Are you a Gospel worker?
One of the important legacies of August's Driscolisation of Sydney Anglicanism is the way it has helped us have a broader view of the possibilities for gospel service. Driscoll's "Prophet, Priest and King' allegory has helpfully pushed us to recognise that God has not made a one-size-fits-all role for people passionate about Word ministry. Instead, to quote Archie Poulos' analysis from this website,
"Prophets do the preaching and teaching, priests look after people (for example, hospital visits), and kings are concerned with systems, policies, procedures, real estate and the like."
In response to this call, Ben Pfahlert, National Director of the Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) produced a terrific document entitled "101 Gospel Jobs', which was distributed at MTS Challenge Conferences in September. Among these gospel jobs are included the roles of graphic design, Christian bookshop manager, fundraiser, and songwriter.
This document offers exciting possibilities. Many people who feel uncomfortable preaching in front of a crowd can now find value in their important behind-the-scenes roles, and can wear the badge of "gospel worker' alongside the ranks of the Revs.
Yet, we must take care to ensure that this move towards an even-broader diaconate does not lead us to lose focus upon the vital roles within the church. Whilst it is essential to remember that all gospel workers are equal in the sight of God, some have specific roles that are critical for building his body (Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Corinthians 14:1).
In reflecting upon this discussion, I have come up with four separate categories to describe the different Word ministry roles. These are patrons, partners, preachers and pastors.
1. Word Ministry Patrons
A Word Ministry Patron is someone who provides vital support for Word ministry. They are not usually paid for their ministry, but volunteer their time over and above their full-time job. This includes people who teach Scripture classes voluntarily, who sit on a board of a Christian organisation, who give generously from the surplus they receive from their paid job, and so forth. They will sacrifice the world's standard of living out of a desire to see the Word proclaimed. They are volunteers who love Word ministry and give generously of their time and money to support it.
2. Word Ministry Partners
A Word Ministry Partner is someone who works for a Word ministry organisation, and is paid less than the commercial rate for their labours. They undertake vital roles that enable the Word ministry to occur. They will also speak the Word themselves at any opportunity. Types of jobs in this category include graphic designers, catering managers, database programmers, outdoor recreation trainers and accountants. These women and men sacrifice the status and salary of the commercial world in order to perform vital functions in Word ministry.
3. Word Ministry Preacher
A Word Ministry Preacher is someone whose primary role is to speak the Word. This includes itinerant evangelists, outdoor ministers, SRE teachers, prison chaplains, and even Christian comedians. Whilst they are devoted to preaching the gospel, they are not specifically responsible for pastoral oversight. However, as they preach the Word, it is natural that God will gather people around them as a church.
4. Word Ministry Pastors
A Word Ministry Pastor is someone who has the responsibility for caring for a group of Christians. By definition, they will also be a Word Ministry Speaker, since the role of teacher cannot be separated from the role of pastor. They may be the Senior Minister of a church, a youth minister, or a church planter.
It is a wonderful thing to contemplate the shape of all-member-ministry. Even though the body of Christ is a unit, it is made up of many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12). Furthermore, we must rejoice in the fact that the successful functioning of the body relies on diversity. As God says in 1 Corinthians 12:17-18,
"If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."
Notwithstanding, it is vital that we give priority to the actual speaking of the Word of God. If an army had an excellent team of cooks, mechanics, truck drivers, and medics, but no soldiers, then it would cease to be an army. Likewise, if our church has excellent administration, fundraising, graphic design and bookstalls but no people speaking the Word, then it would cease to be a church.
At Youthworks Camping we have an exceptional team of people in Word ministry. Our food is tasty and satisfying; our outdoor activities are safe, fun and challenging; our administration team is friendly and efficient; our maintenance crew are skilled and tireless. All of our staff are passionate about Word ministry, and whenever they get a chance, they will speak the Gospel to anyone who sets foot in our conference centres. However, these ministers do their work so that our team of specialist outdoor ministers can preach the Word to more than 20,000 youth, children and families every year. Without the preachers and pastors, the partners and patrons labour in vain.
Jodie McNeill is the Executive Director of Youthworks’ Camping and Conferencing