Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a pattern for healthy church structure

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Acts 14:23

Paul and Barnabus were a ministry team. And they practiced team ministry in their first missionary endeavor. The commitment to this shows up in the way in which they considered their church planting works complete: they structured young churches with team leadership in accordance with the pattern they practiced. The language of the text indicates that a plurality of elders served in each church. When the body of believers matured to this structure, then the missionary apostles could commit that work to the Lord.

I have been privileged in my ministry to have always worked in churches where team ministry has been a driving value. I searched for this because I firmly believe it is what the Lord wants the church to be. And there is no room for grandstanding or idol-making of the leaders of the church. Turning a pastor into a rock star is always a bad idea. When a church is healthy, any of its elders should be speaking into the life of the church with giftedness and strength. That does not mean that some are not more gifted than others. Paul soon became the ranking member of any ministry team he was a part of. But that team still had the impact that he never would have alone. The same is true in the church. No one man should ever draw the media circus. Ever. Never. I don't care how many sports arenas he can fill with warm bodies.

It would seem that by the term "appoint" Paul and Barnabus were involved in the selection, training, development, and evaluation of these elders. Nothing is said about the time frame involved. I am assuming that it was a natural result of the discipleship and teaching that took place. By the time their work in a given church was finished, elders were appointed.

The way in which Paul and Barnabus "let go" of the responsibility of leading the young body is telling. It is the same pattern for their own call into mission work. They appointed them, and then with "prayer and fasting" committed them. Paul and Barnabus were sent out by the leaders of the church of Antioch in a similar fashion (Acts 13:3). Spiritual disciplines and worship were a part of the process in which these leaders were recognized and commissioned to the work that God had called and gifted them to build up the church.

There was no investiture ceremony with pomp and circumstance described here. It is simply the church seeking God's confirmation and assurance. It is the development of disciples and leaders among them for the building up of the body. The key was at the end they were committed to the Lord. Even church planters and leadership development experts are no match for Jesus. After all, it is His church and He is building it!

- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.

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