Tintoretto, Jesus Washing His Disciple’s Feet, c. 1548, Available at Wikipedia.org
Many things attract me to Jesus, but the most endearing quality for me is the way he included people. He was constantly including people that society discarded. For church leaders concerned about the health and growth of their congregations, inclusion could also be a key to success.
The New Testament teaches inclusion from start to finish and one of the ways God includes people is by giving them spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12). The early church was organized around these gifts.
In the traditional church, professional staff provides ministry; the members receive ministry. This structure places the responsibility for ministry in the apex of a pyramid-like hierarchy.
In a capacity-expansive church, however, the ministry lies at the base of the pyramid. The New Testament model is for church leaders to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).
For that to happen, churches have to multiply capable and functional leaders. They have to give capable and reliable people a place to exercise leadership. And for that to happen, they have to INCLUDE more people in leadership functions.
To expand its capacity for leadership, the church needs to expand opportunities for leadership. Jesus gave us a great strategy for accomplishing this–he sent his disciples out in pairs (Luke 10:1).
Today, church leaders could encourage those who feel called to ministry to team up with one other and give them the full backing of the church to develop their ministry. This could mean an exponential multiplication of people ministering in all sorts of ways, using their God-given gifts to their full potential.
But, this won’t happen as long as church leaders feel compelled to keep a grip on everything that happens. We have to trust the headship of Christ rather than hierarchical authority.
If, instead of defining church as a place to meet and programs to provide, we define the church as a network of member-driven ministries, the potential for leadership development might explode.
The New Testament provides us with an astoundingly simple yet effective plan for reproducing leaders. If we could just let go and let Christ be the head of His body, we might just witness a true revival.
What do you think? How could you see this working in practical ways? Please share your thoughts.
For a great overview of the structure and functions of the early church, see The Life of the Local Church: The Structure, Ministry, and Functions of the Church. Emmaus Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1. 1997.