Ministry Commission and Appointment

It continues to be a great privilege to be a part of and serve our church body, Highland Christian Fellowship. We continue on our original journey of seeking God in his Word about how he intends his church to live and fulfill our mission to make disciples. 

A question we have recently been considering is what the church has traditionally called "ordination," and what we are calling Ministry Commission and Ministry Appointment. Here is an excerpt from a document we are working on that gives the biblical explanation of this important function in God's family.

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"The Bible teaches that all believers are ministers (Eph 4:12). There are times that believers are called to particular types of ministries, whether to a short term mission trip, a particular service that one engages in for his or her entire life, or a position in the local church. The Bible also teaches that the local church is an important part of affirming, equipping, and sending people into ministry.

"Based on biblical examples, there are basically two purposes for what is traditionally called “ordination.”

  • Ministry Appointment – this is an appointment to a particular position of ministry in the church. The two positions described in the NT are for elders and deacons (See Acts 6:1-6; 14:23; 1 Tim 5:22; Titus 1:5).
  • Ministry Commission – this is the commission of a person to a particular type of ministry. The local church is affirming a person’s gifting and calling to ministry and committing to support them in this ministry (See Acts 13:1-3; 1 Tim 1:6; 4:14).

"These actions taken by the local church fulfill the basic legal and cultural understanding of ordination. However, there are reasons why we may choose not to use this term in our church.

  • This term is not used in the NT.
  • This term is used in the OT with reference to succession of leadership and priesthood, which are not good parallels for leadership appointment and ministry commissioning in the church.
  • The cultural understanding of this term also carries ideas related to power and/or clergy/laity distinction that we are not conveying.

"Therefore, we can use the descriptions above, 'ministry appointment' and 'ministry commission.' In both cases, the biblical examples indicate that the local church corporately expresses these through prayer and the laying on of hands."

Moses and Shared Leadership

I am thankful to God this week for two new elders at our church, Highland Christian Fellowship. R.D. Hodges and I have been elders for about four years now. Last Sunday we added Walt Stringer and James Wilkes. It was a long and beautiful process to see our fellowship seek God’s leadership in this (I should write about that, too). I love shared leadership. It is biblical and it makes sense. Having a plurality of elders was one of the primary findings in my dissertation The Authority of Church Elders in the New Testament.

I encountered in my Scripture reading this morning another affirmation of this principle. It is in Numbers 11, which is interesting in light of the fact that some point to Moses as the paradigm for a one-man leadership model.

Moses prayed, “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me” (v. 14). God answered, “Gather for me seventy men from the elders of Israel. . . . I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone” (v. 17).

Sometimes it is difficult for men to share leadership. They become jealous and prideful. But “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). When some men in the camp began to prophesy, manifesting that they also had received some of the Spirit, this bothered Joshua, Moses’ assistant. These men in the camp were not at the tent of meeting, where it seemed to Joshua that the official authorization of this shared leadership was imparted. Joshua said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.”

How common it is to try to control such things. But Moses responded to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” This demonstrates one of the most important qualities of a leader. His objective is not to have control, do things his way, and have all the leadership, gifting, and honor. His goal is the good of the people. And when more of the people are gifted and active in ministry and leadership, the more blessed and healthy the people are.

Thoughts on Ministry and Money

The following thoughts on ministry and money are primarily a personal conviction, upon which I am basing my own approach to ministry and financial support. I know there are many sincere believer who take other approaches. I submit these ideas for discussion, hoping to encourage reflection and biblical study on the subject.

“You received without paying; give without pay.” Matt 10:8b

A common method local churches use to support their pastors financially is through a salaried position set up through the church budget that is funded by the regular, undesignated giving of its members. I would like to suggest that such a financial set up does not best honor the biblical principles of giving and finances in the church.

The first reason is based on my understanding of what a church would look like that most honors the biblical principles of discipleship, fellowship, and leadership for the church.  As I argued in my Ph.D. dissertation, Scripture indicates that elders are a group of local believers who have already demonstrated their ministry abilities and qualifications within a local church, who are called by God, and who are appointed by the fellowship to be elders. This is in contrast to the common structure in which a single man from outside the community is hired to be the senior pastor.

In addition, a strong argument can be made for the wisdom, benefit, and ministry effectiveness of maintaining smaller, church-starting churches, as opposed to building mega-churches. Some of the reasons that smaller churches are positive include pastor/believer ratio, less need for institutionalization and buildings, conducive for intimacy and accountability, reproducibility, etc. The point for leadership is this: If a group of men were pastors of a relatively small church, sharing shepherding responsibilities, there would be little need for a full time pastor.

It is clear, however, that the local church is called to support those who are ministering the word them (1 Tim 5:17-18; Gal 6:6). I suggest, though, that it is still not best to support such elders and teachers through any type of salary budgeted from the undesignated gifts of believers. Instead, they could be supported through the designated gifts of anyone who is convinced they should support them. Here are the reasons why:

  • Elders are warned in Scripture not to shepherd God’s people for personal gain (Acts 20:33-35; 1 Tim 3:3, 8; 6:5; Titus 1:7, 11; 1 Peter 5:2).
  • Elders are not employees of the church, and the appearance of such should be avoided.
  • The gospel, truth, love, and ministry should be offered freely (Matt 10:8b).
  • The biblical pattern for supporting those in ministry seems to be that the ministry is given first and the support is offered after, based on the ministry (Matt 10:9-11; 1 Cor 9:11).
  • Money can become an obstacle for the gospel (1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:9).
  • Believers who support those in ministry, as with all other giving, should do so freely, out of conviction, according to God’s leading, and in obedience to God’s Word (2 Cor 8:1-12; 9:1-7).
  • Examples of giving in the NT indicate that when believers gave corporately, they were giving to a particular need or types of needs (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 6:1; 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 9:1, 5).

 

HCF Covenant

Here is our covenant for Highland Christian Fellowship:

Highland Christian Fellowship Covenant

As baptized believers in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, indwelled with the Holy Spirit of God, and saved through the grace of the Father, we do now, in the presence of God, and this assembly, enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ. As we are transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit to pursuing a life of obedience to the following biblical principles:

  • Live for Jesus Christ and take His commandments and His commission seriously; to offer our time, energy, money, and prayers to participate in and support local and global efforts to make disciples of all nations (Mk 12:30-1; 16:15; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8).
    • Be family; to be committed to each other; to love, accept, and forgive each other. Help one another grow toward Christian maturity by bearing one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), encouraging one another (1 Th 4:18; Heb 10:25), exhorting one another (Heb 3:13), praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another (Jm 5:16), speaking the truth in love to one another (Eph 4:15), admonishing one another (Col 3:16), building up one another (1 Th 5:11), teaching one another (Col 3:16), comforting one another (1 Cor 13:11), submitting to one another (Eph 5:21), serving one another (Mt 20:27-8), patiently bearing one another (Eph 4:2), regarding one another as more important than ourselves (Rom 12:10), caring for one another (1 Pt 4:10), exercising our spiritual gifts to serve one another (1 Pt 4:10), being kind and tenderhearted to one another (Eph 4:32), forgiving one another (Eph 4:32), and loving one another (Jn 13:34-5). Inviting one another to pray for us, teach us, correct us, or rebuke us, if necessary, in a spirit of gentleness and humility, should we stray from our Lord's commands, because the thing we desire most in life is to glorify God and serve Christ. We voluntarily submit ourselves to one another and to the discipline of the Church.
    • Love, honor, and esteem the pastors/elders and to pray for them. (Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17)
    • Support the Church in prayer, talents, offerings, and with other financial support and time as the Lord enables. (Acts 2:44-5; 4:34-5; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:6-7; Gal 6:6;  Jm 5:16; 1 Pt 4:10)
    • Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3) while respecting and sharpening one another in areas of disagreement; preserving purity of biblical doctrine in primary matters of importance (1 Cor 15:3-5; Rom 16:17; 1 Tim 6:3-5) and exercising generous patience, love, and mutual edification in matters of secondary importance and personal conviction (Rom 14; 1 Cor 8, 10:23-33).
    • Unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word, as soon as possible if we depart from this place.

Church Covenant

Our fellowship spent a good bit of time studying, praying, and discussing the idea of church membership. In the end, we settled on maintaining an annual church covenant instead of the tradition idea of membership. Here is how I recently described it to our body:

It is not a traditional membership list. One does not "join the church" and remain on the list until they join another church. The covenant is simply an expression of what we believe we already are as a local church. We believe that being a part of the body of Christ provides encouragement and accountability through on-going relationships. Being part of such a body is important for our fellowship with God and the completion of our task to make disciples. We consider ourselves part of the larger body of Christ in our communities and in the world. The covenant is an opportunity to affirm our purpose as God's people and our commitment to this local fellowship of the Church. God may lead us to different locations, ministries, and local churches over time, so we renew our covenant each year as God continues to lead us to remain in this fellowship together. It may be that there are some who are unable to affirm this covenant at this time. They are welcome to continue in fellowship and ministry with us, understanding that the purposes, goals, and core doctrines have been clearly articulated.

Prezi

We had a great time worshiping with Highland Christian Fellowship yesterday. God has been using us and helping us grow. We even doubled in size in 2010. God is putting together a strong, healthy body that I hope will do much effective work in building the kingdom. Yesterday I taught from Isaiah 9:1-7: When Christ Rules. I used a new presentation aid called Prezi. It is a creative new way to present text, images, and video during a speech (instead of Powerpoint). To see how it works and the main principles of the Isaiah 9 message, you can click through the presentation below.

 

When Christ Rules on Prezi

The Benefits of Community

I have uploaded last Sunday's Bible teaching: The Benefits of Community from Eccl 4:9-12. Listen, download, or subscribe is the Teaching Audio player in the right sidebar. Here are the main principles we discussed: 1. When we live in community, we produce more from our labor (v. 9). 2. When we live in community, we can help one another in weakness and failure (v. 10). 3. When we live in community, we can meet one another's needs (v. 11). 4. When we live in community, we are stronger in battle (v. 12).