Reforming the Professional Ministry Paradigm

Followers of Lamb’s Haringer will recall many posts over the last 2-3 years, which call for a reformation of pastoral, professional ministry. For too long, American Christianity has followed the model set forward by Europe and Rome concerning professional clergy… a thing Jesus and the Apostles never demonstrated. The error has led to:

  • Denominations, Bible colleges and universities as centers of spiritual authority and sociopolitical influence above the local church
  • A resultant looking to credentials & experience as the determining factor in choosing church leadership, rather than emotional, relational & spiritual maturity.
  • Lording over God’s heritage
  • A consumerism in church-goers and  marketing (branding & traffic creation / maintenance) by leaders.
  • A dearth of spiritually mature Christians from quenching and grieving the Spirit (the One who directs and empowers His gifts to the Church)
  • A love/service of money &/ or notariety (power/influence) among “men of God.” 

I merely call for a reformation of that corrupt model in exchange for the biblical one, as is detailed in the posts below:

The 5 Step Solution for the 10/90 Problem

The Other Master

The True Extent of Pastoral Authority

The Greatest Sin in the Church: Lording

5 Warning Signs of a Controlling Pastor

On Meddling & Professional Ministry

Uncovering and Facing Spiritual Abuse

Abuse and Authority Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Parts 1 & 2

R.A.R.E. Leadership

Machetes, Enough and a Free Gospel

12 Clearly Stated Facts on Biblical Church Leadership

Diagram of Biblical Church Leadership Roles

Spiritual Gifts: Discovering which Part of Christ’s Body God made You [Presentation]

The Scary Word: Give

A Portrait of the Church

What Really is the Church?

The Book of Micah (See esp. Part 2)

Free Pastoral Review Survey

The 5 Step Solution for the 10/90 Problem

10% of the people do 90% of the ministry work

Whether it is an accurate statistic, it is one commonly expressed among all Christian sects. The Church has a motivation problem, so its leaders think. And, those 10% who do align with the “vision” of leaders often get “burned out” or “put out” by ungodly expectations. 

The leaders themselves are under extreme pressures by congregants…. to be, say or do what is expected at all times. Many of those expectations are beyond the biblical mandate for the role of pastor, (Ex: pastoral visits, when Deacons should care for the sick and needy until the elders are called by the sick for anointed healing). They also perhaps feel controlled by their being “employees” of a church governance, instead of being undershepherds, meant to care for the flock, as the Spirit leads and empowers their gift. Then, clergy often see themselves in a constant struggle and exhausting drudge to make their churches into effective disciple factories. “People just won’t hear sound doctrine anymore,” some say. Others who are frustrated to make disciples rely on the phrase, “It’s just hard here.” 

All of these lines of church sub-culture are interconnected, and there is a 5-Step Solution which will take some courage and time and talking to implement. But, the result will be worth it!

1. CLERGY WORK/PAY: We need more ministers like the apostle Paul, who can say, “You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.” (Acts 20:34)

The Pastors / Elders / Ministers will not take a salary or any regular pay. Doing so would eliminate being a “professional minister” for filthy lucre’s sake. They will obtain a skilled trade or profession like their congregants, or (if you wish) like Jesus and His Apostles, who wanted everyone to know the Gospel is free (1 Corinthians 9:12, 15-18). Clergy will receive circumstantial and need-based gifts from collections to make up anything they may need, including study resources, retreat times and conferencing. Deacons / Deaconness will make sure clergy have what is necessary, just as they should be doing for everyone in the congregation. [A “transition package” might be arranged for leaders who will find a transition into “secular work” challenging, due to academic degrees or marketable skills limitations.]

Use the funds to pay off church debt. Or, meet the needs of the congregation (ex. pay fees for professional Christian counseling or drug rehab or financial management programs). Remember the poor, disaster stricken, orphaned and widowed, as well as missions / church planting efforts. Or, use the funds to hire multi-media useful for multi-site church and/or internet, radio and TV broadcasting. Be missional!

2. CLERGY FOCUS ON PRAYER & MINISTERING THE WORD [and passing the Apostles’ doctrine (NT letters) on to those who are teachers]: The Pastors / Elders / Ministers will cease from occupational administration, vision casting, initiative creating, “ministry opportunity” development, or crowd-attracting / maintaining hype. This kind of busy work replaces the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout the individual parts of the Body. 

Instead, serve / feed the Sheep by praying for & equipping the saints to know and interpret the Word for themselves… to build up the parts of the Body to have direct and vibrant and maturing relationships with God for themselves, so that the words and works of Jesus are being consistently produced in and through them; & so that they are not tossed about by false doctrines. [This will include instruction on essentials of the historical, biblicist Christian faith & apologetics.] Remember to empathetically and compassionately and meekly restore the failing, gently instructing those who oppose themselves. This is the true work of pastors and of all who are spiritually mature.

When preaching is being done, also teach exegesis/elements of interpretation and how to personally apply the exegesis. This cannot be done without teaching / preaching though entire books (including the context provided by  biblical theology), as well as topics. 

Devise a plan on how to train both teens and adults on whole Bible interpretation and Christian apologetics over the span of 3-5 years. Work the plan continually and repeatedly. There are so many excellent resources in these regards, one is sure to feel no overwhelm in accomplishing the task.

3. CLERGY EMPHASIZE THE PRIESTHOOD OF EACH BELIVER, SOUL LIBERTY & THE PERSON and MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Instead of clergy inadvertently or wittingly placing one’s self as a lord over God’s heritage, emphasize there is One Lord, and that, He is IN all (believers) and over all believers, including the “pastors.” The Spirit should be followed above men, because He is Lord and empowers and directs each part of the Body, as He wills. 

This will necessitate that we learn to view each other according to our spiritual giftings and how they function! 

It will also demand of pastors that they learn the Scriptures show always more than one man gifted as an elder or leader (ex. Missionary / apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor/Teacher) in any one church. So many churches use the atrocious and unbiblical “one pastor” model… which is seemingly always added upon the tendency to: 

  • Throw all spiritual (and administrative / coordinating) responsibilities on the pastor.
  • Not view believers according to their gifts and how those operate in/by the Spirit. It should be that the pastor(s) are aware of the gifts in their church, knowing the Spirit will work in and through them to help lead the congregation toward maturity in their relationship with God. Church leaders must learn to bow to the Holy Spirit functioning in other leaders and in all believers. We must kill the spirit of Diotrephes.

Therefore, teach and exemplify:

  1. The New Creature in Christ Identity, being  joined to the Lord as one Spirit. Conversely, expose the “old man” (the flesh), the world and the satanic forces of evil as the enemy of one’s identity in Christ.
  2. What it is to hear from the Spirit of God, in accordance to the Word. More importantly, instruct and show what it is to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in relationships, attitudes, actions and life choices. 

Explain and reinforce that the Holy Spirit directs us ALL to do the work of the ministry, both inside and outside the church. 

Inside the church, and no matter what gifting we possess, we edify one another in love at the prompting of the Spirit [not via officially organized, transactional & sterile ministry departments], and seek to honor one another genuinely, considering all others better (and worthy of more honor) than ourselves. We encourage one another to become more like Jesus. This takes time to build trusting relationships that are communication rich. Again, this cannot be done without teaching properly on spiritual gifts and their function. 

Outside the church, we show the works [acts of faith, love & mercy] and graciously speak the words [the Good News, 4 Gospels’ passages] of Jesus, so that wherever we have been called, there we are the Lord’s person… out in the world, where the real Ministry of Reconciliation is done. 

Devise a plan on how to train/encourage teens and adults over the span of 3-5 years on realizing and exercising their spiritual gift(s), as well as sharing/explaining the Gospel accounts of Jesus… and (like Jesus) living a life full of humble, just & merciful deeds as the Spirit leads. Work the plan continually and repeatedly.

4.  WORSHIP & PRAY^ TOGETHER (to be multiplied): So little corporate prayer is practiced in churches. Pray to learn/combat spiritual warfare in repentant intercession, for the Good News to have free course, for deliverances and healings (physical, emotional, spiritual), for anointings, for outpourings, for the biblical unity in essential truth of the Body of Jesus, for those in authority, for blessings on enemies, etc. 

Seek (as a result of prayer) to be reproducing churches as rapidly as healthy and mature Christians are readied.

^Worship is to come into alignment with our Head, Jesus. Prayer is to access the blessings of that Authority.

5. SHUT DOWN ALL “OFFICIAL MINISTRIES” NOT EXPRESSLY DOING #2, #3 & #4: They are superfluous, especially those dead ministries (held onto due to tradition), or those instituted by leadership & insisting on “cookie-cutter” Christianity or “brand specific” (non-essential, denominational) traditions and/or cumbersome, detailed teachings beyond the scope of Scripture; for examples, diet, personal finance and wealth management, medical advices, exercise and health, the “look” or style of home/family life, specifics on child rearing, etc. Instead, encourage each believer to know/interpret/apply the Word and function/operate in the influence of the Spirit both inside and outside the Church, as well as at home… and in all matters. 

If teachings and prophecies arise from within the Body, let the Pastors / Elders / Ministers recommend the teachings or prophecies, and let them correct errors ONLY when serious, essential-doctrine errors are present, so as not to hinder the Spirit. Warn against cliquish followings after this or that teacher/minister.

On Shunning

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” –Jesus (Matthew 18:12)

The IFB churches, in which I grew up and then left, commonly teach that believers should shun another person who calls himself/herself a believer, but who has been involved in sin and is not repentant. The operative and key words should be “not repentant.” If someone has expressed sorrow and change of mind/heart about the sin, taking steps to be rid of it… [not man-made prescriptions] then they are to be received! (2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 8:7-16). And they are to be received as God sees them, fully righteous, fully restored, walking in their new creature identity (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

For sure, “church discipline” is taught in the Bible, but shunning is not.

IFBers often quote the following:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

And,

I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Again, it is clear that church discipline is taught by the Apostle Paul; and Jesus Himself gave prescriptions on how to deal with offenses within the body (Matthew 18). But, in their zealousness to rid the body of “leaven,” they miss Jesus’ statement to “treat them as a pagan and a tax collector,” and IFBers appear never to consider how Jesus Himself treated pagans and tax collectors. They also either skip over or ignore 2 Thessalonians 3:15, which commands believers should NOT treat a disobedient brother as an enemy! James 5:20 further states we should invest enough love and time and wisdom into a brother’s / sister’s life, so as to be able to turn him or persuade him back to Jesus, and so, “cover a multitude of sins.” We are to reprove, rebuke, exhort, BUT “with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). These things can hardly be done in one “church discipline” visit by a pastor and 2 deacons, where fear and intimidation are the motivations. Jude (v. 22) commands we should differentiate the hardened from the doubting by showing them mercy & compassion; but even the hardened should have mercy mixed with fear (vv. 22-24).

2 Timothy 2:24-25 (ESV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

What is more, IFB’ers insist on man-made restrictions to “make sure the offender has really repented ‘after a godly sorrow.'” These restrictions and life demands are not mankind’s place to determine; and IFB’ers are so behavior focused, they often neglect true restoration… which requires meekly identifying with & bearing the burden of the one who stumbled (Galatians 6).

True restoration is done in order to rebuild the breakdowns of one’s holy identity, faith, hope and love which precipitated the sin; and true restoration realizes a sin problem in a believer is always directly proportionate to their godly identity having been attacked, their godly trusts having been broken, their godly hopes having been dashed or their godly love having been betrayed. It requires sympathetically looking at the trials and hardships that led to said breakdown. Instead, IFB’ers tend to kick those who are down, or treat them shamefully, as if they carry something rabid and catchy. This shaming and shunning can never restore, and it reveals restoration is really not the aim of IFB’ers.

They gain this misdirection & misunderstanding about shunning from misinterpreting passages (out of context and meaning). Here are some Bible studies, which show the biblically accurate alternative to unbiblical shunning. Not associating with an unrepentant person means not to worship with them. Not to eat with an unrepentant person means not to take communion with them. One gains this from the context of 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul describes the difference between what goes on within the body vs. what goes on outside it (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). But, not to share an actual family or friendly meal and/or not to socialize with said persons is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible, and it only feeds unbiblical shunning.

_________________

OTHER RESOURCES:

Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality & Mortality

Treat Them as a Pagan and a Tax Collector

The Kingdom of Heaven and it’s Keys

Binding and Loosing 

Abuse & Authority

The Greatest Sin in the Church: Lording

Pastors!! We are guilty of the greatest sin in the churches. If you do not know what "Lording over the flock" is, then you are most probably doing it! STOP!!

You call yourself an "overseer" and an "undershepherd," because you gain these titles from Scripture; but you have more than likely learned the wrong connotation of these terms. To oversee in the correct sense of the word (according to Thayer's Lexicon) is "TO LOOK OUT FOR; CARE FOR," not to train for professional ministry, administrate, organize, manage, direct or determine "usefulness." YOU DO NOT lead the flock to build a church, so that the entire world someday will be "going to church."

You care for the health of the flock, so that the flock is GOING OUT into the entire world!! You do NOT control opportunities of ministry. The Spirit does! You SERVE the Spirit in each believer… calling out His gifts you see, nurturing the believer to learn and maintain a direct connection with their true Lord and Director, the Holy Spirit! In that healthy state, God also will work in them and through them to minister to / build up their fellow believers.

Your only & true goal as a minister is to equip the believer for the Great Commission / Ministry of Reconciliation IN THE WORLD, where God has called them (1 Corinthians 7:17ff).

He HAS NOT called and WILL NOT call them to build YOUR MINISTRY. And, should a believer be falling or failing, you are to SERVE them by seeking to restore their faith, hope & love! That is what a pastor does.

The best thing you can do, Pastors, is cut all your programs, budgets & plans immediately!! Then, repent openly of "Lording over the flock" and start teaching on the gifts of the Spirit and their functions; and start teaching on what it means to tune into and maintain a vibrant connection to the LORD! Follow that up by teaching the most basic Christian doctrines and their defenses in the face of today's attacks. Finally, teach the believers how to read, study and interpret the Bible for THEMSELVES, instead of being reliant on your spoon feedings. That is plenty of work that requires a lot of prayer and study. Get to it!!

_____________

OTHER RESOURCES:

Abuse & Authority

12 Clearly Stated Facts on Biblical Church Leadership

Diagram of Biblical Church Leadership Roles

Why Church Members Dislike Church Growth – Rainer on Leadership #128

Good Leadership and Good Followers

Isn’t Church Just Another Kind of Cult?

A Response to Anne Graham Lotz’s Inaugural Assessment

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, spoke out recently in an article published by Prophecy in the News. She responded to Donald Trump’s inaugural prayer service, stating that even though the Christian God was represented, so many other religious presences poluted the day.

As a Christian, I agree with Mrs. Lotz’s assessment that the Creator, as described in the Christian New Testament is not a god among others. He is THE one, true God above all others.

HOWEVER, also as an Anabaptist Christian, I do not believe a true faith is one that can be mandated or forced upon citizens by the State. There are some Christian sects, which believe Christianity must conquer the world by socio-political means. They practice theonomy, which is the establishing of biblical laws into the legal structure of whatever nation Christians call home. This stems from a theology labeled “Post-Millennialism,” which seeks to “bring in the kingdom” of Jesus Christ by societal engineering. Though it is right and good to have morally just and righteous laws by biblical standards, it is quite another thing to try establishing a theocracy in hopes that people will be governed into a belief system. It smacks of Islamic Sharia.

I hate and despise theonomy, because it overlooks the fact that God’s kingdom is not like man’s kingdoms. It cannot be legislated into or out of existence. Rather, His kingdom is within every heart that believes of free will (as opposed to coercion). 

One day, Jesus Christ will return to establish his kingdom on earth. At present, though, believers are both the subjects and the spaces (the temples) of His kingdom, having their primary and eternal citizenship in Heaven with Christ Jesus.