“If you want the movement to multiply, ordinary believers must be released to baptize and serve the Lord’s Supper,” George Patterson, our speaker, announced. “What? Is that right?” I thought. “Did ordinary believers have the necessary qualifications for ministry?”
We were a group of young church planters and missionaries. We had come to this seminar to learn from George, a church planting expert.
It Sounded Strange
It sounded strange to me. I had well-established ideas from my upbringing and education about the qualifications for ministry.
Those ideas didn’t include brand new believers serving the Lord’s Supper. That was for sure!
I did not know that many of my ideas about who was allowed to do what in the church came from my own church traditions. They didn’t come from the model given in the New Testament.
Mindsets About Qualifications For Ministry – An Internal Obstacle
Many barriers to the growth of a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) are external. But this one is a barrier in our own minds. Our culture and background often influence us more than the New Testament example. It did in my life until I was exposed to teaching about how to multiply disciple-makers.
I Had Arrived
“You are now an ordained pastor!” the District Superintendent said as he shook my hand. I felt so proud. I had done it.
The requirements were not unusually high. They were similar to most denominations, but it had taken me many years to complete them.
I’d gone through Bible college, completing a four-year degree in Bible and Theology. I had finished my master’s degree from a seminary. There were tests and interviews with committees. Now it was done. I was Reverend C. Anderson.
I now had the full blessing of my denomination to officiate any religious ceremony; a wedding, burial, baptism or baby dedication. Woohoo! I had arrived.
In this article, I in no way want to put down the significant role of spiritual leaders in the church today. I admire, respect and honor pastors for their the devoted and sacrificial service. They give so freely to the Lord and to their churches.
Pastors work hard under very tough conditions. They are paid little and under tremendous continual stress and demands. They deserve our love and appreciation. Like I said above, I am a pastor and an ordained minister.
Instead, my goal is to address what can be a major barrier to the growth of a movement.
When we elevate the role of pastor above what the New Testament does, we create a barrier. It can prevent us from multiplying disciples in a rapid way.
So often, our own cultural worldview about leadership gets in the way. We read scripture through the filter of our personal backgrounds.
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”
1. The Non-Christian Worldview And It’s Impact
Let’s look first at the person coming from a non-Christian worldview. In organized religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, there is an established clergy.
For the Muslim, it is the Imam.
In the Hindu religious worldview, there is a special caste of people- the Brahmins. They are uniquely qualified to do religious work.
For the Buddhist, it is the monk or the Lamma. Only those who wear the orange robes can perform certain religious duties.
The idea that an ordinary person can do spiritual work is very much against the norm. This is true in almost all non-Christian cultures. The priesthood of all believers is a radical shift of thinking for them. For those coming out of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, their default thinking is this: only special people meet the qualifications for performing religious duties.
Bringing a shift to this worldview is absolutely central to seeing multiplication happen.
You will not have lay disciple-makers who; start groups, baptize, train and take initiative unless you strongly teach on this. Without clear Biblical teaching, their natural cultural bias will hinder them from stepping up to do “spiritual work.”
2. The Christian Worldview And It’s Impact
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Luke 23:45). God’s sovereign action in doing that was an incredible symbol to the Jewish disciples of Jesus.
Now everyone had access to God! No longer was it only the priests who could come into His presence. The Old Testament Levitical priesthood was over and a new age of the Spirit began. It was to be a time when all who followed Jesus would serve as His chosen ambassadors, His priests.
Hierarchy ended when the New Covenant began.
Study Hebrews 8 and what it has to say about the New Covenant if you’d like to dig deeper.
Sadly, in Christianity today, many shadows of the Old Testament remain.
In the book of Acts, we see certain roles played by apostles, deacons and elders. You also see ordinary believers, filled with the Holy Spirit going everywhere making disciples. Wherever they went they shared their faith. They started groups of disciples (churches) and the movement multiplied.
The word pastor in the New Testament describes a spiritual gift (Eph. 4:11). In the Bible, the word pastor is not a title describing a special position in a spiritual hierarchy.
Many of us come from Christian backgrounds. Like Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or others, we too have been influenced strongly by our worldview. The religion of Christianity seems to say that there are certain spiritual tasks that are only to be performed by a pastor. This is why we often face resistance from traditional pastors when starting a DMM.
But is that typical Christian view Biblical? Or is it something that developed later in the history of the church?
The church’s structure was dramatically influenced in the 3rd century by the Roman Emperor Constantine. At that time, a hierarchy elevating the clergy above ordinary believers developed. Christian leaders took on the rank and even began to wear the clothing of the Roman elite.
Start With Your Own Mindset
If you want the movement you start to grow and multiply, you will need to address this mindset in yourself first.
As a trainer or leader, what makes me qualified? Is it my special training? My education?
Issues of spiritual pride creep in quickly causing us to want to control rather than empower. Remind yourself often of the priesthood of all believers and that your job is to equip them to do the ministry (Eph. 4:12).
Let’s Assess And Examine Ourselves
Ask yourself these questions.
- How much do I equip and release ordinary (even brand new) believers, to do ministry?
- Does my cultural worldview influence me more than the New Testament example in this area?
- Have I set up any qualifications for ministry not in line with the model of the New Testament and book of Acts? (Asking them to attend this or that training before they can serve for example).
Let me know your feedback in the comments below. Or share them on the Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!
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