ONE MAN MINISTRY
By David Pryor; IMissionary to Paraguay, S.A.
Globally, 2 billion people claim to be Christians (www.adherents.com). But, if these numbers are accurate, why don’t we see them impacting the world for Christ? Considering the evidence, or rather lack of it, it seems Today’s Christianity has a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5).
What the world needs instead is New Testament Christianity. New Testament Christianity turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6), caused Christians to be afraid to do wrong (Acts 5:11), and even caused lost people to extol the lives of Christians (Acts 5:13). Where’s all that in Today’s Christianity?
New Testament Christianity is not based on the reasoning or assumptions of man. Instead, it’s based on something far superior: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:20) It’s not our reasoning or our methods that prevail, it’s the Word of God that prevails!
Recorded in Acts 17:11-12, we have the tremendous testimony of the people of Berea
“…they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed;”
No doubt Paul’s teaching challenged the assumptions the Bereans based their lives upon. However, when they found their assumptions were in error, they were willing to replace them with God’s truth.
As a husband, father, and missionary, I want to lay aside every assumption I may have, and instead fully know and follow God’s truth. I want to see the Word of God prevail in my life, family and ministry!
This is the theme behind these articles entitled Searching the Scriptures. Taking on a Berean attitude, we will be challenging some of the assumptions we base our lives upon by comparing them to Scripture. My prayer is that these articles will encourage you to let the Word of God prevail in your life, as well.
David Pryor, Missionary
“Church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That's a recipe for failure.”
- George Barna, President, Barna Research Group
With this kind of pressure on pastors, it’s no surprise that so many of them are weary, discouraged and frustrated in their ministry. Many have even “burned out” trying to fulfill all the expectations of their congregation, and have quit.
Should this situation be viewed simply as one of the “sacrifices” that go with the “job”, or is it a symptom of a deeper, underlying problem?
In A Profile of Protestant Pastors in Anticipation of ‘Pastor Appreciation Month’, a survey published on September 25, 2001 by the Barna Research Group, Ventura, CA (www.barna.org), Mr. Barna summarizes the typical one-man ministry:
“Most pastors work long hours, are constantly on-call, often sacrifice time with family to tend to congregational crises, carry long-term debt from the cost of seminary and receive below-average compensation in return for performing a difficult job. Trained in theology, they are expected to master leadership, politics, finance, management, psychology and conflict resolution.”
That’s quite a load for one man. Yet, most of us assume that having only one pastor over a church is correct and Biblical. We take for granted that one-man ministry is the only way to run a church.
But that one man, the pastor, is often overworked and overwhelmed. Is it really God’s will for pastors to be so heavily burdened? Or, are we overlooking some vital factor about the operation of the Lord’s church?
As we ponder these questions, let’s look at some of situations we find in churches today.
Effectiveness – Even at its best, most one-man ministry falls far short in effectiveness. For example, there is always the danger that people will follow the man and not the Master. Accepting the pastor’s word as authoritative, church-goers don’t search the Scriptures for themselves (2 Tim. 2:15). This makes for weak, vulnerable Christians that cannot discern error.
In addition, when the pastor does the majority of the ministry in a church, the God-given gifts of the members are not properly utilized (1 Cor. ch. 12). This makes for lazy Christians who look to their salaried pastor to do all the work.
Extremes – By its very nature, one-man ministry lacks accountability. Because of this, we often see one of two extremes being exhibited.
At one end of the spectrum, a pastor may become a dictator whose authority can never be questioned. The church is ruled by his decree. At the other end of the spectrum, a pastor may be relegated to the role of a simple administrator who answers to a bureaucracy. The church is ruled by committees.
In addition, wherever extremism exists, error has an easier time entering the church. At one extreme, error is possible because the pastor is accountable to no one. His teaching and preaching are not to be questioned. After all, he is the “Man of God” and holds a special position.
At the other extreme, error is possible because the pastor is accountable to everyone. His teaching and preaching are compromised in order not to offend anyone. After all, he is their “Minister” and must meet their perceived needs.
Most of us are quite familiar with these problems associated with one-man ministry. Yet, we continue to assume that it’s the only way of doing things. We simply accept the many problems as unavoidable.
Churches in the New Testament
However, when we compare the Biblical record of churches in the New Testament with churches today, we find a stark contrast. Let’s look at some of the ways they are different concerning this issue of one-man ministry.
Everyone – The New Testament nowhere indicates that those leading a church did all the work in that church. To the contrary, 1 Corinthians chapter 12 clearly teaches that every member of the body of Christ has a specific function to fulfill. There are no unnecessary members in the local church.
A church is supposed to be a living organism that’s growing. But most churches today are not truly growing. Granted, some are adding members, but typically those members are not growing in spiritual maturity. How can such a statement be justified? By looking at the results of churches today compared to those of churches in the New Testament.
After Pentecost, when 3,000 people were added to the church in a single day, we continue to see new believers added daily to the church (Acts 2:41-47). Why? Because the church’s members “continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine”. These people were growing spiritually. The evidence of their changed lives drew many more people to the Lord. Where’s that in churches today?
Elders – What about those who were leading the churches in the New Testament? Did each church have only one pastor as we see in the one-man ministry of churches today? A quick Bible concordance search reveals some very interesting facts.
The word “pastor” (singular) appears nowhere in the New Testament. What’s more, it appears as “pastors” (plural) only once, in Eph. 4:11: “And he [Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”
The word elders, however, appears often in reference to leadership in the church. Here are two examples:
· “And when they [Paul & Barnabas] had ordained them elders (plural) in every church (singular), and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” – Acts 14:23
· “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders (plural) in every city (singular), as I had appointed thee:” – 1 Timothy 1:5
With a simple search of the Scriptures it’s quite clear that in the New Testament there were several elders leading a church instead of only one pastor. Even in the first church at Jerusalem we see the apostles and elders (both plural) leading the church (Acts ch. 15).
It appears that a plurality of elders, who are all equal in importance, creates accountability to one another that guards against extremism and helps keep doctrine pure.
Pointing out that Scripture does not support the idea of one-man ministry is almost “heresy” to some. But, the truth is this idea of one-man ministry is built on assumptions, and not on the truth of Scripture.
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