Tuesday, February 12, 2008

God's calling for the church part 3

See Part 1: The ministry of reconciliation
See Part 2: Koinonia
Ephesians 4:11 says, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."

There are two very different interpretations of this passage which lead to two very different answers to the role of leaders in the local church.

The King James Version places a comma between "saints" and "for" in vs. 12. thus suggesting that the leaders do three things:

  1. equip the saints
  2. the work of ministry
  3. building up the body of Christ.

In other words, the leaders do all significant spiritual work and the rest do very little. The King James Version reflected this view which had been held for centuries and reinforced it for succeeding generations. Even today, this is the prominent view of leadership in many, probably most, churches.

Consider the following quotes by leaders and theologians:

  • ". . .both the clergy and the laity have leadership roles, but they are different roles. The clergy are primarily responsible for the assembled phase of the church life. They are called and trained as professionals to preach, to lead worship, to educate. . ., to provide. . .theological counsel, and to lead the congregation's organizational and fellowship life. . ."
  • "Lay leadership in these areas is important, but it is secondary and supportive."
  • "(A corporate executive who) realizes that it is the Holy Spirit who has made him head of the research division in a large corporation."
  • "(The hospital elevator operator) who exercises his ministry by humming a hymn by taking the patient's up to the operating room." (All from Wentz, Ministry As a Way of Life)

Without the comma, everything changes. The leaders equip the believers to do the work of ministry and they build up the body of Christ. In other words, all Christians are ministers with significant spiritual roles to play.

The leaders' primary job is not to do it all, but to equip the "laymen" to minister. They are train them in doctrine and ministry, help them to find their unique ministry roles, provide structures in which they can play these role - and then let them minister!!

Which interpretation is correct?

Without any doubt, the latter is the correct interpretation. For what are the saints being equipped, if not to do the work of ministry? The cases used in Greek also point to the second interpretation.

Vs. 7,8 make it clear that every Christian is spiritually gifted. Such gifting is given in order to perform spiritual ministry (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

Vs. 16 sums up the teaching of this passage by saying that the church is built up by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.

Many other passages in the New Testament teach that all Christians are gifted and called to ministry (cf. Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; 1 Pet 4:10,11).

The big problem we see today is that in one church after another, little or no effort is made to equip their members to do anything. Even when churches have training classes (usually attended by a minority) these several week classes are so superficial they don't qualify the people to do anything.

How can any church claim it is doing what the New Testament calls for if they make no strong effort to equip, or train their members for ministry?

No comments: