At least part of what’s opened up the chasm between local churches and their communities has got to be our overwhelming focus on church activities. This is not just a matter of social events steamrolling gospel-driven programmes. It’s as much a matter of what we consider worthwhile investments of personnel, training and resources.
Unfortunately, I suspect it’s symptomatic of a degree of tunnel vision about what Christian ministry is.
Take the whole issue of training, for example. What are you training people for? Cast your mind back over the training programmes you’ve offered over the last two or three years. Be honest. What have they prepared people for? Where’s the emphasis been?
I’d put money on the fact that you’ve probably mainly prepared people for ‘word ministry’ — leading Bible studies, personal evangelism, answering tough questions, etc. Which is all good. But is that what Paul means when he fleshes out the job description of the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers in terms of equipping the saints for works of service (Eph 4.11-13)?
Whatever we may have to say about the significance of the word ministries for building the body, nowhere does Paul imply they’re the only worthwhile form of ministry or service. God is honoured as we bear spiritual fruit in transformed characters and faith working itself out in love. And that will no doubt take a variety of forms.
Which leads me to wonder … what structures would we have to put in place in our churches if we were took seriously training people for this rather than exclusively for word ministry?