A few years ago I was invited by a friend to attend and speak at a conference in Peru he was organizing for local pastors and church leaders. It was a sweet time of fellowship and many challenging ideas were shared and discussed. One of the ideas was that in God’s Kingdom, there is no special, professional class of Christian that does all the ministry while the rest sit back and receive. This idea was particularly liberating to one young woman who began proclaiming in a loud voice during the break, “Up with the Kingdom, down with the pastors!”
The truth is, the idea of “the priesthood of all believers” has been notoriously difficult to implement. On the whole, the Church loves its pastors and ministers and is perfectly content to allow them to do most of the work. After all, who has time to visit an elderly shut-in, counsel a depressed soul, or actually pray? There is a long Christian tradition of paying pastors to do the hard stuff no one else likes to do. The very pastors who, according to Paul, exist to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
But let’s think about that for a moment. What does it mean to “equip” someone for ministry? And what “ministry” are we talking about? These are good questions to ask, because the answers might deeply challenge the core of the pastor / flock relationship.
John Wimber famously said that in the Kingdom of God, “Everyone gets to play.” No follower of Jesus is exempt from being able to participate in the life of the kingdom. Ministry – speaking Jesus words and doing Jesus acts – is free, public, requires no special degree or license, and is no respecter of age, sex, or even faith! The scriptures are full of stories of unqualified, broken, unexpected souls simply responding to the love of God and in turn, loving others.
So it might be possible that the metrics for who should be “in ministry” are flawed. Perhaps the most qualified ministers are simply the ones who make themselves available to God and respond with “Yes!” when he calls. Therefore, equipping someone could be as simple as teaching them the “See and Do” model of Jesus. As in, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” – John 5:19.
Here is a modest proposal for helping pastors and other “equippers” actually equip people to do real ministry in their real lives:
1. Help people create space in their lives for solitude and silence, to learn how to hear God’s voice, and how to pray.
2. Teach people how to understand and interpret their place in God’s Story.
3. Create opportunities for people to be with “the least of these” – the poor, lonely, broken, imprisoned, wounded, and sick.
By doing these things often (and lots of other things – use your imagination – not as often), I bet there is a good chance Kingdom stories will abound!