During my undergraduate seminary days I had a professor who announced to his class: “Gentlemen, your job is to work yourself out of a job.” I thought at the time that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. I have since come to understand and embrace the principle he was trying to express. That statement is, in effect, a philosophy of ministry. There are those who are career “Ministers” in the sense that they see themselves as lifelong generals placing privates in strategic places to get the job done. My professor would have said that our purpose was to train more generals to work with those privates. This was what Paul was encouraging young Timothy to do as he pastored the large church at Ephesus: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
As one writer put it, “It could be argued that what the church needs is not better pastors, but more theologically sophisticated lay persons.” It was never the case that a pastor could do everything well. Many wonderful preachers, for example, are terrible at administration and others who have never come to grips with ministry to youth. But within each church family are those people with gifts to cover all of the bases. And in this age of specialized ministry in which pastors are increasingly called upon to address such problems as drug addiction, marital strife, homosexuality and the rest, many of the people in the pews possess the aptitude to be far more sensitive to those needs and capable of addressing them than the pastor. All they need is the training to go with it.
What I am trying to say here is that we can no longer look at a church as sheep with one shepherd. All those sheep are potential shepherds. This is what caused the first church to expand so quickly with so much excitement. Each new Christian was taught that he had a stake in this new enterprise, and that ministry was also his responsibility and opportunity. We must return that philosophy to the church. When we do, we will see more Christians capturing the vision, sharing the excitement and building the Kingdom. And when this happens, together we will experience the Lord’s pleasure and at the end of the road hear, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship