Yesterday I had a brother write in with questions about offices, ordination, and titles because of my article about how we embraced shepherds as a house church network. And it deserves a better response than I can give today.
The problem when we start talking about any kind of ministry is our heads have been clouded with hundreds of years of historical context that tell us a ministry is a position of privilege. Ministers are the known, the great, the ones with clout in our eyes.
But Jesus has a much different definition of ministry than we do. In fact, in the Greek that the New Testament was written in, a ministry was a position of service. Some uses of the word minister refer to someone who serves at a cost to themselves.
Nowhere is this more evident for me than in Jesus’ lesson to the disciples in the upper room in John 13. Jesus gives the disciples and us an example to follow by getting down on the floor and washing the filthy feet of those in the room. This was a job reserved for a lowly servant. And then he says this:
After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.
Have you ever washed someones feet? It’s not a glorious process, even today, where at least in the West our streets are much cleaner. It’s humbling, both to wash feet and to have your feet washed. And if Jesus calls us to any kind of ministry (re: service) it’s this. To humble ourselves and get lower than others and do what no one else would be willing to do.
Hundreds of years of church history has taught us that ministry is being the smartest man in the room, having the most honor, or being paid to be spiritual. But at it’s core, ministry is service, humbling service, in the same style that our Master modeled for us. Until we get that idea right in our heads, our hearts, and our spirits, all ministry will be wrong, whether it is titled or not.
We’ve been talking a lot in our house church about what the future looks like. What does it mean to be a church made up of more than one house church? What does leadership look like in an environment like this?
“Brian McGaffigan writes,
The job of facilitator/change agent was described by Ifor Ffowcs-Williams when he asked the question: ‘Would you like a job that offers no formal authority; a high degree of uncertainty; no regular hours; and you will need to earn respect from skeptics; be proactive when the limelight fades; work with energy drainers; lead from behind – no ego tripping. The upside of the job is that you can break patterns; cross boundaries; build bridges across your community; be a hero finder uncovering talent; make things happen through others; influence people in and beyond the cluster; satisfy your hunger for Action; and make a dent in the universe?'”
Obviously there are a lot of character qualifications and Kingdom mandates left out of this description. But if you marry the kind of person Scripture says should lead with these characteristics, I think you get a much clearer picture of what Kingdom leaders look like.
What about you? What would you add to this list? How is this different than leaders you see in the world?