Before the Lord returns the church will undergo a reformation; it must. In many corners of the world congregational life is failing. The sinful pressures of a post-Christian era are busting up the planet and we are in desperate need of a spiritual awakening. We look to the Lord for revival to wake up the church and reengage the saints in the work of the ministry. The church in America is stronger than in most countries, yet it is in serious need of a massive overhaul. We are far removed from being the fullness of Him (Jesus) who fills all in all. We have relegated church ministry to professional pastors or to a pastoral team and this design cannot win over a progressive wayward society. It takes the whole body of Christ to do the whole will of God and that is untenable with our present pastor/congregation model. It is time to unlock and unleash the church.
Pastors or Apostles
Pastors are God given; they feed, protect, lead, counsel, teach, gather and comfort the sheep. That is their Biblical mandate. It may come as a surprise to some, but given this magnificent Biblical definition, their task is actually one of maintenance. Maintenance is necessary but pastors cannot fulfill the entire ministry calling of the church. What about the ministries of the apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher? If the pastor is a true pastor, he or she is not equipped to do those other ministries, and without the apostle, prophet and evangelist, a congregation will die. Maintenance does not bring growth. Some pastors are also evangelists, prophets and apostles, but they are few and far between. Even when that is true, one person is physically unable to lead the charge in every area, even with help. Even great churches resemble Santa and his workshop of elves, more than the body of Christ, unleashed to change the world. Pastors, like the other leading ministers of the church should be working together with, and under the oversight of apostles and prophets. If not, then a pastor will always focus on maintenance, for that is his gifting and calling.
Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists
Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all His commands. (See Mt. 28:19). The five fold ministry leaders are to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Everyone is called to be a spiritual worker; some will work on maintaining and strengthening the flock while others will focus on reaching the lost and extending the kingdom of God to places and people beyond the local church. Some will definitely do both, for even those whose who work outside of the local church should still be grounded in a local church congregation or they will not be able to practice the very things they are asking others to do.
Elders and Deacons
Within the local church, elders and deacons should work with senior pastors to care for the flock. Their task is enormous. They teach, feed, counsel, gather, organize, train, equip, envision, protect, lead, guide, deliver, heal, pray, mentor, put out fires and personally discover and encourage individuals in their calling and destiny. No pastor can do this with every member of the congregation even in a small church. To worship, preach and live godly lives is great but that is not everything. What about everyone becoming a minister? What about turning the world upside down for Christ?
We are looking for real elders and deacons. Unfortunately, the usual role of elders and deacons resembles boardroom bureaucrats. We need to have planning meetings but that is not the main task of elders and deacons.
Elders and deacons are called to minister and serve people. Their main task is not to brainstorm for new ideas or to come up with vision and direction for the church. Nor is their main task to administrate budgets or delegate administrative duties. When elders and deacons spend all their time administrating, the question begs to be asked; who is doing the work of the ministry? The main task of elders and deacons is to work alongside of the senior pastor to feed, counsel, lead, teach, train, guide, pray, deliver, heal, mentor, and help discover and encourage the calling and destiny of the sheep so the sheep can do the work of the ministry.
Let the five fold ministry leaders deal with vision, and the strategy of the church. That is their calling and gifting. Let us think of a new directive for elders and deacons. Actually, let us return to the ways of the Bible. How did elders and deacons function in the early church? Deacons served the practical needs of the people and elders focused of ministering and serving the spiritual needs of people. That means there should be many more deacons and elders in a local church. They are not government decision makers but leaders who have devoted themselves to serving, loving and ministering to people. Those who oversee those ministries under the direction of the five-fold ministry leaders should be recognized as deacons or elders.
Elders could include the main leaders who minister to children, youth, men’s or women’s groups, small group leaders, worship leaders, prayer group leaders, visitation ministers, compassion ministry leaders, prison workers, and a huge variety of others who care for the spiritual needs of people in and around the local church.
Deacons could include the main leaders who work in and around the local church as secretaries, accountants, cleaners, building and maintenance workers, hospitality providers, ushers, greeters, and other such dedicated workers. Although their tasks would be administrative in nature, they should always focus on helping people whenever the opportunity arises.
Much More Ministry
Even in a large church, up to one third of the congregation should be elders and deacons who care for people under the leadership of five-fold ministers. The other two thirds of the congregation are people being healed and those who are young children or seniors needing extra care. Also included in this two-thirds of the church who are not elders or deacons are children and adult workers in training. They are being mentored to do the work of the ministry. When everyone is doing or leaning to do the work of ministry we have a New Testament church that can turn the world upside down for Christ.
Church Government Reformation
The present pastor/congregation church model is inferior. It is not Biblical nor practical. Pastors are burned out and there is little recognition of apostles, prophets and evangelists. By and large, the people will not be equipped for ministry unless we become apostolic churches. Elders and deacons must become spiritual caregivers who serve people. We need many more of them.
1. First pray to the Lord of the Harvest to raise up five-fold ministry leaders.
2. Begin to teach and train the church toward a New Testament – everyone in ministry model.
3. As faithful and gifted workers come into view, recognize the leaders as deacons and elders but do not allow them to become bureaucrats. Reformation always upsets someone, but trust the Lord, and be loving, patient and courageous. Godly courage is another word for faith. Much more ministry – is God’s plan; He will bring it to pass.