Saturday, May 5, 2007

On With the (One-Man) Show

Okay, so I been bad. No posts for 2 WHOLE MONTHS! My apologies, my very sincere apologies, to all 3 of you who've read the past posts.

I was going to blog about something a while back, but now something completely different came up. This last Wednesday night at our home fellowship, I was teaching about gifts of the Spirit. I read from the 12s--Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12--to show the NT lists of the gifts. 1 Cor., of course, has the "charismatic" gifts while Rom. has the "structural" gifts (my terms). We separate the two lists but Paul puts them all together as one group, the "gifts of the Spirit." And notice that when he writes about the church as the body of Christ, it's in the context of the gifts of the Spirit. He is saying, not that we need each other, but that we need all the gifts operating in the assembly.

Evangelicals, during the Reformation, exalted one gift above all others: the gift of teaching. Pastoral ministry became teaching; the sermon became the main focus of the worship service. When the Pentecostal renewal began, teaching was again just one of many gifts. Now we are once again copying the Evangelicals here. We leave no room for the other gifts to really operate. We stifle prophecy (mostly because we have more pretenders than prophets). We let the pastor do everything, and usually that means teaching. Gifts of mercy and administration are locked away rather than brought to the front. Evangelists are professionals who move from church to church rather than working within one assembly. Other gifts (discerning of spirits, for example) operate only in one-on-one situations rather than for the whole body. But teaching and teachers have become the focus of the church.

The problem is that 60% of leadership is then non-existent. No apostles, prophets, or evangelists; only pastors and teachers. And the vast majority of the gifts of the Spirit go unused and (even worse) unsought. The Average Churchgoer hears a one-person show on Sundays, maybe ties into a small group in the week, and wonders what he/she is there for. To be a clone of the pastor? To provide an audience? Is this the sum of Christianity today? Is it any wonder, when our corporate worship is so uncorporate, that we narrow our day-to-day focus to personal spirituality?

How can we change this? How can we make our leaders know that we hunger for more than their Sunday messages? How can we put teaching in its right place, making room for the rest of the gifts of the Spirit? And how can we put into practice the "charismatic" gifts without falling prey to disorder, false moves of the flesh, and "miracle-ism"? What do you think about this? What answers would you give from Scripture?


Anonymous said...

Some provoctive thoughts, there. Has the Church mistakenly missed out on fulness of the spiritual gifts, and diversity of persons and personalities in the local church or has the church been a victim of Pastors seeking job sercurity by having consolidated all ministry into a one-man show?

Rob Dunbar said...

I think this all came about long before there were pastors seeking job security. When the church goes astray, leadership always bears the blame. But the Reformers followed Catholic teaching and methods; in the Catholic church, wasn't it the priest who basically did all the work of ministry? You simply can't blame this on 21st-century leadership, because the problems began long before then.

Anonymous said...

just a question, not a accusation.
So do we need another reformantion?

Rob Dunbar said...

I repeat the last line of the post: "What answers would you give from Scripture?" I want your thoughts; I can post my own any time.

keith said...

In light of your blog, a reformation is needed. Scripture reveals the church as a community, not a social cub, or corportation, or entertainment. If the believer is the person restored to proper relationship to God, then the Church is society restored to proper relationship with God.
No one person was ever met to shoulder the burden of the Church as it belongs to one person, save Christ who purchased her with His life. But as in all societies authority is needed, for accountablity and leadership, so Christ our Shepherd has given to His Church men and women in leardship to maintian authority and order in His Church the restore society. But we must not confuse gifts of service with authority and leadership. We the Church can come to apperciate Christ as the giver of gifts, and not idolize the person gifted, by putting them into a position never intended for them, then proper oder will be restored to the Church.

Julie Swegle said...

I'm not sure that we need a reformation, but rather a return to the way church was held in the first century. Then, church was not simply a pastor or priest leading the service and "lecturing" an audience. May I recommend a book? Ancient-Future Faith, by Robert E. Webber. Visit his website too Let me know what you think.

Rob Dunbar said...

I'm VERY interested in reading Webber. I'd heard a number of good things about him, especially in the light of his death last week.

I agree with Julie. It's not a reformation but a simple return to the Gospel and the first-century way of doing things that we need. And when you say "we must not confuse gifts of service with authority and leadership," I'm going to ask (you knew I would do this to you): so does having the gift of prophecy mean you are not after all a prophet? Don't the gifts show function? Yes, we do not idolize the person gifted; but must we then say, "He/she has this gift but that doesn't mean he/she should have the position this gift fits"?

keith said...

yes just because a person prophecy, does not make them a prophet. what authority does a Prophet have in the Church? Does, he/she have authority in the daily running of the church and her ministeries, does he/she have authority in the lives of the Pastors and Teaches in the church?

Rob Dunbar said...

There's a difference between prophesying and having the gift of prophecy. But one who has the gift is a prophet. That person can forfeit the office through disobedience, but until that happens that person holds the office of a prophet. You know enough of the New Testament to answer your question. In the NT, what authority DOES the prophet have? Pastors and teachers are listed after prophets in both 1 Cor. 14:28 and Eph. 4:11. How can we fairly say, on the one hand, that the church is wrong to elevate one gift above others and then refuse to let the prophet(ess) take his/her rightful, Biblical place in the body?

keith said...

The Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and Teacher anre not formally reconized like Pastors are by the Church. When was the last time you heard of a Church ordaining an Apostle,or Teacher or looking to hire a Prophet? or Evangelist?
I believe one of the first steps in getting back to the original plan for the Church is for her to began formal recognition of the other 4 offices of ministry and not just lip service.
Then maybe we would have Apostles, Prophets and just Pretenders.
Teachers and Evangelist take second to Pastors. And sometimes Teachers are rolled over into the office of the Pastor.
All five ministry Offices need to be recognized for their own importance and unquie ministry they bring to the Church.

Julie said...

OK, I'll bite ;-)

Have a look at the Communion of Convergence Churches They do, in fact, ordain Apostles (so to speak). At least they do ordain according to the historical lineage known as Apostolic succession. This movement may not be THE answer, but it certainly is "an" answer to the need to return to the first-century church ways. There is a great deal we can learn from one another in the Body of Christ.

I'm not sure that I agree with the idea that there are 5 "offices" in the church, or that there should be. Prophets, Evangelists, and Teachers certainly are important (vital) parts of the body, but their position does not have to be authoritative.

We need to move beyond the "one man show" annoyances toward looking for ways to serve. Servants don't seek leadership roles, nor do prophets, spiritual teachers, or evangelists (all of whom should ultimately see themselves as servants of the body of Christ). Making those "positions" (gifts) in the body into offices would be counterproductive. Prophets, evangelists, and teachers need only to be guided and strengthened by servant-leaders who seek to help them use their gifts for the enrichment of the entire body.

keith said...

perhaps office was a poor chose of words, I think ministry is more correct.

Rob Dunbar said...

I'm surprised some of these comments haven't been given on the May 15 posting. You know, this question naturally leads to that one. What form should the church take if it wishes to be a New Testament church? If we want to see a release of the power of the Holy Spirit, what form would be apppropriate for that function?