Who does the work in the church?
Seems like a simple question with a simple answer, right? Most Christians, and probably most pastors, would answer: the pastors do! The reasons for such an answer range from the theological to the practical. The dominant model of ministry for most of church history comes over from the Catholic church with its traditionally strong division between priests and congregants.
The Protestant Reformation helped to recover a more biblical view of the clergy/laity relationship. Yet, even in Protestant churches, the pastors are often looked to do the majority of the ministry. Oftentimes, this is a practical issue: the pastors are paid, full-time (or “part-time”) staff and around the church all the time. Of course, they should do the work of ministry!
But is this view biblical?
Equipping God’s People
According to Scripture, pastors are called to equip the flock to do the work of ministry! “God gave…some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Yes, pastors do the work of ministry. But not all of it! Pastors must equip the flock so that the whole church is engaged in God’s mission.
Furthermore, it’s just not efficient, nor practical, for pastors to do all the work in the church. No pastor is omni-competent. No pastor has the full range of spiritual gifts needed to build up the local body of believers. No pastor has the time nor energy to meet all the needs in the church. When the congregation believes that the pastors should be meeting all the needs, disillusionment will inevitably set in, because some needs will go unmet. Therefore, equipping the flock is essential for the health of the flock.
So how do we begin equipping God’s people?
Identify your key leader’s gifts and strengths
Remember, that you need to prioritize where you are investing your time. We shepherd the flock by having leaders who lead leaders who lead leaders (and so on!). When you have your leadership team in place, you must identify their gifts and strengths. Too often, the discussion of spiritual gifts devolves into debates over the continuation (or not) of miraculous sign gifts. Most importantly, spiritual gifts are given to glorify Christ and build up the church (Romans 12:4-8).
Because the lists of gifts in the Bible are not all the same, it seems best to believe that they are not exhaustive. Rather, they are illustrative. The Bible shows us that these are the kinds of gifts operative in the church.
Identifying the different spiritual gifts of our leaders depends on three factors: edification, competency, and confirmation.
- Edification: When your leaders do whatever they do, are they building up the body of Christ? Do people grow and flourish in their spiritual lives? Are they encouraged to grow in holiness.
- Competency: Do they do a good job? Christians should strive for excellence in all they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore, if our leaders exhibit a high-level of competency in a certain area, we can know they have been gifted by God.
- Confirmation: Do others point out their gifting? Just because someone thinks they have a spiritual gift doesn’t mean they actually do! Think about how many times someone wants to sing a solo in church! Confirmation from you or other senior leadership can be an indication that someone has a spiritual gift.
Cultivate Their Gifting
After identifying someone’s spiritual gifts, we must begin the long process of cultivating their gifting. Cultivating spiritual gifts is really at the heart of equipping the flock for ministry. Cultivating someone’s gifting comes through training, coaching, and opportunity.
- Training: Formal times when you teach on a specific topic. This could involve classroom lectures, small group discussion or online videos. It is important to take your leaders systematically through the vision and values of your church. Doing so equips everyone to be united and on the same page.
- Coaching: Personal and less formal follow-up. When coaching, you will often come alongside a leader and provide feedback on their performance. It’s about making small corrections to make them the best leaders they possibly can be.
- Opportunity: Contexts for someone to exercise their spiritual gifts. All training and coaching must lead to putting it into practice. Consider what kind of opportunities to give to your leaders. According to the book of Romans, we cannot merely sit on the sidelines and learn: when we have a spiritual gift, we must use it (Romans 12:6)! Help your leaders fulfill their calling from God and use their gifting!
Don’t Do (All) the Work
God has a mission for His church: to spread the gospel to all nations. This mission is way too big for anyone person (outside of Jesus!). The whole church is needed to fulfill it. Pastor, don’t do all the work. Equip your flock!
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