Search This Blog

Monday, March 09, 2009

Church Organization

Many years ago, I saw my calling from God in the Bible. It was the story of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses' arms in battle. As long as Moses, God's chosen leader for the Israelites, had his arms up - he won the battle. Since it was impossible for Moses to physically sustain that posture - Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and held his arms in the air to ensure that he won the battle God had called him to. It crystallized for me and I realized I was created to hold up the arms of God's chosen leaders in battle.

Since my own personal epiphany, I've found myself naturally drawn to two different ministry endeavors. They are my ministry calling. The first is to support "broken pastors." Many pastors get wounded in the battles God calls them to. Some pastors are tempted beyond what they were prepared to endure and fall into sin. My calling is to help nurse them back to health and get them back into the game. The second is to train and coach pastors. Particularly in third world countries, men (and women) are called to lead Christian communities. Unfortunately most of them cannot afford any kind of training (such as seminary). So I work with accredited ministries to go and train them.

One of the things that often comes up in ministry is the hierarchy of the church. Who is in charge and why are they in charge? More than once I've found myself having to explain the difference between a Senior Pastor and a "Senior Preacher." They guy is a good preacher, a gifted teacher - but he finds himself failing miserably at leading his church. And he wonders why. The answer is that church leadership has an order ordained by God. If we don't follow that order, we're simply inviting trouble.

I Corinthians 12:28 explains it this way: "And in the church, God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues."

Did you catch that order for church hierarchy? Let's break it down like a modern cultural organization chart.

Jesus is of course the head of the church. Then the roles are as follows:

1 - Apostles (those who've seen Jesus personally and in the flesh)
2 - Prophets (those who speak for God)
3 - Teachers (those who instruct in God's ways and teach the lessons of life)
4 - Workers of Miracles & Gifts of Healing (those who can directly minister healing to others)
5 - Those Able To Help Others (servants to others thrive and achieve their potential)
6 - Those With Gifts of Administration (organizers, planners, coordinators, etc.)
7 - Those speaking in different kinds of tongues (including prayer languages)

There it is, God's order for church hierarchy. Now, where do you think most pastors fall? Let's be clear, most are not prophets. Few of us were chosen by Christ Himself to be His personal disciples. Few among us have had Damascus road experiences like Paul did. So for most of us, Apostle is off the table. So that takes us to Prophets and Teachers. I don't have statistics to support this, but my own personal experience and observation has been that most pastors are not prophets - but they are gifted teachers. Preaching and teaching is their love and passion.

So what's the difference between a Prophet and a Teacher? Why can't a good preacher be a solid Prophet? Here's the thing about that. Look at how God speaks in the Old Testament. Often God is angry; often He has to say some things that are difficult to say. Sometimes God's words are confrontational. They're more than exhortation. You see, the Prophet often has to say things that nobody wants to hear (even though they know it's true).

Few people delight in the works of a good Prophet (at least while he's alive). On the other hand, people are drawn to good teachers. In fact, they get great pleasure from sitting at the feet of a good teacher. Good teachers are celebrated. But what happens when a good teacher tries to execute the duties of a good prophet ... without having the giftedness to do so? Well, this is where we get pastor burn-out. This is where we get congregations that are fed up with their pastors. This is where pastors get immersed in such intense pain that they can hardly function.

If I were designing the "perfect church" structure, I would look closely at 1 Corinthians 12:28. Then I would make sure there is a prophet in charge. But I would rarely let him teach! Instead, I would get a good teacher - to work under the prophet. And under that teacher we would begin to organize and build our church.

The Apostle Paul had one more thing to say about this model for the gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, he said, "But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." In the original translations, the word "greater" means something like "span of impact or influence." In other words, Paul is telling us to desire the gifts that can influence or impact the most people.

Ironically, the further down the hierarchy you go - the greater those gifts become. Gifts of service, for example, can impact and influence more people than teaching gifts; so they are the greater gifts that we should all aspire to. And if we will do as Paul says, he promises to show us a "most excellent way!"

No comments:

Post a Comment