Is the Modern Church Too Pastor-Centered? Spiritual Gifts #2 #58
Happy Thursday, Friends! SHARE/REVIEW. Today’s Bible passages kick off with two terrible plagues in Exodus 10: Locusts and Darkness. Pharaoh’s grip is certainly loosening on the Israelites! Job 28 is an interesting passage, and serves as a meditation on wisdom – probably written/spoken by Job. It ends with this incredible paragraph, and it is worth reading it twice today:
Where then does wisdom come from,Job 28:20-28
and where is understanding located?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing
and concealed from the birds of the sky.
22 Abaddon and Death say,
“We have heard news of it with our ears.”
23 But God understands the way to wisdom,
and he knows its location.
24 For he looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When God fixed the weight of the wind
and distributed the water by measure,
26 when he established a limit for the rain
and a path for the lightning,
27 he considered wisdom and evaluated it;
he established it and examined it.
28 He said to mankind,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom.
And to turn from evil is understanding.”
In Luke 13 Jesus answers a very modern question about those who are victims of ‘natural disasters’ and other calamities. Do they generally happen to people because they are more sinful? I tell you no, says the Master, but unless we repent, we will also perish. We continue our mini-series on spiritual gifts today, based on our focus passage of 1st Corinthians 14. Our big question of the day is about whether the modern Western church is too pastor-centered or not. We will also be discussing several basic and biblical truths about spiritual gifts.
Before we dive into that, I’d like to share a story, then our 1st Corinthians passage. This story is a throwback to an earlier discussion we had on this show when reading about Joseph: Does God still speak in Dreams and Visions? Today I had the privilege of having lunch with a pastor friend from Mexico, who currently helps leader our ministry network here in the Central Coast of California area. My brother is a Southern Baptist, and has been for decades. He told me about a pair of visits he made to Saudi Arabia while working for a job with a large logistics company when he was a bi-vocational pastor. While in Saudi-Arabia, he would read Christian books in the lunch room, and some of the Saudi workers at his company would come and talk to him about Jesus, and he would share the gospel with them. (Not realizing that such activity is illegal in Saudi Arabia.) One of the workers in the factory heard the gospel and had a dream later that week in which Jesus came to him in a white robe. That man was gloriously saved that week, and told my pastor friend about it. My friend went home, but was almost immediately summoned back to Saudi Arabia within a day or two. Upon returning, one of the head bosses pulls him into a conversation about the worker that got saved. My friend thought he was in trouble, but it turns out that this boss had also had a dream about Jesus in a pure white robe, and he wanted to know more about Jesus and the gospel. He too believed and was gloriously saved, and those two are seeing other people in the company become saved as well. So – does God still speak in dreams and visions? According to my Southern Baptist brother…yes He does! Let’s read 1 Corinthians 14 together.
Ten Important Truths About Gifts of the Spirit (Continued from yesterday)
4. We are commanded in Scripture to eagerly/earnestly desire spiritual gifts, both as a group, and individually. This is especially true of the gift of prophecy: 1 Cor. 12:31-29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. AND: 1 Cor 14:1 1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. AND: 1 Corinthians 14:39,“Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other languages.“
5. We are ALL supposed to USE our Spiritual gifts – they aren’t supposed to lie dormant. 1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” AND ROMANS 12:6 “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.” I note here that this command applies to ALL believers, at the very least, all believers who actually know what gift they have been given. This would seem to mean that one MUST use whatever gift they have regardless of opportunity or role in a fellowship. This is a tricky concept. In most churches, only about twenty percent (or less) of the people are actually actively serving in areas that line up well with their spiritual gifts. Often this is the fault of the leadership – the pastors, elders, deacons, etc. The buck must stop with them. When I read 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, I see the Body of Christ/church depicted as a group where multiple people speak, sing, teach, prophesy, exhort, encourage, etc.
Yet in the Western church, we have this artificial, wholly unbiblical division between “lay people” and “clergy.” With the “clergy” or professional ministers/pastors doing the vast majority of the ministry work. I myself serve as the “senior pastor” of a fellowship (not a biblical title…) and I decry the concept of a division between “lay people” and “clergy.” Indeed, I believe it is one of the weakest parts of the Western church. Yes – the Bible calls for leadership in the Body of Christ, but all are called to minister to each other and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. There is not a special class of people in the church called to minister, and everybody else serves menially and watches. We are all called to minister, and church leaders MUST make room for all saved believers to minister in ways that the Holy Spirit has gifted them to. As well, those that are not in church leadership, but are saved by Jesus, need to realize and rejoice in the fact that they have been gifted by God to edify and encourage other believers, and they MUST use their gifts for that role.
6. When we serve with our Spiritual gifts, the fellowship/congregation (us) will grow. This appears to mean growth in Spiritual maturity(see below), and in numbers. Eph. 4:16, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. It is so deep, powerful and beautiful, and shows quite clearly that God has given gifted people to the church in order for the church/Body of Christ to grow in love, to grow in numbers, to grow in encouragement, to grow in strength, and to grow in maturity. As each part of the Body of Christ DOES ITS WORK, the whole Body will be brought to maturity and growth. Conversely, when even a few parts of the local Body of Christ are not exercising their gifting/doing their work, then there will be immaturity, less love, more discouragement, more weakness, and a decrease in ability to reach the lost and fulfill the Great Commission.
7. Every gift and gifted person is necessary. Stop and think for a moment, and try to name all of the pastors that you know, both local and national, living and dead. If you have been a Christian for any number of years, then I imagine you can name at least two dozen pastors. Some of my favorites are: John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, Tim Keller, Dick Lucas, Matt Chandler, Martyn Lloyd Jones, Mark Dever, Frank Barker, Edwin Jenkins, David Platt, Ron Lotz, David McConnell, Hudson Taylor (who pastored as a missionary), and many others. The funny thing about us knowing so many pastors is that the word “pastor” in the New Testament really only appears ONCE in terms of describing an actual role or office in the church. As well, unless I am misremembering, I don’t believe that the New Testament ever identifies a pastor by name, though you could possibly make the case that Timothy was a pastor, maybe Titus as well. The reason I bring that up is that we are in a very pastor-centric state right now in the Western church, but the New Testament itself is not at all pastor-centric. I’ve always found that odd. As a pastor myself, I’m not offended personally that the church is very pastor-centric, but I am offended biblically speaking. We are pastor-teacher heavy! Paul takes careful pains to disabuse the Corinthian church of the notion that only some giftings are necessary or highly spiritual. In fact, he warns them to consider every gift “NECESSARY.” Necessary is a strong word. You can’t live without necessary things, and Paul clearly outlines in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22 that ALL of the gifts – even ones that might not seem important, or might seem odd – are necessary. We all need each other – we all need every gift that the Holy Spirit chooses to distribute in a particular fellowship at a particular time.
This particular foundational truth is a big deal to me. At the church I am privileged to pastor at, we have a saying that helps define us, “Everybody plays ball.” It is one of my life statements, and, I believe one of the clearest teachings of Scripture that the modern church often misses. I realize that it is a sports analogy, but what is meant here is that every saved Christian has a gift that is CRUCIAL and NECESSARY and even INDISPENSABLE to the Body of Christ. Everybody gets to participate and use their spiritual gift. Everybody gets to have the joy of being used by God to build up His people. Everybody gets to be on the great adventure of ministry. There are NO benchwarmers in the Body of Christ – everybody plays ball!
“So the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?20 Now there are many parts, yet one body.21 So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”1 Corinthians 12:20-22