For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)
Heard in a meeting of denominational leaders: “Why is it so hard to find pastors these days? When we graduated back in the day young men were lining up to have their shot at being a pastor! And why are so many pastors burning out and quitting the ministry? Every day dozens if not hundreds of pastors call it quits and nearly as many churches are closing their doors. What is wrong? What has changed?”
The conversation that followed the comments above ranged from the obvious pressures of church leadership – the responsibilities of being a leader, the weight of the church, the midnight calls for pastoral care, the conflicts with people, the countless hours of meetings and sermon preparation, the backseat pastors and the front-row critics – the list of lamentations went on and on. But not one person brought out the unfortunate truth – God never intended the entire weight of the church to be on the shoulders of one man.
Nowhere in the New Testament does the Apostle Paul or anyone else describe the role of the senior pastor and how many hours he should put in and how much he and his professional staff should get paid to take care of the laypeople. Instead, Paul draws a picture of a church body where everyone plays a part and everyone grows in the Lord and everyone is a servant of God. The weight of the church and the responsibilities of leading meetings, teaching the Word, and shepherding people is not laid upon one person but upon a group of Spirit-led leaders who get their direction from the Head of the body and then carry out His instructions to the members of the body. Unity among the church leadership comes from staying connected to the Head so that they can then move together in unity to direct the affairs of the church, teach the Word, and care for the people.
And yes, those that teach the Word are worthy of double honor and those that put in many hours of service for the church and the Lord are worthy of compensation. However, college degrees and ministerial licenses are not required for a church leadership position and the lack of a degree or ministerial license does not disqualify a person from church leadership or being able to teach the Bible or lead a service or meeting. In fact, a healthy church body will grow its own church leaders on its own without the help of Bible colleges and seminaries. It will simply be what happens as the church represents Christ to the lost and invites newcomers to follow Jesus and grow in Him and become leaders in His body.
"a healthy church body will grow its own church leaders on its own without the help of Bible colleges and seminaries"
In a healthy expression of the Body of Christ, the distinction between the clergy and the laity – between those who are “ministers” and those who are not – is not emphasized. For if all the ministry is being done by one or two “ministers” while the rest of the members of the body become immobile, the body becomes dysfunctional and crippled. In fact, it is not much different than a man who is paralyzed and his effected members waste away due to lack of activity and exercise. Many members of the Body of Christ waste away and cease to work simply for the lack of exercising the gifts and callings that God placed within them.
In other words, the Body of Christ as expressed in many local churches today is quite literally crippled by a reliance on one or two professional ministers or a senior pastor and staff to do the work that ought to be done by a whole body of believers. Many sincere Christians today have become paralyzed by a belief that the work of the ministry is supposed to be done by only a handful of people who have a special calling on their lives.
We have totally ignored whole portions of Scripture like 1 Corinthians 12, where the church is described as a body, and Ephesians Chapter 4, where the church is described as being led by a group of leaders made up of prophets, apostles, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. There are many other Scriptures that speak of this, especially about the church being a body and every member having spiritual gifts and diverse abilities, but for now we will leave those topics for another time. Before we close for now, though, let's answer the question the denominational leaders were wrestling with: “Why is it hard to find pastors? Why are so many pastors leaving professional ministry?”
It's because God never intended the weight of the church to be on one person's shoulders. It was meant to be spread out over the whole body of Christ. He clearly shows us that in the Bible but we have chosen to ignore His instruction and we have done so at our own peril. We justify it by saying it's the way we have always done it but that does not make it right nor functional. The present-day hierarchical church structure is based upon traditions that syncretized into the church from pagan religions and they are not Biblical. It is time for a change. It is time to discover what Biblical church looks like and make the changes necessary to become the church described in the New Testament.
Let's Pray Together: Lord, give me a vision for the church as You want it to be. Show me what my place is in Your church – as a leader, as a servant, or as both, or whatever it is You want me to be. Help me to rise up and be the person of God You want me to be and help me to encourage others to do the same. Speak to those in my local church who see themselves as spectators and help them to see that they are valuable members of Your Body.... (continue praying along these lines as you feel led)
Related Resources: What Is Simple Church -- Excellent video that explains simple church and the importance of relational ministry and making room for every person's gift. What Others Are Saying: Frank Viola describes organic church: “An organic church is simply a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic churches are characterized by Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and nonhierarchical leadership. This is in sharp contrast to a clergy-led, institution-driven church.” (From the Preface of Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna)
Neil Cole calls the church to be the Body of Christ rather than a Sunday morning event: “I have found that so many years of running church shows on Sunday mornings has imprinted on our minds an understanding of church that is not necessarily Biblical. We find it nearly impossible to even think about church without a Sunday morning service event, but that is not the Biblical norm. When we read of church life, we read into the scriptural text this idea. Try reading your New Testament with new lenses. Try to imagine the New Testament church without a once-a-week service. In fact, there is much evidence that believers got together with their church families daily, not once a week -- and the gathering had more to do with a meal together than with sanctimonious liturgy. How did we ever get to the place where church was nothing more than a one-and-a-half-hour service on a single day of the week at a specific location? I assure you, in Jesus’ eyes, the Church is more than that!” (from Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens by Neil Cole)