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
  • Lording over God’s heritage
  • A consumerism in church-goers
  • 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 & notariety 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 Greatest Sin in the Church: Lording

On Meddling & Professional Ministry

Abuse and Authority

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)

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.

Mercy Wins When Abusive Church Leaders Threaten

“For He is Good; For His Loving Mercy Endures Forever.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Beware those who seek God’s power, instead of transformation into the likeness of Jesus Himself.

Abusive church leaders use abusive “teaching” to explain why God has not yet sent revival power/blessing. It is equivalent to spiritual blackmail. The church members correctly believe revival blessing can be poured out on them, but the leaders also believe that they (the people) somehow have forfeited revival blessing by certain disobediences as a body or by certain slacking in “rising in faith-filled obedience” to the “faith step” which the leaders say God set for them as a body. This is dangerous, because it is meritoriously working for revival power/blessing.

Also, great tension occurs between the leadership and the people when the leadership—like some divine oracle—says, “This is the faith step we must take…God cannot bless if this is missing from our hearts as a congregation.” Why? It is meritorious thinking. When the body takes that step sincerely (such as sacrificially giving themselves of time, money, resources, energies – or – giving up certain right pleasures or expressions of personality) they believe sincerely that they have done something, which will make God pleased with them to the point that “hindrances to revival blessing are removed.” Then, they wonder why God is not blessing, and the striving goes deeper and deeper. Worse yet, they fear God will punish them. Soon, the Pastor(s) is subtly turning against his people for “not meeting the mark,” and the people are subtly doubtful of the Pastor’s leadership because of his “brow beating” them for their lack of faith….and they are weary from heavy burdens. One can never be sure if God is pleased. These are the results of abusive, meritorius religion.

In leading people toward revival, we must not make any subtle or overt emphasis of having our music just right, and then, God will bless us with revival as opposed to those whom He won’t. We must not say that God cannot bless us with revival blessing, if we do not have faith promise missions or a ritualized “hour of prayer.” We must not make the issue our having the minutest of doctrine correct as opposed to those who don’t. We must not think that if we change our style, modes, and fashions to exude all manner of visible, outward “holiness” that God will bless us and not those who differ. 

God does not promise revival blessing because we have this or that “right.” Neither does He withhold revival blessing from those who do not. [The only time God promises to bless separation is when we separate ourselves from worshipping and serving together with heathen in the ways they worship and serve. (2 Cor. 6:17)] Rather, God shows mercy on whom He will show mercy, and that means only on those who count His mercy THE thing to be had… who “love mercy.”

Also, let’s be careful about teaching people what we mean by “purity” in the churches. Do we mean, “every person in the congregation has no sin issues?” Is that what we believe revival is… the absence of sin? Is that rational? Do we think that glorification can happen this side of eternity? Or yet, do we mean, “no outward trace that our members were once lost men, even though they might have been newly saved”? In the same vein, everyone knows that God must turn His face away from those children have given themselves over to wickedness. But, those prodigal brothers just may be revived before those who look down upon them.

In conclusion, let’s not strain at gnats and swallow camels. We don’t need to wonder why God’s blessing is not upon us as persons or as a movement, when so much spiritual pride and meritorious thinking saturates our hearts. We should turn away from the carnal comparisons and circles and camps and labeling. Dear one’s, let’s realign ourselves with Christ’s agenda – 

  • PRAISE Him and bask in His mercy! 
  • Get His Good News of MERCY to every soul. 

By now, we all know that we cannot earn the power of His saving influence for ourselves or for our churches or for our movements. God will not grant His likeness on us, until we are looking for His mercy… until we see ourselves utterly in need of His mercy and do Him sacrifice – the sacrifice of the lips – a thankful heart for His goodness, for His loving mercy which endures forever.

Whenever God comes down to pour out His Spirit, He does it because people have realized He alone is good. If His Presence is going to be known, then it shall only be because His mercy endures forever, not because our “holiness” finally met His “standard.” God does not see movements. He sees men – humble men & women, who hope only in His mercy as their happiness in service and sense of success. Only these men know what a freeing and glad thing it is to shout the message of mercy loud and clear, so all the world may hear it. God is not withholding blessing from us or waiting for us to earn it. He wants us to be ready to receive all that He has. He counts us as not ready until we, like Solomon and the people of Israel, make our theme song, “For the LORD is good; for his mercy endures forever.”

What an IFB Cult Leader Sounds Like When Demanding Money

If one says the name Colonial Hills Baptist Church (Indianapolis, IN), then you might remember having seen the 20/20 news report about the church’s publicly blaming/shaming and shunning a statutory rape victim, while failing to properly report her perpetrator. Chuck Phelps was the presiding pastor at that time, and he still is the senior pastor. If you think the church bettered after the debacle, then you are sadly mistaken. 

Colonial Hills recently brought on a new international ministries development consultant, who is associated strongly with the cult known as Falls Baptist Church (FBC) in Menomonee Falls, WI. Matthew Barfield, also a VP at IPM, recently spoke (February 19, 2017) at FBC’s annual Faith Promise Giving special meeting, and his sermon is a proper example of what a cult leader sounds like when demanding money.

One can listen to the audio recording HERE, if FBC will not remove the recording. I provide a correctional critique of his “sermon” below. The text of his message is Matthew 26. [See also John 12, Luke 7 & Mark 14]

>>Barfield’s sermon is not bringing out of the text what is there, but he is using the text as a platform to preach his own talking points… which include some self-given accolades on his mastery of language(s) and ministerial exploits. 

  • The full context of the biblical account is not focused on Mary’s gift or on the doctrine of giving (contrary to what Barfield’s sermon leads one to believe) but on her great love for and belief of Jesus. Mary knew that she had been forgiven much by Jesus; and she was moved to loving action, due to her believing Jesus’ death would be soon. That was a thing even the Disciples themselves did not believe at that time. Ironically, the disciples were the ones misfocused on the gift and “giving,” just like Barfield.
  • Mary had been a prostitute. Would many churches like FBC or Colonial Hills allow a suddenly repentant prostitute to give the result of her “wages” to Jesus, let alone command that she be remembered all over the world for it? Jesus did. 
  • She did what she could” to Barfield means she sacrificed greatly in her gift giving. Contextually, it means nothing other than, A: this was a pre-purchased supply, out of what she already possessed, not what she did not have; B: Mary could not prevent His death, but she could honor His death!! She did what she could.
  • Mary’s anointing Jesus was indeed costly as Barfield notes, but the modern-day equivalent would be to give Jesus embalming fluid. That’s shockingly practical & not exactly flattering. The act sent a poignant, albeit worshipful message. The ointment Mary poured out was used in ancient days to keep stink of death down, but she used it to anoint Him before His death. In contrast, the Pharisees and disciples did not believe; and so, they did not offer to customarily wash & dry Jesus’s feet. The context draws great attention to this contrast. She believed He would die, so she anointed Him is burial ointment. They believed he would not die as Messiah, so they gave Him no common courtesy at all. The only application to be drawn from this context is that disbelievers today still refuse to give Jesus honor… not that believers must give extravagantly, to prove they are truly believers.
  • Mary was giving directly to Jesus’ physical body. Mary was NOT giving to fund missions or raise the budget via “faith promise” (pledging what she did not have on “faith”). In fact, Jesus rebuked the Disciples (particularly Judas) for making the suggestion that the money should have been used for the “Jesus mission fund.” [It is doubly ironic that Barfield is raising funds for missions. He is more Judas than he knows.] 
  • Jesus clearly states the purpose of the passage, when He commands that Mary should be remembered for what she did, after saying she did it for His burial (v. 13). In contrast and in illogic, Barfield charges the audience to give, or they may not be a true believer. If they truly believe in Christ’s return, then they should give extravagantly in light of Jesus’ return, just as Mary gave extravagantly (in light of His death). There’s nothing like a cult leader telling people to give, or else they may not truly be a believer (i.e. headed for Hell & damnation); and by the chance they are a genuine believer, then they certainly won’t have rewards in Heaven unless they give like Mary—extravagantly. 

>>Barfield—with his many appeals for “surrender”—creates (as a cult always does) a false dichotomy between the sacred & the secular, between “the ministry / mission field” and a secular profession… which—in reality—leads to the discontent Barfield describes as a common thought pattern among clergy, when people are not giving enough to missions. Instead, missionaries should just hold “tent-making” jobs like the Apostle Paul.

>>Barfield’s allusion to 2 Corinthians 8 and the example of the Apostle Paul receiving gifts from the Corinthians vs. Macedonians is stretched beyond the context. The context is DISASTER RELIEF for fellow churches to relieve the suffering of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:4). It was a one-time offering asked to be received… not an every year or even every month or week collection. In fact, the Bible never commands the New Testament believer to give a tithe. The passage actually teaches that churches are supposed to note when other churches have endure peril, and then, seek to relieve their plight by whatever means possible. More importantly, Mary’s gift (Matthew 26) was also a 1 time gift… not an annual thing.

>>Barfield forgets verses 12-13 of 2 Corinthians 8, which state believers should give out of what they have AND not give in a way that causes themselves to be in need… which also happens to make Faith Promise Giving unbiblical. 

>>Barfield directly implies—near the end of the sermon—that if someone does not give like Mary, then he/she does not love Jesus the way He loves us… and is on the side of Judas. That is a twisting of the Scriptures!

Conclusion:

Thankfully, the Bible does not teach anything close to “Faith Promise Giving.” In fact, the New Testament believer is never instructed to give a “tithe.” Rather, the Bible teaches free-will & joy-filled giving to those who are in need, but not in such a way as to put the giver in need. There may be ocaisions where disaster strikes and sacrifices are warranted, so that others may have food and shelter and clothing; but to state that extravagant giving is expected regularly by God… or, to say that one may not truly believe if he does not give extravagantly… is sheer cult tactic by a cult leader.

On Meddling & Professional Ministry

After some years away from the IFB movement, I began to see that a common sin in nearly every sect of clergy is “Lording” (1 Peter 5), whereby they act as divine mediators between God and mankind. No one starts out by saying, “Today, I am going to play God with people’s lives.” So, I tried to understand why a leader would get sucked into Lording. The most obvious answer is their subtle desire for position, power & empty glory. Another reason is their practical distrust of God’s ability to direct or correct someone Himself. 

Then, it occurred to me. There is something more elementally wrong and more widespread than the above reasons. It has to do with making a career out of “professional ministry.” These people are paid to sit around all day and basically try to think up ways of both adding attendees and turning them into their brand of “Churchianity.” They must do this, because they view ministry as only what happens inside the church building or church-sanctioned activity. It is true that believers edify one another as they gather together. Yet, leaders often do not see that their only role is to equip the believers for the true, everyday ministry which happens out in the world… and to which God has called every believer in his/her place (1 Corinthians 7:17ff).

Instead of knowing / holding down “real world” jobs themselves, they hole up in the 4 walls of a church building or other Christian institution, where their analytical minds inevitably turn critical and obsessed over minutia… which only leads to meddling in others’ affairs. They think they are serving God, but what they are really doing is meddling.

Meddle: to interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.

Jesus and all of His Apostles had either trades or professions that they did not see as “in conflict” with accomplishing the Great Comission. The difference between the Apostles and modern-day clergy is the Apostles could have expected pay but they did not for the Gospel’s sake (1 Corinthians 9; Philippians 4). Even the Bible itself warns against meddling and states that suffering comes from it. What is more damning, the Bible states that idle people are often the ones who meddle most… and that, meddling is a sin listed right alongside murder.

Once I learned these truths, I decided I would never make a career out of “ministry.” Even though I studied the Bible and ministry for 8+ years, it would be something I would do voluntarily—willingly but “not for filthy lucre.” And I vowed that I would hold a “real world” job. To this day, I do not receive any pay for pastoring; and I—as a result—have more compassion and empathy for others. [I do receive random gifts or “buy outs” for my time] 

I see no need to make others into a sectarian poster child or just like me or like anyone else for that matter. I trust God is able to direct and correct their lives. They are His disciples, not mine. If I do anything, it is to serve others in their struggles… to point them to a direct relationship with God Himself, teach them how to correctly interpret the Word for themselves, to supply what is needful for faith, hope and love; to ease their burdens, lift up the downhearted, to see the “stuck” and overwhelmed get freed up and try to be a healing ointment for their wounds.