For some years I have been investigating how to further enhance the competency of the clergy who graduate from Moore College. This has involved exploring how we perceive ourselves. After hundreds of interviews, it is exciting to report that at the heart of our identity is the desire for the glory of the Lord to cover the earth as the waters cover the seas (Hab 2:14)—that is, being an evangelical. Additionally, the core business of clergy is to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)—that is, being Reformed—and to be an example of the life of faith (1 Cor 11:1)—being a Christian. What drives our clergy can be summed up in the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:9-10
God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
So, what else could possibly be needed, since these are the essential roles of gospel ministry?
In a world that is constantly changing, with new challenges to Christians and churches emerging every day, the research showed that there are seven other identifiable roles that need to be undertaken for a ministry to flourish. This helps our ministers know how to navigate competing issues, and what to focus on in a tumultuous world. The roles are about competency and not character and conviction, and since that is the case, they can easily be overlooked. It is not the minister’s task to do them all, but it is their responsibility to ensure they are all conducted well. Evidence exists that no matter how good performance in the other roles is, under-development in one role will affect the whole functioning of the ministry. The roles are:
- Innovator: implementing new and better ways of conducting ministry
- Discipler: assisting members to perform better in their responsibilities and helping them become a disciple making disciple
- Shepherd: concern that the flock and individuals are steered away from danger and toward ‘green pasture’
- Steward: optimising the resources entrusted to the ministry
- Guardian: setting standards and holding ministries accountable to those standards
- Networker: working with other churches and groups so that each may have a win-win, and therefore provide even more resources for gospel ministry
- Integrator: knowing yourself and your setting so that you can make wise tactical choices about which roles to employ at the present time
Because our prayer is to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ, we sometimes don’t focus attention on developing some of these roles—especially those that don’t capture thoughts! This is especially the case with the networker, integrator, steward, and guardian roles.
But God has made his church both an organism and an organisation, both an institution and a movement. Taking thoughts captive requires structures that work well (many will know the image of the trellis and the vine). For the gospel’s sake, we need to assist our churches in developing effectiveness in these roles. And that is not just the task of our ministry leaders. Each of us should ask ‘what can I contribute to make this happen?’
In recognition of the need to build our effectiveness across all roles while remaining true to our gospel identity, Moore College established the Centre for Ministry Development (CMD) to provide churches and clergy with personalised assistance in theologically shaped, evidence based best practice. An often-heard comment made by clergy at CMD is that they love Jesus and want to see Him glorified in the lives of people, and because of these convictions are given positions that they haven’t yet developed the skills for. The danger is that in scrambling to build competency, the gospel focus can be inadvertently lost. It has been an honour to see clergy being given input on new skills to become competent in roles while remaining gospel focused.
All of this produces another blessing. As our churches function more effectively, we need fewer resources than we once did. This in turn frees up people to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Becoming more competent in our roles at home enables more people to take the message of Christ everywhere.
Our hearts should be filled with thankfulness that what drives our churches are these gospel convictions, for without them churches will be useless and even dangerous. We praise the Lord for His kindness in giving us our legacy of a Reformed evangelical heritage. But we also need to keep working on all that God has given us to steward, as we serve the Lord and His people effectively.