Every Member a Minister
I recently read something by Rex D. Edwards, an associate director of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference, that made me think. He wrote, “The shepherd doesn’t give birth to the sheep. The sheep have the sheep. The shepherd keeps them in shape so they can produce other sheep.” This phrase, “the sheep have the sheep,” kept turning in my mind, over and over again. What does it mean? It stands to reason. It is so self-evident that it speaks for itself and yet, how could I have missed it?
So, if the sheep produce more sheep, what is the task of the shepherd (pastor)? Well, he needs to tend the sheep, facilitating an environment which would be conducive to producing more sheep. How does he do that? Should he attempt to produce sheep? The analogy seems to indicate that his role is rather to assist, train, educate, and support the sheep (laity) to produce more sheep. Richard Burrill, director of the NAD Evangelism Institute, says “If the shepherd is really caring for the flock, he will be training his members for their ministry.”
Is this supported by Scripture? Paul in Ephesians 4:11-12 gives the following perspective:
“It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
The important phrase here is “to prepare God’s people for works of service.” Burrill says, “Limiting ministry to clergy is totally foreign to the New Testament church.” He continues by saying that “somehow in this modern age, we have largely divorced ministry from basic Christianity. The idea has gained acceptance that it is possible to be a Christian and not be involved in ministry.” How has this come about? Edwards refers to the sport analogy by indicating that “This is the age of the spectator.... We ourselves don’t play. We only observe others.” We watch the Super Bowl, we don’t participate. Experts who are trained play, not novices like us.
Burrill continues to say, “The Christian is involved. He cannot avoid it. He is participant in the redemptive mission of God through the church, not a critical onlooker. He is involved in the world, its business, its culture, its hunger, its travail, its tears, because he loves its people.” The reformed theologian Hendrik Kraemer said, “All Christians are diakonia, ministers, called to a ministry.... All the stress is on the diakonia, the ministry of the whole membership, because the church as a whole stood under the same token of its Lord, i.e. servantship.”
Ellen White also had something to say on this topic. She says, “Christian ministers . . . have a broader work than many have recognized. They are not only to minister to the people, but to teach them to minister.... Every church member should be engaged in some line of service for the Master.” She continues, “Every church should be a training school for Christian workers. Its members should be taught . . . how to work for the unconverted.” And again, “Christ intends that His ministers shall be educators of the church in gospel work.” White says, “many pastors fail in not knowing how or in not trying, to get the full membership of the church actively engaged in the various departments of church work. If pastors would give more attention to getting and keeping their flock actively engaged at work, they would accomplish more good, have more time for study and religious visiting, and also avoid many causes of friction.”
How can this be done in a practical way? Burrill attempts to answer this question by saying, “The first step in restructuring the church for lay ministry is to have the nominating committee fill current positions based on the needs of the members rather than on the needs of the church. Any positions not filled are eliminated. If God wants the position filled, He will gift someone for the position.” He continues to say that the church should be “organized around ministries,” and not around positions, motivated by status, power or control. I found these to be profound thoughts and I hope that they find a nestling place in your heart and mind like they did in mine.
How are we doing in McMinnville? Within the next few weeks you will be invited to fill in forms and share with the Nominating Committee where and how you see yourself responding to God’s call to serve Him in this church family. Make this a matter of earnest prayer. God is calling you to share an exciting adventure with Him, and I am looking forward to working with you on His team.