“I’ll be leading the children’s ministry this evening.” These magic words brought on all ancient motherly instincts in our church: must rescue the children from the young man with no kids. (Add pauses in between words for drama.) Somehow all the mothers in our small church, for the first time, joined their children rather than stayed for the sermon. This is understandable: I know little to nothing about children. (I wouldn’t want me looking after my own kids, if I had them.) The kids would have had fun, but I’m sure it would come at the high cost of them being full of sugar and gold fish crackers, becoming slightly less respectful, and learning absolutely nothing at all in the process. So I intentionally refrain from children’s ministry, focusing on my primary gifts. I consider it one of the ways I bless the parents of our church.
Since I clearly don’t have the gift of teaching kids, I tremendously respect people that do. But it seems that most people with that gifting don’t recognize what a wonderful gift it is. This reminds me of the terrible impression that some spiritual gifts are better than others, or that some spiritual offices are more desirable or special. Yet, Paul tells us that all spiritual offices are meant “to equip the saints [being, believers] for the work of ministry [all work for Jesus], for building up the body [the church, being all believers together] of Christ” (Eph 4:17). (He includes “teachers” in the group of people who do this work.) Paul then goes onto detail what this means—showing us precisely what it looks like and by apposition, the dangers of not having spiritual offices present in our churches. Paul explains how we grow up in our spirituality.
Spiritual offices are about unity. Paul tells us that those with spiritual offices—apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (and some others mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12)—are called to help others “attain to the unity of the faith [being Christianity].” We often forget how important unity is, until we don’t have it. When it’s present, it’s seamless. It’s like a well-edited book, a great percussionist, or elegant design; you don’t notice any of these until they’re missing.
If your church leadership isn’t unified around God’s vision for your community, you already know it. And fundamentally, this means that the problem is either them or the exclusion of other leadership—people with other spiritual offices—who aren’t present: whether that’s intentional or a mistake depends on the community. But if it’s out of ignorance, that’s as much of a problem as intentional exclusion. Those who do nothing at all are just as guilty as those who are malicious.
Knowledge isn’t for babies: “Be a man.” Paul says that those in church offices are meant to lead the movement towards a wider knowledge base about the Son of God. By “fullness of Christ,” he means that those in church leadership are called to help others attain whole relationships with Jesus, where they lean on Him for understanding, growth, and direction. Church leadership is about the person of Christ and should never be about anything else. If those in our churches aren’t growing up in spiritual maturity, and if we aren’t as well, then we’re all wasting time, as well as our God-given gifts. If this isn’t the case in our communities, then the leadership of them must be challenged.
If pushed, push back. This is a lesson that should not be taught to kids, but is something all of us adults get a little confused about. Evil is evil. And crafty people can do evil things—deceiving us without us knowing. I recently had someone tell me that before he became a Christian he would intentionally use his intelligence to manipulate people, usually successfully, including Christians. He said that if God hadn’t intervened in his life that he would have gone on inflicting damage on others, probably without them even realizing it. Now, few are evil geniuses, but when evil approaches, it must be pushed back. Unfortunately, I’ve been in church communities where the church’s leadership did not play an active role in this, and semi- if not fully shunned those who did. If pushed by evil or the confusion of bad doctrine, we must push back.
Growing up in Christianity is difficult. It requires recognizing active leadership roles we may not feel ready to take on, and saying no to others because we know we’re not gifted in them. But we must, if there is hope for our communities.
How can you take an active role in transforming your church community?
Join the movement. Be the first to know. Sign up for updates here.