I have been reading Lesslie Newbigin’s book “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society” and came to his chapter entitled “Ministerial Leadership for a Missionary Congregation.” (pages 234-241).
These pages are perhaps some of the better pages of text that I have read for quite some time.
Here is a list of some of his better points…
1) The minister does not exist to do the work for the church body, but rather exists to enable it.
“Just as we observe one day of the week as ‘the Lord’s Day,’ not in order that the other six days may be left to the devil but in order that they may all belong to the Lord; so we set apart a man or woman to a ministerial priesthood not in order to take away the priesthood of the whole body but to enable it…the business of leadership is precisely to enable, encourage and sustain the activity of all the members.” (page. 235)
2) He asks the question as to whether the minister exists for that of its members or exists for that of the world. The answer to this question is found only when we understand that the church body itself exists for the sake of the world, not for themselves. When ministers and communities believe and live like they exist for themselves….
“the minister is tempted to ‘look after’ those individuals and families who attend church, and they in turn, expect him to spend his time doing so. The vision of the church as a body which exists for the neighborhood and not just for its members, as the sign of God’s rule over all, is much harder to sustain.”
As ministers, we need to not only be engaged with our church community, but we must be leading the congregation into the world…
“[The minister] is not like a general who sits at headquarters and sends his troops into battle. He goes at their head and takes the brunt of the enemy attack. He enables and encourages them by leading them, not just by telling them. In this picture, the words of Jesus have quite a different force. They all find their meaning in the central keyword, ‘follow me.’”
Finally he writes,
“The task of ministry is to lead the congregation as a whole in a mission to the community as a whole, to claim its whole public life, as well as the personal lives of all its people, for God’s rule. It means equipping all the members of the congregation to understand and fulfill their several roles in this mission through their faithfulness in their daily work. It means training and equipping them to be active followers of Jesus in his assault on the principalities and powers which he disarmed on the cross. And it means sustaining them in bearing the cost of that warfare.