Read Eph. 4:11,12. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ"
There are two very different interpretations of this passage which lead to two very different answers to the role of leaders in the local church.
The King James Version places a comma between "saints" and "for" in vs. 12. thus suggesting that the leaders do three things:
- equip the saints
- the work of ministry
- build up the body of Christ.
In other words, the leaders do all significant spiritual work and the rest do very little. The King James Version reflected this view which had been held for centuries and reinforced it for succeeding generations. Even today, this is the prominent view of leadership's role in the church.
Consider the following quotes by leaders and theologians:
- ". . .both the clergy and the laity have leadership roles, but they are different roles. The clergy are primarily responsible for the assembled phase of the church life. They are called and trained as professionals to preach, to lead worship, to educate. . ., to provide. . .theological counsel, and to lead the congregation's organizational and fellowship life. . ."
- "Lay leadership in these areas is important, but it is secondary and supportive."
- "(A corporate executive who) realizes that it is the Holy Spirit who has made him head of the research division in a large corporation."
- "(The hospital elevator operator) who exercises his ministry by humming a hymn by taking the patient's up to the operating room." (All from Wentz, Ministry As a Way of Life)
Without the comma, everything changes. The leaders equip the believers to do the work of ministry and they build up the body of Christ. In other words, all Christians are ministers with significant spiritual roles to play.
The leaders' primary job is not to do it all, but to equip the "laymen" to minister. They are train them in doctrine and ministry, help them to find their unique ministry roles, provide structures in which they can play these role - and then let them minister!!
Which interpretation is correct?
Without any doubt, the latter is the correct interpretation. For what are the saints being equipped, if not to do the work of ministry?
Vs. 7,8 make it clear that every Christian is spiritually gifted. Such gifting is given in order to perform spiritual ministry (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
Vs. 16 sums up the teaching of this passage by saying that the church is built up by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.
Many other passages in the New Testament teach that all Christians are gifted and called to ministry (cf. Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; 1 Pet 4:10,11).
This is one of the crucial distinctives of Xenos. The spiritual fruitfulness and vitality that we enjoy is due in large part to the fact that the leadership is committed to equipping the people for effective needed and often sophisticated ministry. Not only does far more spiritual work get done when everyone does it, but people are far more spiritually healthy when they are ministering.
- Has anyone ever been in a church where no effort was made to equip people for ministry? What was that like, compared to a church where this is a goal?
- What happens to Christians who don't understand they are supposed to minister?