I have a weird hobby of examining job descriptions. Churches, ministries, nonprofits, for profits, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve looked and pastoral openings, educational postings, and job information in the technology and science fields. I find that the job duties and requirements can tell a lot about the company, the culture, and the desired applicant. And I’ve gotten good enough, especially in church postings, that I can tell whether it will be a healthy environment to step into or not.
But I’ve also noticed something that is far more troubling.
There isn’t a lot of difference between ministry job descriptions and ‘secular’ job descriptions.
The church often runs, operates and thinks like a business. They need dynamic communicators, faithful preachers and charismatic leaders. They praise the head strong visionary while neglecting other vital gifts to faithful ministry. A fully functioning church will have visible representations of all the gifts. Instead, almost all pastoral job descriptions today focus on areas of teaching or care. Little is said in regards to the other gifts necessary for church health: apostleship, prophetic ministry, or evangelism.
The early church faced this struggle too but was able to successfully navigate those waters. We have a lot to learn.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of Godin order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:1-7
I’ve often heard this passage as an indictment against the twelve, a shot at their arrogance and belief in superiority. They couldn’t be bothered with ‘waiting on tables’ because they were somehow too important. It does a great job and confronting some of the leadership failures in our modern church, but when looking at the early church it misses the point.
The early church operated successfully out of the APEPT model (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher) and this passage is about an understanding of gifts. The twelve were cast and called as apostles, they were the sent ones. They had been gifted and charged with going out and setting up new bases of operation. They were called out while the need and care for the group required someone to stay in. This passage is about the need to find good pastor/shepherds, not an indictment on the twelve apostles.
The apostles recognized their gifting and their calling and they knew that by providing care they would be ceasing the mission that God had given them.
The church today must learn to operate in the same capacity. It must make room for all people of God to celebrate and practice their gifts. We’ve developed the exact opposite problem: praising pastors and teachers while neglecting the gifts of the apostles, prophets and evangelists. Too often the church operated more as a business than a family and has limited ministry to the paid professionals, extroverted, energetic, and charismatic. The institutional church has been guilty of only highlighting two of the gifts (Teachers and Pastor/Shepherds) while neglecting the other forms and movements of the Spirit. The early church was able to successfully navigate these difficult waters by calling and shaping specific people based on their Spirit empowerment. Today’s church, if it wishes to effectively join God in mission, must do the same. We have all been shaped, called, and sent by the power of the Spirit. The church today must reclaim a full understanding of gifts to empower and release the whole body for mission and ministry.
Here are some quick thoughts on how to do so: