Monday, June 21, 2010

The FiveFold Ministry

How should church leadership be structured? That is one of the main questions Wolfgang Simson tackles in his book, The House Church Book. Most churches that I’m familiar with have a leadership structure shaped like a pyramid. The senior pastor is at the top, and beneath him are the elders, the staff, and the lay (volunteer) leaders. There is a clear reporting system, with neatly defined levels of leadership. Many churches use titles, like Pastor and Director, to draw sharp lines of distinction between these levels.

There are many benefits to the pyramid structure of church leadership, but the most important question is not whether it is efficient or productive, but whether it is biblical. Wolfgang Simson’s answer is a definitive, “No!” The current structure, he says, more closely resembles corporate America than the New Testament church. The biblical mandate for church leadership structure is found in Ephesians 4:11-13.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Simson finds here what he calls “the fivefold ministry”: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These five people, he insists, are to share leadership within the church. (Which, he asserts, should not be any larger than 20 people—but that’s a discussion for another day.) Rather than a pyramid, the leadership structure of the church ought to be flat, with these five roles filled by five individuals. The man-at-the-top is replaced by five people, each ministering according to the gift that God has given them.

Some questions worth asking: Is God issuing a mandate for the leadership structure in the church, binding the church to the fivefold ministry for all time? Is the pyramid structure unbiblical, and therefore sinful? Do you have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in your church? What would it look like, in your local church setting, to have a flat leadership structure with each of these roles filled by someone in your congregation?

These are big questions that I believe are worth exploring more fully, and I’ll do my best to flesh them out a bit over the next few days. What we’re really talking about here is ecclesiology, or the nature of the church. This goes far beyond leadership structures, and points to the inner workings of the Body of Christ—how it is, exactly, that we are prepared for works of service and built up until we reach unity and attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, as Paul envisioned two millennia ago.

No comments: