Friday, February 22, 2013

Unfinished business

Of all the books I've read in the past five years, Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God by Greg Ogden has to rank in my top five.  The thesis of the book is that the first Reformation in the 1500s put the Bible in the hands of the people and the Second Reformation will put the ministry back in the hands of the people.  Ogden is calling for this Second Reformation to occur now and provides in this book the tools by which this can happen.

If the church is going to have any significant impact on today's society we must move from a pastor-centered ministry model to a people-centered ministry model which is the biblical model for ministry anyway.  Ephesians 4 teaches that the pastor and others are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry, not function as the hired guns of the church.  Every believer has been equipped to do ministry through the use of the spiritual gifts given them by the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, many of them have never been encouraged or equipped to use those gifts.  They are content to be the recipients of ministry and not doers of ministry.  Not only does this limit the effective ministry of the church, it also does nothing to promote discipleship.  Read what Ogden writes:

In the healthy family, the goal of parents is to grow children into responsible, self-initiating, caring, and serving adults.  The church, on the other hand, has more often than not viewed the role of pastor as parent and the people of God as dependent children who need to be constantly cared for.  As a result, the children remain perpetually children. (p. 115)

The fact is too many pastors and congregations prefer the current dependency model.  As long as the pastor cares for the flock he or she can enjoy a relatively pleasant ministry.  Many in the congregation like not having any responsibilities.  They can come to church when convenient, provide whatever level of financial support they decide to give, and trust that whatever ministry needs occur will be taken care of by the professional.  The problem is that this is not the way it is supposed to be and is one of the primary reasons why so many churches are ineffective in their ministries.

Every church needs to return the ministry to the people, but this is especially important for the bivocational church.  Everyone in a bivocational church must be involved in the ministry of the church if it is to have any influence on its community.  Many people criticize bivocational ministry as being invalid because they claim that a minister cannot fulfill his or her pastoral responsibilities and hold another job.  Anyone making that claim is obviously looking at the pastor having all the ministry responsibilities in the church, which as we've seen above, is an incorrect model for ministry.  A bivocational church that has a pastor who understands the pastoral role as that of an equipper and a congregation who rightly understands their responsibilty to minister can have a very significant impact on its community.

We must acknowledge that to move from a pastor-centered model of ministry to one that is congregation-centered will be painful for many congregations.  Pastors will have to move from a model that many have been trained to provide to a model that will often be contrary to the expectations of the congregation.  Ogden asks, "Are we willing to experience short-term pain for long-term gain in ministry?"  Great question and one that each pastor and congregation will have to answer for themselves.

I highly recommend every church leader read this book.  It will challenge many of your beliefs about ministry and provide you with some valuable tools to help you make some needed changes in your ministry.

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