As I write this I am looking at my “Certificate of Ordination.” The ordination process was meaningful and memorable in my life. As the church prayed for me (1 Tim. 4:11-14, 2 Tim. 1:3-7), it was an encouragement and affirmation of my gifts. They recognized and supported my desire to teach the gospel and provide leadership to the church.
As I read the “Certificate of Ordination,” however, I am baffled. It indicates that I, as a pastor, have received a “special calling” to the “gospel ministry.” Ridiculous! Every Christian is a minister of the gospel (2 Cor. 5:11-21). There is no unique calling to “gospel ministry” for someone in a pastoral position.
There is not one NT reference in which the language of calling is used of anyone other than the apostles unless the calling is to salvation. Not one pastor is referred to as having been called by God to ministry. One should not therefore assume an analogy to exist between apostolic calling and ministerial office.
– Paul Harrison, “Pastoral Turnover and the Call to Preach”
It is disingenuous for pastors to complain that other church members do not do their share of ministry. Congregants have been taught through the language and polity of most churches that they are not qualified, called, or capable for ministry, so they leave “gospel ministry” to the “professionals.”
Pastoral leadership must not be confused with gospel ministry. There are no “professional Christians.” As has been said, “every member is a minister.” Dr. Black often reminded me that he was not trying to abolish the clergy, but rather the laity!
“Every member ministry” is a wonderful catch-phrase, but the implications of genuinely embracing this sort of mentality will require shifts in leadership structure, allocation of church funds, and expectations of every church member. Is my church ready to treat every member as a fully capable and called minister of the gospel of Christ?