be that leaders with such gifts, combined with the necessary Godly character, humility, and trusted reputation, are both rare and hard to find. How much more should we do all we can to help create a space from which the ‘potentials’ for strong and clear leadership in these areas are given an opportunity to experience ministering more freely in their gift!
b. To help the ‘Prophets’ arise:
In a practical sense, these are maybe those with anointed preaching ministries, who have a special anointing from God to stir the Church up, bringing relevant and sometimes cutting messages from God’s heart to the Church of today. The same as with the Apostles, these also need outstanding character – for example being able to bring messages that are full of conviction and yet unquestionably with humility, that bring revelation, and yet where all words have a maturity in their tone, conveying unquestioned respect for and submission to the various other leaders in the Churches. Maybe such people need releasing from the bind of a weekly pulpit, so they can preach in a few other places also. The risk is indeed that some people released as ‘prophets’ may turn out to be real ‘fruit loops’ – but could it be that we lose far more by not releasing them, thus missing the potential revelation they bring, which might draw the very heart-beat of the Churches back to a a place of greater holiness and godliness, to greater love and devotedness?
c. To help the ‘Evangelists’ arise:
For the Evangelists – how about we just employ them! I know the New Zealand Church is a little way away from having the kind of generosity and faith in their giving (such that congregations would have ‘left overs’ after paying their Pastors salaries and building maintenance), but we very much need the equipping and leadership of our evangelists to get the gospel back into the heart of every Church, for the gospel is the life-blood of the Church (being the message of God’s love in Christ, whose blood did flow!).
We thus need to become aware that this is a problem! That is where it starts. Then we all start talking about it a bit more. Then, one day, we notice someone whose ‘shape’ or ‘style’ or ministry is different, or who shows effectiveness in area, and we begin to consider how we might help them work in that strength with some more of their time – rather than forcing them to pastor a congregation…
Because we have lived all our lives within this paradigm of ‘doing Church’ for so long, we don’t really know what we might be missing. But God’s Word is there to guide us and speak to us! God has appointed FIVE senior leadership ‘functions’ – those having them not being defined by who is in a denominations ‘position’ or leadership – but rather by gifting and ‘anointing’ and recognised influence and effectiveness in an area.
The Holy Spirit is alive and well – He can speak to us if we can allow the ‘paradigm’ of what He might say to be within our thinking (I.e., sometimes we maybe don’t hear because the ‘culture’ of our thinking prohibits doing what He might be saying!).
Maybe the way forward from here really is simply that we all somehow become more aware.
In time, we may have more really anointed ‘trans’-denominational leaders arising, and – with their experience and reputations being considered – being released to wider leadership influence within the Church of God – and maybe we will all benefit as a result!
That’s the ideal anyway.
Find it in Ephesians 4!
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This blog was the first answer to the question,
– – – What is it that the Church of today lacks? – – –
Find another answer at #2 below
- The Ephesians 4 diversity in leadership
- The Church has lost the centrality of the gospel.
In the next blog here find a simple application of the same above principles for the smaller sized local Church.