There are five different types of people specifically given by God to the Church as gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And these were given for a specific purpose – for the equipping of the saints, God’s holy ones, for the work of the ministry. In other words, the role of these 5 types of people is not to do the ministry, but to train those of the church to carry out the ministry of the church.
What is the work of the ministry? A good illustration would be that from Acts 6. There arose a dispute about needs of different groups within the church being met. Instead of trying to do it themselves, the apostles told the church to pick seven men from themselves who would carry out the work of the ministry. These were the first deacons, which means “those who minister.” The apostles would continue with their job of prayer and ministry of the word which means proclaiming it to the crowds and studying it. So, it was people from the body who were equipped to carry out the work of the ministry, not those who were to be doing the equipping.
The common paradigm in the modern church in America, though, is that the people expect the pastor to be the one to do the work of the ministry. Comments such as “That’s why we hired him/her” have unfortunately been offered numerous times. It’s almost as if the attitude is “We pay him/her to do it so we don’t have to because we don’t want to do it.”
I believe there have been different reasons from both sides that have caused this common paradigm. There has been the consumerist attitude of those of the church, but there have also been wrong attitudes by pastors such as feeling like s/he has to do it all to be accepted or having a “superiority” complex that no one is capable of ministering to someone like s/he is so that even if a member of the body does minister to someone, that pastor feels the need to also minister on top of it.
What has the result been? Severely stunted growth in both quantity and quality of the church. Pastors are not freed up to carry out their specific duty placed on a pastor by direct revelation from God because they are too busy trying to do the work of the ministry that those who make up the body should be doing. Those who make up the church do not grow because they just sit back and either expect the pastor to do it or just sit back because even if they did participate in the work of the ministry like ministering to the needs of a sick person, the pastor would just come along and do it as well. So if the pastor feels the need to do it as well, the attitude of the person can very easily become, “Why should I bother; the pastor will just do if after me.”
I’m coming to grips with the realization that this ever-present paradigm has done great damage to those of the two youngest adult generations, particularly the Millennials. Why do I say that? I say it because those individuals want to be active, to be trusted, to not be treated like someone like a pastor has to come behind them and do the work they have just done. They want to be equipped and then released and empowered to carry out the ministry without having to look over their shoulder expecting to see a pastor come up behind them and just do again what they’ve already done. If that happens, they ask themselves, “Why am I doing it if you’re just going to come along and do it again?” And at that point, they stop and move on.
Want to know why many of those generations don’t value or prioritize being an active part of a church? Because they aren’t valued in what they do if someone is just going to come along and do it again after them. So they stop and place their priorities elsewhere.
If this paradigm isn’t replaced with the biblical one, then I do not see good results.