Tag Archives: Early Christianity

Toward A Functional Ecclesiology (Part 2 of 2) […or Professional Ministry – FAIL!]

Anglican priest or deacon in choir dress

Today, Alan Hirsch posted a quick quote from Richard Hays on FB:

Our habit of thinking of ministry as a ‘profession’ is likely to produce serious distortions in our conception of the church and our role within it ~ Richard B. Hays, 1 Cor.3:18-23

While this is crystal clear to me, I know many Christians simply do not see the distortion (see Part 1).  This just goes to show how deeply ingrained we are in our contemporary Western culture and how utterly out of touch we are with the culture of the early church.

There is a popular phrase that states “form follows function” meaning:

If an object has to perform a certain function, its design must support that function to the fullest extent possible. – Digital Web Magazine

In fact, the context in which this was taught was in a class on church planting.  And this makes perfect sense, the form follows the function; the design supports how the church works.  So, if we have professional ministers, the church structure, from the organizational chart all the way to the actual performance of ministry, in all practicality must serve the professional minster.

Yet, the “fail” is seen in the fact that upon reading the New Testament there simply were no professional ministers or hierarchy, and the design, the form, was quite different from what we have today.

This, then begs the question: If we notice this difference, how do we go about changing it?  How do we get back to the original intent?  How do we essentially allow for purposeful change that will benefit the church and in turn benefit society?  How do we return to a functional ecclesiology?

The answer begins with embracing and encouraging a ministry supported by the New Testament in which all are ministers and all have received gifts and empowerment by the Holy Spirit to serve as Christ here and now every day of the week at any given place on the planet…and maybe beyond!

Take a look at these passages: Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4.

The church is the body, all having a part to play.  There are no professional ministers.

Now, there are indeed leaders, often called elders, but nowhere do we see these individuals taking over for the body.  Their function is to encourage service – not to take it and to protect the body – not to control it.

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for more on this.  Again, no professional here either.

So, in short, both the church and her leaders need to be willing to reevaluate the current system to see how functional or dysfunctional it really has become.

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How did the church in China grow from 2 million to 120 million in 60 years?

Great new video posted on the Verge Network featuring Alan Hirsch giving a workshop on Organic Systems.

He attributes the growth to the lack of a centralized and defined leadership.  The exponential growth is a direct result of an organic system:

Everyone gets to play…everyone.  And we’ve locked all that up because we’ve professionalized the ministry.

He goes on to discuss the negative effects of ordination and the clergy/laity distinction:

If I were the Devil and I wanted to strike a real blow at the people movement (the exponential growth) one of the best ways to do it would be to create a clergy class and a laity class.

I couldn’t agree more!

On the positive side, he presses into the early church model of everyone serving as they are gifted as found in Ephesians 4:

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I agree with Hirsch that one cannot find a developed/centralized leadership expressed in the New Testament and that is why there was such success in the beginning years of the church.

Conversely, the church, especially in the West has become almost universally stagnant in its most recognized and accepted form.

It is certainly refreshing to see so many people interested in moving up and out of the current and ill-fated systems of programmatic church for the real life seen not only in the New Testament, but clearly in China, India and many other parts of the world.

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