Over the last few years, there have been phrases and words that I have eliminated from the way I speak because of the connotation behind them and what I believe to be unspoken, but generally accepted subconsciously, attitudes.
Two examples of the above would be “go to church” and “worship service.” I no longer say “go to church” because I cannot go where I already am. The church is not a building nor is it an activity that happens inside a building. The church is people, wherever they may be gathered. I also no longer say “worship service.” A service is something I pay someone else to do for me, either because I cannot or do not desire to do. A worship gathering that has the connotation of a “service” has the subconscious attitude that the pastor or some other “professional” type person is the one providing me a service and the person just sits back and observes, truly participating at a very low level.
This morning, another example popped into my mind – a pastor being called a minister. From the Apostle Paul’s explicit words from Ephesians 4, a pastor is one of four types of individuals who “equip the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the body of Christ.” The connotation of calling a pastor a “minister” is that it is s/he who does the work of the ministry so that the people of the church do not have to do so.
Throughout my years as a pastor, there have been numerous times where I have encountered the statement, “Well, we pay our pastor to do that,” when commenting on some aspect of ministry, such as visiting people, for example. I’m not saying that a pastor shouldn’t be leading by example as well as teaching, but what has occurred is that there is now a common subconscious attitude/perception that the pastor is the one who is supposed to be doing the ministering. The “not-a-pastor” person of the church receives those ministry “services” as provided by the pastor and goes on his/her merry way.
This contributes to a consumer type mentality and the comparing of pastors. I believe it’s why there are those, even some who have been followers of Christ for many, many years, who give this reason for leaving a particular local church for another: “I just wasn’t being ministered to enough.”
A pastor’s explicit responsibility is to equip ministers, empowering others to minister and carry out the work of the ministry so that the body of Christ will be built up until “we all have attained the oneness of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God, unto a mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13 (JHLT)