Today I was thinking back to University Days. I was particularly thinking of one lecturer who when he was approached due to the incomprehensibility of his lectures said, “I am an academic not a communicator.” I think it would be valuable for any lecturer who may indeed be primarily an academic not to excuse themselves from developing their communication skils though that may never become their strong point!
As I was reading Paul’s letters to Timothy a few weeks ago, I was struck by the fact that he is told to do the work of an evangelist. He was clearly primarily a teacher, pastor, leader type by gifting and calling and by the empowering of the Spirit, if not by personality, but nonetheless that did not absolve him from doing the work of an evangelist even if he was not an evangelist primarily.
I suppose, relating this to myself I have been primarily pastor/teacher, but that does not mean I can turn a blind eye to other aspects of ministry that might never be my number one thing. So for example I occasionally prophesy, I am evangelistically aware and try and bring folk to Jesus Christ, I occasionally see new ground that needs to be taken, and can think about strategy which takes me vaguely into the area of the Apostolic – though everyone seems a bit vague as to what that means and usually give their own definition which sometimes bears little resemblance to what the bible says are the marks of an Apostle. That last one, the Apostolic, in the aspects of being the strategist, the seeing new ways to new ground, is something that bores me. It is not my prime calling and not “me.”. On a scale of interest for me it is somewhere usually about -9 to -6. It is as well that Ian and Ollie and others on the ministry team of Holy Trinity in Wester Hailes, have a stronger interest, more obvious gifting and even genuine enthusiasm for thinking in such ways as do many other people I know, love and respect. However, I cannot absolve myself completely of thinking in an Apostolic way from time to time even though “taking new ground” and “strategy” and “raising up” talk makes me yawn and become a bit tetchy and puts me on the verge of being sinfully cynical if I don’t nip things in the bud.
Friends, I am not quite sure that we can use Ephesians Chapter 4 in terms of ministry gifts described there to say that gives us the strategy for a healthy church today. Personally I think Paul was speaking historically and factually about how the church was birthed in its earliest years. However, I do believe God still gives the gifts mentioned there for the strengthening of the church. It is best though to think of these gifts on a sliding scale rather than a fixed point. So God gives to the church those who are Apostolic -y, Prophetic-y, Evangelistic – y, Pastoral-y, Teacher -y. I think that is a truer rendering of what is said. So as I illustrated from Timothy and from my own experience, whatever “y” I may most strongly be,it does not mean I can pass on the responsibility for other aspects of ministry to others. A Prophetic -y person can do immense harm if they do not develop a pastoral sense and say instead, “Well, it is up to the pastors to cope with the results of my ministry.” An Apostolic – y person cannot ignore the need to hear the prophetic word of the Lord, or not care about the pastoring of the flock. Paul makes that clear. He carried every day the needs and concerns of the Church of God with a pastoral heart. If anyone, even an individual believer fell in some way then the Paul the Apostle said he felt that keenly.
There has been talk about the five fold ministry now for at least 3 decades but not a lot of fruit from all of that in the UK church at least. Being perfectly honest such talk is probably not received well or favourably in much of the church. It is coming in for renewed emphasis at this moment which could be a promising sign. However, if people who long to see these ministries flourishing don’t accept the sliding scale, the “y” nature of ministry, then it will kill the work of God and the people of God rather than bring life.
So a couple of questions: Are you progressing in what is your most obvious ministry? Are you ministering in other ways as well, even though they may never be your main thing?
If we don’t get hold of that we will talk about the ministries of the Apostle, the Prophet, The Evangelist, the Pastor and the Teacher for another 3 decades with increasing frustration, suspicion and accusation, muttering under our breath about one another. It would be great to see people arise into their proper ministries, with experiential knowledge of other aspects of ministry and a realisation that thankfully for the sake of the safety of the church and its healthy growth there are people who are not like me at all, people I can learn to love and appreciate fully! By the way none of these five ministries means that a person is therefore automatically a good leader. We have assumed in the past that pastors and teachers are the leaders of a church. Not all pastors and teachers possess the separate gift of leadership. However we must not repeat the same sort of mistake mistake by thinking that all Apostles ( if we can agree what that means for today!) or Prophets or all Evangelists should be regarded automatically as gifted leaders just because of their Apostolic or Prophetic or Evangelistic gifting. They may or may not be particularly gifted in that way. Leaders should gratefully make space for all the ministries in their thinking and practice and decision making however these different ministries are represented or make that contribution, which will vary from setting to setting because of different church histories or different understandings of church government in the bible. Leadership is a separate gifting of the Holy Spirit according to Paul…more of that another time.
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