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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Multiplication Ministry and Maturity

There has been some great discussion in the comments section of my recent post about preaching/teaching and the resultant maturity of believers. While commenting over there, I had some thoughts that got way too lengthy for a comment, and so I am going to turn it into a post here.

The idea of multiplication is not a new one to ministry. It was one of the buzz words of the whole "church growth" movement. But I never saw it actually play out in the megachurch concept. It seemed to be something that was merely a cool word to sound superior. However, I have done some thinking about it in the past, and came back to it today in talking about the difference between a model with one preacher and lots of long-term listeners and a model of teaching with the purpose of the learner becoming a teacher themselves.

Imagine this possible scenario: New believers are taught (maybe with some preaching, maybe interactive teaching, probably a combination of both) and discipled with the goal that they would soon be able to teach others. As they reach this point of maturity, they then move into a sense of partnership with their teacher in teaching others.

The reasons I think this model fits the biblical text in so many ways are many. I don't want to spell them all out here, but maybe as the conversation continues, I'll share some of those.

There are pragmatic reasons that I think this model is better, though. Let me share some of these:

  • The pressures that are put on a pastor today (as Gordon has identified very well in the comments of the previous post) are outrageous. When one cracks under the pressure, the fallout sometimes is horrible. The bigger the church (i.e., the more people following "the man"), the bigger the fall. "De-centralizing" the teaching reduces the pressure on any one person, and also reduces the number of people directly under his teaching.
  • In contrast to the seemingly foolish reduction of people under anyone's teaching that I mention in the above point is a rapid, multiplication model of ministry as the teacher replicates himself. Some fun math:
Model 1: One pastor starting with 50 people.

Let's say this guy is phenomenal in his ability to draw new people to the church, and the church doubles each year (very unreasonable, wouldn't you think?). In just 10 years full of exciting building programs, rocking good music, books being published, and maybe a TV broadcast, the church would have 25,600 people (50, 100, 200, 400,...,12,800, 25,600). Assuming in a perfect situation that no one ever left, etc., that's 25,601 (counting the celebrity pastor!) people in the Kingdom. But that's assuming that the rate of growth stays at the unbelievable rate that we proposed, etc.

Model 2: One teacher starting with 2 disciples

Now, let's say that, instead, that one single person teaches just two other people for one year. The following year, they have both grown enough to be teachers themselves. Now, let's be continue to be conservative and say that each one only teaches two other people. After a year, those people are mature enough to teach others, and they, in turn, take on two themselves. It would be a fairly unglamorous situation. In fact, it would take four full years to even match the original 50 of the other model. There's no fancy building, no flashy worship band, no TV deal. But, after the same 10 years as we looked at the other model, how many would disciples/teachers would there be?

39,366
OK, doesn't seem like much more of a success, does it? It's not shabby, but it doesn't seem huge in comparison to the megachurch. But now, here's where it starts to really take off. In just one more year, our original megachurch with the celebrity pastor has 51,200 people coming to hear him speak, while the "just teach two a year" model yields 118,098!!

Two years later, the simple model has over one million disciples maturing in their faith and teaching others, while the megachurch hasn't even reached a quarter million.

Now, it's not all about numbers in one sense, and yet no one today would think a megachurch of a quarter million was anything but a booming success. I'm just trying to put it in perspective of how we tend to think today. But the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Imagine for a moment that the celebrity pastor of our quarter-million-member megachurch burns out and falls into some awful sin. What happens? Devastation. Disillusionment. Public scandal. The name of Christ is slandered in the news and around the water cooler. Many are feeling lost and confused.

But if our original teacher in the simple model...well, first of all, he's not going to get burned out discipling two people a year! But even if he does fall into some grievous sin, what happens? There would probably be a few of his close friends gathering around him and supporting him through repentance and recovery. Because he's got solid relationships like that. And, at the most, the two people he's currently discipling, and maybe a handful of the ones from previous years, feel hurt and upset. But the effect is minimal.

And even more importantly, the maturity of those million-plus believers would be potentially far superior to the quarter million attending the celebrity megachurch. We would have over a million teachers vs. a quarter-million pew-sitters.

There's much more I would love to write about this, but I'll just put it out there for feedback.

Until next time,

steve :)

35 comment(s):

Steve, this is great. I have seen this model discussed before and I wholeheartedly endorse it. (For whatever my endorsement is worth.)
In fact, to some degree, this is how I am trying to conduct my ministry now.

My greatest challenge has been in leading a church that is over 100 years old in adapting to a philosophy of ministry that is different than that with which they have grown up.

My dad and I were discussing this recently, and I am convinced that in our day, the majority of genuine discipleship occurs outside the walls of the church.

I think you would agree with me when I say that you keep a crowd the same way you get them. If a church is built on a pastor's charisma, dynamite youth ministry, exciting music, etc., then the church must continually maintain or surpass what they have already done to keep the crowd. Genuine discipleship builds the crowd in the way you described.

Good post.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:46:00 AM  

Steve, this is a great post! It is amazing what can happen when everyone gets involved...many people doing a little, instead of a few people doing alot! Gordon, thanks for bearing with me through all of my questions. I really am open to see things a different way. It wasn't that long ago I was standing behind a pulpit doing the same things:) I would like to ask/comment on something you said in the comments section of the last post (Steve, I hope that is not appropriate given that this is a new post?:). You said:
A big difference between the days of the early church and our day is that we have the complete canon of Scripture...In that day, God often spoke directly to believers. I believe in our day God speaks through His word. This makes the interpretation of the word subjective...Now this is not to elevate the role of the pastor back to the "elitist" level we discussed earlier, but you need someone who knows their Bible who can assume the role of leadership.
Gordon, it seems to me that if anything, the completed canon leads to believers having less of a need for "ministry" rather than more. Whereas in the days of the early Church the voice of God was a more subjective experience (thus needing more "checks and balances", ie. pastors, apostles, etc.), now that we have a completed canon, it would seem that, since the canon is a more objective form of God speaking, less "checks and balances" are needed. What do you think? Also, would you say that God does not speak directly to believers as often in our time as in the early Church? What about John 10, "My sheep hear My voice"...doesn't that imply all of the sheep? You said: "This makes the interpretation of the word subjective...Now this is not to elevate the role of the pastor back to the "elitist" level we discussed earlier, but you need someone who knows their Bible who can assume the role of leadership."Why is it that people think that pastors have a "corner on the market" when it comes to things like interpreting the Scriptures? After all, many pastors I have seen are simply parrotting what they have heard someone else say, who is in turn repeating something someone else said, etc. The idea that the pastor should be responsible for interpreting the Scriptures sounds very much like the same idea that caused the Reformers to rebel from the Catholic church. Someone once said, "Instead of having one Pope like the Catholics, Protestantism has many popes"...at least one in every church! In many believer's eyes, the pastor speaks ex cathedra from the pulpit every Sunday. While I do not believe that this is the intention of most pastors, I wonder what message is being sent when someone preaches with such "authority" from an elevated platform, for long periods of time, several times a week.

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:39:00 AM  

Oops! I meant "Steve, I hope that this is not inappropriate..."hahaha

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:41:00 AM  

Amazingly, Raborn, I read what you intended! :) (By the way, Raborn, I emailed you about lunch. If you didn't get it, call me. Thanks!)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:44:00 AM  

Gordon, it seems to me that if anything, the completed canon leads to believers having less of a need for "ministry" rather than more.

I would basically agree with this statement.

As for God speaking to Christians, I do think that He does as far as guiding them, impressing them to do or say something at a particular time, etc. I do not believe that He still speaks via a "word of knowledge" as He did in the early church. (Yes, I am a cessationist, don't throw anything at me, Steve).

I think my greatest concern in this matter is the potential for diversity of doctrine to divide the church. I do believe that every believer has the right to interpret the Word for themselves, and has the right to share that interpretation. But to let them teach other believers within the body, there must be some form of accountability to a central truth.
I believe 1 Tim. 3:6, while speaking of the qualifications of a pastor, would give us a principle of which we should not allow a novice to teach. Whether what are currently doing is the best way to implement that or not, I don't know.

I could summarize that another way. I have no question of the Holy Spirit's ability to speak to every believer. I do believe the church has a responsibility to instruct and equip believers (especially young, immature believers) to interpret that in a way that is consistent with the Bible.

You mentioned people thinking that pastors have a "corner on the market" in interpretation of Scripture. This is undoubtedly a conditioned response. There have undeniably been some pastors who have projected this image. By the same token, there have been many church members who have abdicated their personal responsibility of growth and thrust that upon the pastor. Successive generations have drifted toward this more and more.

I would also tend to agree with your assessment of the Reformation. It is odd that you would mention that, as it is very similar to what I have been thinking about as I mentioned to Steve in the previous post's comments.

Steve, lunch sounds good! You guys come on down and I will take you the best Southern cooking buffet you have ever seen.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 12:50:00 PM  

Gordon, I'm not gonna jump on you about the cessationist stuff. That's definitely an "agree to disagree" from my perspective. (I know you were kidding about that, but did want to make sure to emphasize the freedom you have to hold that belief here!)

I do believe that every believer has the right to interpret the Word for themselves, and has the right to share that interpretation. But to let them teach other believers within the body, there must be some form of accountability to a central truth.

With regard to accountability, no argument whatsoever. I didn't spell this out in the model I described in this post, but a natural outflow of this kind of one-on-one or one-on-two discipleship would be good strong relationships. These relationships would provide the necessary accountability. And, of course, there would be gatherings of believers of larger groups, too, and in those groups, there would naturally be recognized elders per biblical standards.

I believe 1 Tim. 3:6, while speaking of the qualifications of a pastor, would give us a principle of which we should not allow a novice to teach.

Again, agreed. But, what is the definition of a novice? I'll admit that, while my proposed model used one year as the "turnaround", that was completely arbitrary. The reality is that it would be a fluid relational thing wherein each "teacher" would be able to see the ongoing maturity of the "learner" and be able to encourage them in the direction of teaching others only when they saw the necessary maturity. But if we say that novices can't teach, that is something that needs to be quantified a bit more. What did Paul mean by "novice"?

Some churches only look for pastors who have advanced degrees from particular seminaries. For instance, had I completed my ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary, I would probably have had no problem finding a church to hire me. If I had completed the masters and gone on to get the doctorate, even more so. But was all that necessary in order to be "qualified"?

I have no question of the Holy Spirit's ability to speak to every believer.

And that is really what this all boils down to for me. We must, if we are to be what the Body is meant to be in all of its organic growth and maturity, allow this to happen. Yes, accountability is part of it. Yes, checks and balances are necessary (and Scripture explains all of that). But it must come down to a Body living out its function, and not a secondary "head" being the "leader". We must trust the Holy Spirit to speak, instruct new believers on how to hear His voice, and let Christ be the Head of His Body.

I mentioned earlier in some comment or post (I can't even keep my own writing straight today!) that I envision a maturing believer as gradually becoming a "partner" with his teachers. Let me state this same idea from a different perspective: If a pastor or teacher is teaching the same people for years on end, something is wrong. Maturity is not taking place, and Eph. 4 is not being lived out.

This goes back to my analogy in the previous post about someone repeating their high school years over and over and over. There is no way we would consider said student to be mature. They might have lots of knowledge, but they would not be mature in the living out of that knowledge.

Scripture doesn't give a period of time, but we do see examples of people being taught (Timothy, Apollos, etc.) and then going on to be teachers themselves. They didn't remain under the constant tutelage of the original teacher. Even with the original Twelve, Jesus set them loose to do what He had been doing, and He (physically) left!

So, Gordon, what do you think of the two passages that talk about the idea that the readers of those two letters should not need a teacher? (I'm not sure if I've asked you that question yet, or not...hehe!) :)

By the way, I love your lunch idea, Gordon. 9 hours is a long way to drive for lunch, but who knows? ;) Maybe Raborn and I will come do music for you some Sunday, and ded can come along and teach (dialogue-style, of course)!!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 2:16:00 PM  

Gordon wrote in a comment way up there somewhere: My greatest challenge has been in leading a church that is over 100 years old in adapting to a philosophy of ministry that is different than that with which they have grown up.

I definitely feel you on that one. That is honestly why so many of us have left the institution and are doing things differently outside it. It was just impossible to get anywhere within the institution because...well, for all the reasons we have been talking about!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 2:18:00 PM  

Regarding the model, Steve, the math lines up with at least one idea about numbers mentioned by Jesus. "Some will produce thirty-fold, some sixty, and some one hundred fold."

Over the course of a human life, it is very reasonable to figure that a mature Christian might disciple thirty other people, possibly sixty, perhaps even one hundred. This one on one discipleship is bound to produce many solid realtionships that are the basis for life-long accountability.

Gordon, I completely agree with your statement about if we are true to our first love, Jesus, then all else falls into place.

By Anonymous ded, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 3:12:00 PM  

I'm up for some good country cookin'! UmmUmm:) Gordon, you said:
"I think my greatest concern in this matter is the potential for diversity of doctrine to divide the church."
That seems to already be a problem within the current model, ie. many, many denominations. I think that one sign of immaturity in the Church is that we tend to split ways when we don't see eye to eye. That is one thing I am coming to appreciate about our interactions. In the current church model, all of us would never be under the same roof. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 3. He says that to align ourselves with a particular "teacher" or "minister" is to manifest just how carnal we really are. That is part of my problem. Through the current local church model, people will drive several miles, and pass by several other churches, just so they can align themselves with a particular minister or ministry style. I can understand why this is so, but is this really what God had in mind? You also said:
"I do believe that every believer has the right to interpret the Word for themselves, and has the right to share that interpretation. But to let them teach other believers within the body, there must be some form of accountability to a central truth."
Let me clarify. I think that a better word than "teach" would be "share". I am not advocating the idea of a novice believer "teaching" other believers, rather, I believe that even a novice has the right to "share". Here, in my opinion, is part of the problem. The way that the current model of church is set up, believers invest alot in the opinions and interpretations of one man. If this one man is wrong, many people are led astray. However, in an environment where everyone is allowed to participate, it seems to me that the chances of incorrect doctrines being spread are far less. In this kind of environment, people are free to speak, but others are free to question the validity of what they say. When this is practiced with a view to Scripture being the final authority, there is a much greater chance that the truth will emerge. Not only this, but people are more likely to understand new truth and therefore, to implement it into their lives. I said in my last post on my blog that even science says that a person will retain 20% of what they hear, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they do themselves. Case in point...what we are doing right now! We are all giving and taking, with a view to Scripture as the final authority. We are all being exposed to ideas and interpretations that maybe we never would have gotten whilst sitting under the ministry of one person. I feel challenged, but in a good way!:) What do you think, guys?

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 3:42:00 PM  

ded, great comment! I hadn't even thought of the 30/60/100 correlation. That's a great connection for a passage that I have never really known what to do with. Thanks!

Guys, I am really enjoying and appreciating this dialogue (trialogue, quadralogue, whatever! hehe). Today has been very encouraging to me, and caused me to once again rethink some of my own ideas.

I don't know how many are reading these posts and dialogues -- my server logs tell me that more people visit this blog on a daily basis than just ded, Gordon, and Raborn, so I figure there are lots of people reading and just not commenting. I pray that this discussion is encouraging to every reader, and not just those of us interacting.

For some other past commenters: Barbara, Rose, flutemom, Ray...what do you all think about all this? Chime in. Join the fun! :)

Raborn, you drew a distinction between "teach" and "share", and I'm intrigued. I may have unintentionally muddied the water on that, so feel free to run with that a bit more, if you like.

However, in an environment where everyone is allowed to participate, it seems to me that the chances of incorrect doctrines being spread are far less.

I think I may put together a post soon about "myths about simple church". Raborn has pointed out one of the most common objections I hear to a re-centralized approach to the Body of Christ.

No, that was not a typo. I said re-centralized very intentionally. Here's why: It occurred to me while I was starting to type "de-centralized" again (as I have other times today) that what Gordon has mentioned is so very true, and runs very much in agreement with the models I'm proposing. We need to return to our first love -- Jesus Christ.

I have been using "de-centralized" to describe the move away from "Pastor as CEO" model institutionalism. However, it's not that we need to be "de-centralized". It's that we need to be "re-centralized" around the right Head, namely Jesus Christ.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 4:37:00 PM  

We are all being exposed to ideas and interpretations that maybe we never would have gotten whilst sitting under the ministry of one person.

Bonus points today to Raborn for using the word "whilst" in a comment! ;) hehe

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 4:39:00 PM  

I haven't forgotten you guys, just had a busy afternoon and evening. I want to think about Raborn's last comment and then get back with you. It may be tomorrow. Y'all have a good night.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:15:00 PM  

You'll have to answer my question about the Hebrews and 1 John passages for readmission in the morning, Gordon ;) hehe (just teasing, brother)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:24:00 PM  

Raborn, you drew a distinction between "teach" and "share", and I'm intrigued. I may have unintentionally muddied the water on that, so feel free to run with that a bit more, if you like.

I just think that the word "teach" has taken on a new meaning in our evangelical culture. While the Bible does use this word, I think that we have imposed our "Christianese" definition upon it. The evangelical idea of teaching seems to be that of a more "qualified" or "skilled" person speaking authoritatively on a subject to a group of listeners; otherwise, why should they be the "teacher"? To me, the word "share", on the other hand, implys having the oppurtunity to open up to others about our thoughts, opinions and interpretations for their benefit as well as their scrutiny and examination. "Sharing", in my mind anyway, does not carry with it the idea of "infallibility", whereas "teaching" sometimes is mistaken as such (not that that is the intention of the "teacher"). In Acts 20 we have an account of Paul "preaching" (KJV) to the believers at Troas until midnight. The Greek word translated here as "preach" in the KJV is dialegomai. This word can be translated as a discourse or speech, but it can also simply mean to discuss, reason or argue. As a matter of fact, according to my research, in other Greek works (ie. Josephus, the Septuagint and Hellenistic Greek) the predominant meaning of this word is "conversation" or "discussion". So, it seems that Paul was having a lengthy discussion with the believers in Troas rather than giving them a long and drawn out sermon. This would lead me to think that maybe, this included many people in that upper room "sharing" during their time together. This probably included Paul's oversight, but maybe it also contributed to his own spiritual growth. Maybe it's just semantics, but I think sometimes it's better to change our terminologies so that we do not confuse cultural meanings with intended meanings. Make sense? I don't think that we have taken the idea of "koinonia", or fellowship, far enough. Fellowship is not just getting together for an ice-cream social, rather, it is the sharing of our very lives. Would this not include the views, opinions, interpretations and conclusions that we have about the Word? Wouldn't this also include our objections and interactions with such? Was Paul simply "preaching" in Troas, or was he participating in the "koinonia" of the saints? What do you all think? I am a little to annal about this?

Whilst I have went about my day, I have enjoyed interacting with you guys! (Steve, what do I get for using "whilst" 2 times?...a European vacation sure would be nice. Deal or No Deal?)

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:39:00 PM  

Yep, Steve, there are more of us out there "listening" to the conversation :) I'm enjoying everyone's comments. All of you are making some good points!

I know from following the dialogue here that so far all of the commentors have experience being in the preaching/teaching role within the "institutional" system, so each of you can speak from experience as to what that role means/meant for you.

As someone who has never been in that role, but was always the spectator, I'll jot down a little about what it feels like from my side of the pulpit.

I grew up in church, and throughout my life have been in different settings, from small country churches to the large megachurch with a "celebrity" pastor. I can say that in each of those settings I always felt that the pastor was somewhat untouchable. I've definitely seen this in varying degrees, but it was even present in the small country church I grew up in.

Through the eyes of someone on the "other side," it was always intimidating to think of discussing Scripture or giving my opinion with the pastor because they were always seen as:

1. Too busy.
2. Too lofty to discuss such trivialities.
3. Too busy.
4. Condescending.
5. Too busy
6. Man can't speak to woman.
7. Did I mention too busy?

Therefore, as a parishoner, I never had any type of true relationship with any of the pastors that I have ever sat under. To me, that is a very sad thing, and I definitely don't think I'm alone in this.

I know that it is probably not the intention of all pastors to give the vibe of superiority (though I think there are some who purposely do), but it is almost an unspoken code of conduct that I have sensed. I must say it can be a very discouraging thing to those who fill the pews.

That's my 2 cents worth.

Erica :->

By Anonymous Erica, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:14:00 PM  

Raborn, I think what you have described (believers cooperating without division as we are here) is great in an ideal sense.

Overlooking doctrinal differences for the sake of fellowship is something that is relatively easy. I know the Bible states that there are certain doctrinal boundaries that are not be crossed, but as I see it, none of us here are anywhere close to those boundaries. This fellowship is sweet.

When it comes to working together in the same context of ministry, at some point, the differences are going to be highlighted and magnified. If you have several teachers in one church who are of a different opinion on a point of doctrine, the door is certainly wide open for divisions to come. This was evident at Corinth. Even if all consider the Bible to be the final authority, "truth" becomes subjective to man's interpretation.

I think one thing that is going to make heaven so heavenly is the unified worship and doctrine we will enjoy.

Steve, here is my admission fee ;). I actually responded to those verses in the comments of the previous post, but I disguised my response in the form of agreeing with you. That's probably why you missed it. hehehe

Erica, I appreciate you sharing your point of view on this. As a pastor, I try hard to make myself available to the congregation. I try not to discourage or intimidate them from talking with me about questions from the Bible, yet I have still found some that experience the same feelings you described.

In your opinion, what could a pastor do to "bridge this gap"? I would really appreciate your insight on this.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 9:32:00 AM  

My apologies, Gordon! You did say that you agreed with me on my take on those. I apologize!! :) Somehow, I missed that opening line of your comment on the other post!

I guess I'm not quite understanding what you see the desired outcome of your teaching to be, then. Is it that men under your teaching would become pastors themselves?

Something's not quite clicking for me in understanding where you're coming from. You agree with a lot of what I write, but you still seem to think that the pastoral position with weekly (or more often) preaching is still necessary. Or am I misunderstanding?

I want to see your perspective on this. I really do. I just have trouble seeing how they fit together. Help me out.

Erica, great input! Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think you probably speak for many. Even as a man, when I wasn't on the higher side of the pulpit, I often felt the same disconnect between me and the one doing the preaching, like I couldn't talk to him.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 9:41:00 AM  

Steve, my desire is that those under the influence of my preaching and teaching would grow to the point where they would be able to teach others as well. Whether they become pastors or not is between them and God.

I have no problem with multiple pastors and/or teachers in a church. I do not think that is necessary for every member to become a teacher in a group setting. Perhaps their teaching might be of their children (that is commanded in the Bible) or their neighbors, co-workers, etc. Perhaps leading a home Bible study or mentoring new believers (I believe there is a great need for that). Although I do not believe that it is necessary for every member to teach in a group setting, I think the more teachers a church has, the stronger it will be.

I believe in the necessity of the pastoral position because it is scriptural. I believe the pastor is to be the spiritual shepherd of the flock of God. He is to lead (not drive) the congregation to a closer walk with God. He is to minister to their spiritual needs.

I think the reason we seem to be in agreement on so many points is that we both desire the same results. We differ, somewhat, on how those results are to be achieved.

If I may ask you a question, how do you see the biblical roles of pastors and deacons fitting into the model you propose?

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:08:00 AM  

Gordon, as to what a pastor could do to "bridge" this gap I discussed...here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Did you catch the "too busy" theme? I think that is a huge problem. Could it be that one man (or team of 2 or 3) was not intended to carry the weight of responsibility for so many?
2. People are looking for genuine relationships, not the obligatory "How are you today." I think this is a huge problem for the "institutional" church in the postmodern society we now live in...people are seeking authenticity and real relationships, not programs and busy work.
3. The squeaky wheel gets the oil syndrome. If the pastor is too busy, he may prioritize projects and let relationship with others fall in order to help the "problem children."

I'm enjoying everyone's comments!
Erica :->

By Anonymous Erica, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 11:47:00 AM  

Just discovered your blog via Gordon Cloud's and thankful for the info here. Will come back and peruse even more. God bless you.

By Blogger Vicki, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 11:56:00 AM  

My goodness how far I have fallen behind here.

After reading More on Teaching and Preaching -- Hindrance to Growth? and this post and all the discussion in the comments it just makes me think that I am called to preach!

Gordon says, "Pastors are not preaching meat, but are preaching a processed dairy product and calling it meat."

Ever wonder why the description of my blog says, "It's time to move on to solid food"? What Gordon says is why.

My biggest pet peave is people who read about the bible and then want to debate with me about...whatever.

My second I have learned over time is pretty much any person that says, "Well, You have to have more than head knowledge". All that is saying to me is that they have NO knowledge in most cases and in the cases where that is not so they have cast judgment of my salvation based on something other than how much I love the Word and want to talk, discuss, debate, read, assorb, learn, get, have, be, more of it!

All I see everywhere is a need for what I believe God has given me to say.

By Blogger Michael Pendleton, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 5:24:00 PM  

"When it comes to working together in the same context of ministry, at some point, the differences are going to be highlighted and magnified. If you have several teachers in one church who are of a different opinion on a point of doctrine, the door is certainly wide open for divisions to come. This was evident at Corinth. Even if all consider the Bible to be the final authority, "truth" becomes subjective to man's interpretation."

Gordon, while I agree that it can potentially be difficult for people with differing views to work together in a ministry context, obviously it is not impossible. In 1 Corinthians 1 & 3, Paul rebukes the believers for aligning themselves with different teachers, and notice what he does not do. Paul does not tell the believers that they should love each other, but for the sake of ministering, they should split up and go in separate directions, only aligning themselves with "like-minded" believers. This is very important. Instead, Paul encourages the believers by saying
"I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." 1 Cor. 1:10
NIV

Does this mean that they all must subscribe to the same systematic theology? I don't think so. When Paul says that they should be united in mind and thought, I don't think that he means that they shouldn't have any difference of interpretation or opinion. I think that instead, he wanted them to agree to disagree on certain doctrinal issues, and focus on putting their minds toward the same goal---discipleship. What do you think? It seems like this happens much more naturally in smaller groups of say 10-20 people. In this environment, people can talk about their differences, feel like they have been heard, and then move on to other business within the Kingdom. One of the problems in the modern paradigm of 50+ people in a given local church, is that people often feel that they don't have an oppurtunity to voice their ideas(that is to "be heard), and therefore, leave to join forces with a group that is more like them. Is this really what Jesus had in mind when he ordained the Church? What does everyone think?

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:04:00 PM  

Vicki, welcome to the blog. Hope you enjoy perusing here.

Michael P, all I can say is that if God is putting a burden like that on your heart, go for it!

Erica, thank you for your follow-up comment. I know you were responding to Gordon, but I appreciate your involvement here. I hope we'll be seeing you and Raborn Sunday?? (By the way, if you sign in to your Blogger account, then people can find your blog, too.)

Gordon, now to your questions/comments. Great comments, bro, as always. I love your thoughts. We are actually quite a bit in agreement. I do prefer, however, to look at pastors as a "gift", not a "position". That may be (probably is) semantics between you and me, but Ephesians refers to Christ giving us "gifts", and then goes on to say He "gave" us apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers.

I also have a hunch that when you talk about "pastors", you are using that term interchangeably with "elders". Is that a safe assumption to make on my part? If not, you might want to correct me, because I want to respond to that if I'm not assuming correctly on that.

If we are on the same page on that, then let me proceed with my response to your excellent question.

First of all, I must admit that most of my thoughts with regard to the "positions" (I'll use your word here) lean toward much more informality than the current institutional approach makes it. For example, and please don't take any of this personally, I don't see a whole lot of justification in Scripture for full-time paid pastors.

Now, granted, there is the verse about "double honor" and also the "don't muzzle the ox" comments. So I know that it is possible to make a case for paid pastors, but I find the argument lacking a bit. Just my opinion.

Secondly, I think the current practice of hiring a pastor from outside the church is actually counter to Scripture. The qualifications for elders imply pretty strongly an ability to have observed the man functioning in the Body and in his own family, and this is pretty much impossible when hiring someone from outside.

Informally, I see that in a healthy body, elders will naturally "rise to the top" and will become recognized by the body as such. These men are worthy of respect, and we should allow ourselves to be persuaded by them in spiritual matters because they have earned that privilege.

For example, and I hope he doesn't mind my saying this here, but ded is one in our local body whom I consider and respect as an elder. He has earned that respect and position in my life because I have seen him live out the truth of Scripture in front of me. (ded, if you mind me saying this, I will edit this comment immediately upon your notification and remove this paragraph.)

Additionally, the gifts given to the church are plural, and as such, I do not see warrant in Scripture for one man leading a group by himself. We are a body, and while there will naturally be leaders gifted as such by the Holy Spirit, the body still must function under the single Head, Jesus Christ. This cannot be done if one man is claiming to be the head of that body (which is what the "Pastor as CEO" model ends up being).

I was actually told by a senior pastor one time, with regard to one of the other "pastors" on staff making a decision without consulting the senior pastor, "Anything with two heads is a freak. There can only be one head." And by that, he clearly meant himself. My response internally, of course, was, "That's right. Jesus Christ is the head."

Now, my question to you about your own position was related to the preaching model, not the pastoral position in and of itself.

Let me make this clear for all reading this: I am not arguing for the absence of pastors. I am, however, arguing for the existence of other gifts alongside the pastoral gift, a multiplicity of elders/pastors, and more interactive teaching time.

There is also an issue in my thinking with regard to the amount of people one man can practically "pastor". I think you said you have about 50 people in your church, Gordon. How well do you know the needs of each of those 50 people? (I'm not saying you don't. I'm leading up to something.)

Now, as that church begins to grow, it will become more and more difficult for you to even be aware of, let alone attempt to meet, the needs of everyone. Yet many will still refer to you as their "pastor".

I cringe whenever I hear people talk about "my pastor", when they attend a church of more than 50! In Austin, I was part of a church with about 1,000 people attending. People in that church talked about "my pastor", when the pastor didn't even know their name! Something is wrong with that picture.

Anyway, I don't know if I'm really answering your question. Does any of this help you see my ideas better?

I can effectively be a "pastor" (and there are times when I feel that is one of the gifts I operate in) to 10 or 20 people max, but not any more than that. To be honest, right now, I'm most concerned about being a pastor to my son and wife. Anything more than that will be at God's discretion.

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:08:00 PM  

Raborn posted while I was posting my lengthy comment, and I didn't see it until after I posted mine. I find it very interesting that Raborn commented about "10-20 people" and concerns with "50+" people.

These were the same figures I used, and it was completely without us knowing what the other was writing!

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:11:00 PM  

Let me sleep on this and I will try to get back with you tomorrow. I've got a busy morning lined up, so it may be tomorrow afternoon, but in the words of MacArthur (Douglas not John) "I shall return". :)

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:09:00 PM  

No problem, Gordon. I'm actually going to be gone most of the day, too. I have to play for a choir clinic at ASU today, and I'm not sure when I'll get to a computer, so it may actually be this evening before I get to see any responses.

Have a great day, y'all! Be blessed!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 5:13:00 AM  

As I have contemplated this discussion, I must say that I have certainly been challenged as well as uplifted. One thing I try to do on an ongoing basis is to re-examine my beliefs and practices and find out what is behind each of them. This discussion has certainly given me the opportunity to do so in this area of ecclesiology.

I see some things emerging from our conversation. I believe there is a huge misconception in the church body at large as to what the role of the pastor should be. Steve you are correct in saying that I cannot be to 50 people what they need (actually it's about 125). I will be the first to admit that I am incapable of meeting the expectations of many (not all) of my church members.

I think we can agree on what the ultimate purpose of teaching should be, i.e. the maturity of other believers until they can in turn teach others.

I believe we are probably in agreement on what some of the contributing factors to the lack of spiritual growth we see in many (not all) churches.

I will admit that things could be done better in most churches than they are being done today. Perhaps we have created an environment that is very similar to the doctrine of the Nicolaitines.

I think where we are probably going to find our differences lies in our view of the role/position/calling/gifting of pastor/elder/bishop. (That was a slashing remark, was it not?:) )
I still hold very strongly that God's plan is for a pastor to lead (not drive or dictate) a congregation to worship God. I think there is a fairly significant amount of support for this in the Bible as well as early church history.

I do not necessarily see home churches as being unscriptural or anti-scripture. God is certainly not limited to the inside of a church building. But neither do I see a biblical mandate for abandoning what we are doing as the church today. It certainly could stand some tweaking, adjusting, and maybe even a complete overhaul, but this model has been around for hundreds of years for a reason.

I still believe that ultimately, the solution to the problems we have discussed is spiritual and not technical.

I would be interested to know what it is that caused you to begin to explore this different avenue. (I ask that in genuine interest, not in a debative way). I know that you Steve and Raborn have alluded to frustrations with the institutional church (and believe me, I empathize with you). Erica brought some good points about the perception of pastors in her experiences. Is this exploration a reaction to these experiences or are there other factors involved as well?

Again let me say how much I have enjoyed this conversation. I appreciate the opportunity for us to share with and question one another and still experience the koinonia (Internet style) that we have.

God bless.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 1:55:00 PM  

I have been encouraged by this and other discussions recently on this blog. Each of those carrying the discussions are to be commended.

My comment is that the issue of the role of a pastor is a side component of a larger perspective. Before I share that, however, I would like to affirm that you, Gordon, seem particularly suited both to your calling and to fulfilling those responsibilities with much integrity. You are an encouragement to me regarding the faithfulness of God.

The larger perspective to which I refer is built from the question, "What constitutes a mature body?" Certainly the pastoral gifting is a key component of what God intended in His plan for disciples. Raborn, Steve and I are among a number of people internationally who are on a journey to discover exactly what might be done instead of the institutional organization. Our goal is to see the most grow into the highest of God's will. A goal not unlike your own, I am sure.

It isn't as much that we each have stories of disenfranchisement with the organized church, but that something in our hearts has insisted we seek the answer to a burning question: Should the constraints on belief which seem to occur within an organization be removed, what then? I am trying to articulate that which has motivated me (and I think Raborn and Steve would concur) is more than simply being disgruntled at some other man's position, therefore, I have taken my ball and left the field!

You mention that you see no mandate in Scripture to stop doing the organized church that has stood for centuries. I must question whether or not there was ever a mandate in Scripture to create what exists today. I respect the millions of Christians everywhere who accept the institution. I highly esteem men such as yourself who fulfill their responsibilities with so much love for God and His word. (I understand much of what you go through, I was an associate pastor within an organized body for twelve years.)

But the overall search remains, what level of maturity in Christ might be lived if individuals took personal responsiblitiy for their lives before God and lived within a community of deep love for one another as the means of support and encouragement to be so responsible?

The organized model appears to be failing on a number of levels in supporting such a quest. One can work within the current model to bring about this level of communion with God and others; you are an admirable example of such effort. Or, the choice exists to conduct the search without social boundaries created by traditions.
There is Proverb that says every man is right in his own eyes. Surely you would not pursue what you do in the service of God and the fulfillment of the the things in your heart for His people if you believed them wrong. So it is that I feel I must see what life in the spirit is to be lived ourside the cultural status quo.

I appreciate deeply that you would enter into such a thorough discussions of this nature with Steve and Raborn without condemnation! The body of Christ needs more men like you.

Steve, I appreciate your words of affirmation. As I have spent some time past the fifty mark, I have accepted that I am approaching "elder" status. (snicker) My, my what an interesting state this aging is! Please know I only seek to know you in the spirit of Christ. I would caution that you not see me as anything more than the sinner I am, saved by grace. If my experiences with God provide you an illumination of the Truth in His heart, then I am glad, as my life has taken on meaning through Him.

By Anonymous ded, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:32:00 PM  

I think DED has made some excellent comments here.

"It isn't as much that we each have stories of disenfranchisement with the organized church, but that something in our hearts has insisted we seek the answer to a burning question: Should the constraints on belief which seem to occur within an organization be removed, what then? I am trying to articulate that which has motivated me (and I think Raborn and Steve would concur) is more than simply being disgruntled at some other man's position, therefore, I have taken my ball and left the field!

My comments regarding experience with the pastoral position weren't meant to sound like a knee-jerk reaction. I was only hoping to add a view point from someone who has never been in that position.

I couldn't agree more with what DED has said here.

By Anonymous Erica, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 7:33:00 PM  

Thanks ded and all for your thoughts. My prayers are with you as you seek after God's will in this endeavor. I truly hope that what you find will enable you and others to grow in your faith and the strengthen the kingdom.

I look forward to future discussions.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 8:13:00 PM  

Well, it looks like the conversation has wound down to a close before I had a chance to get caught up on it and contribute more! ;)

I think ded and Erica did a fine job answering Gordon's final question, so I'll leave it at that. In case you still want more information on my story specifically, Gordon, allow me to link to two posts I wrote last July on the simple church concept. The first one tells a bit of my story, and the second tells some of the conclusions I came to and how it was playing out at that time in the fellowship here.

What Is Simple Church? (part 1)
What Is Simple Church? (part 2)

Gordon, I want to echo the thoughts of others here in speaking my tremendous respect for you and appreciation for your participation in this conversation. We all are blessed to have you here!!

I'll try to post again soon, and we can have more dialogue.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:22:00 PM  

I'm in a church of about 60 people. We are not worrying about the growth of the church persay, but we are going after leaders that are in the church. We building them up so when the church does get bigger it won't be week, but strong. If you have strong leaders underneath you. The pastor will be strong becuase of them. Becuase the pastor can rely on them in time of need. Letting the pastor do the things that he's called to do. Not the things he's not called to do. That's why we have all different kinds of gifts to make a complete church.

By Blogger Pastor Josh, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:43:00 PM  

Thanks Steve, be assured the feeling is mutual.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:55:00 PM  

good post,
im a little too late to add much but here goes.

I am not a pastor or in any ministry role in my current church.

Previously the church I had been in for 5 years or so was largely impersonal and although i was part of the music ministry team and involved in descipleship training it was still not a 'home church' to me. I changed churches about 6 months ago and the church I attend now is much more focused on small, connected groups supporting each other and 'pastoral care' comming from that framework rather than the one pastoral team solely caring for the whole church.

Both churches are of roughly the same size, my new church seems to be growing, ive only been there a few months so im not sure but my old one is shrinking.

Ive deliberately not mentioned denominations as both churches are focused on the Word rather than emotions even though one is pentocostal and the other is more traditional.

MDM

By Blogger Modern Day Magi, at Sunday, May 21, 2006 10:13:00 PM  

PJ and MDM,

Wanted to welcome both of you to the blog. Thanks for your comments. I hope you'll stick around and comment on other posts, as well.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Monday, May 22, 2006 9:41:00 AM  

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