Thursday, April 23, 2009

Speaking of mutuality

Where we are gathering for fellowship has taken some getting used to. It has been jarring to have someone different bring the primary message each week. It is hard to get comfortable with the idea of lots of different men contributing to the teaching instead of the typical model of one man teaching and everyone else listening. Our Wednesday evening Bible study is led by the same elder most weeks, preceded by a time of open and extemporaneous corporate prayer. Even in that model it is less "Me lead, you listen" and more "Me facilitate, we all contribute". Sunday morning it is rarely the same person twice, this week it was a missionary, next week perhaps it will be someone from our local assembly or a nearby assembly of believers. It is scheduled so we know who is coming each week so it is not completely random. It is a far cry from the single individual giving the message Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday PM that we are used to. That is familiar and comfortable. I don’t think it is Biblical but it is what we have always known and it is the cultural norm in the civic religion of America.

In many ways, as we get used to it, I have found it to be pretty cool. People come to visit and pray with us and open the Word, often these are people that the local assembly has a relationship with so we catch up and spend time in fellowship. It seems more likely to me that in the early church, while doctrine is vitally important, a great deal of their time was spent in fellowship, in sharing meals, in praying with and for one another. I have a hard time envisioning the early church as being a scheduled 45 minute lecture preceded by 15 minutes of singing a couple of hymns, prayer, offering and announcements.

I think it is healthy to have so many different people getting involved. The tendency of people is to get lazy. Why study for myself when the pastor will do it for me? After all, that is what we pay him for: studying books and going to conferences and then telling us about it. This attitude is not true of everyone, but it is true for an awful lot of people. I know that an assertion like that will lead to howls of protest: not MY congregation! Really though, in a conservative, doctrinally sound church of say 100 people, how many of them even read the Bible regularly? Never mind reading good books on doctrine and theology, I am talking about just cracking open the Word of God more often than Sunday morning. The church structure we have in place makes it easy to be passive recipients of the Word instead of students of it. Reliance upon a pastor to do the all of the teaching and edifying leads to dependence on the pastor. That is not healthy for the laity and it is not healthy for the man called to be the sole pastor. I have said before, a big reason why so many men leave vocational ministry is the enormous burden that is placed upon them. The community of believers should share the burden and the work, and in turn will share in the growth and the joy.


gloria said...

Sounds good to me -- keeps believers from becoming apathetic and lazy. I also love how it's not about 'programs' and a set 'ritual' of doing things. I detest programs.. I really really do and I stay away from churches that focus on program instead of preaching Christ.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

This is great brother. My church has had a multiple ministry for over 30 years and some people still think it can't work. You are truly blessed to have found this.

All of the letters of Paul assume a multiple it would seem, so why doen't the church do it? And I agree with you on the Pastor burnout issue. What a burden to place on one man.