… HELLO PASTOR ONE-ANOTHER

Goodbye Pastor Phil, hello Pastor One-Another (some more thoughts on the function of the pastor)

Considering the prominent place of the Pastor in the makeup of the modern local church scene (though dating back to Constantine), it is surprising how little the New Testament has to say about such an individual. Practically nothing. The word ‘pastor’ is used once and it is in fact almost impossible to find a clear reference in the New Testament to a local church led by one man.

Mind you, it is also hard to find a local church that looks anything like what we’ve come to know as a local church today – a distinctively named assembly (such as Keppel Coast Christian Fellowship) with its own vision, building and man in charge.

Rather what we find are churches that embrace the whole city, with no separately owned ‘church’ buildings and a plural eldership belonging to all.

And a style of pastoring that did not seem to centre around any special individual but was spead out between ‘one-another’.

Not that the early church lacked leaders but there is very little exhortation in any of the epistles for believers go seek out a leader for advise, counselling, healing or encouragement. Rather the exhortation is to practise this stuff on ‘one-another’. Over 60 times this (or a similar) expression is used in the apostolic letters.

Here is an example of the ‘one-anothers’.

  • live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
  • care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
  • speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)
  • submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
  • forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
  • teach one another (Col. 3:16)
  • wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)
  • love one another. (John 13:34)
  • be devoted to one another … Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  • stop passing judgment on one another. (Romans 14:13)
  • instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
  • agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10)
  • be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
  • teach and admonish one another  Colossians 3:16)
  • encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • encourage one another daily, (Hebrews 3:13)
  • consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
  • confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16)
  • offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  • clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
  • have fellowship with one another  (1 John 1:7)

Note that the apostles felt that the saints were quite competent to teach and instruct each other, correct each other, hear each other’s confessions, pray for their healing,  encourage each other, build each other up etc etc. They were well equipped to pastor one another.

John, in facts, encouraged them to believe that each of them had ‘an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.’ (1 John 2:20) If this is so and such a hidden and under-used anointing exists in the body of Christ then the task of the ‘fivefold ministries’ is surely to encourage its release.

Considering the huge burn-out rate that exists is in traditional pastoral ministry perhaps those in ministry would do a great service, both to themselves and to the local body they serve, by

  1. encouraging people to believe that they don’t need ‘the Pastor’  as much as they think they do
  2. foster the kind of intimate ekklessia where people can actively practise the ‘one-anothers’.
  3. actively step back from ‘doing the stuff’ themselves and let the Holy Spirit bring out the aforesaid anointing among the saints.

I suspect that the result of this would be to release  leaders to spend more time seeking each other out , seeking the Lord together and exploring ways to advance the Kingdom within the city (Acts13).

In order for that to happen perhaps the great need of the local church is not another Pastor Some-One but the release of Pastor One-Another.

Advertisements

THREE APOSTLES TO THE PHILIPPINES

I’ve just returned from one of the most significant trips that I have had to the Philippines. We (myself, my wife Esther and my good friend Carl Porter) went there to serve some churches with whom we had a relationship – and in the process finished up serving three apostles, three good Filipino men that Christ has given as gifts to the church.

FELIX DE RAMOS

One of them was Felix de Ramos. Felix has been serving as a father in the Philippines for the past 15 years and more, travelling around the country building up pastors and serving the Filipino church. He is one of the humblest, most unassuming men I know. His home church, Peace International Christian Church, sounds grand but meets in the basement of a house in Quezon City, Manila, hidden from view yet immensley influential.

Which is what true apostles are all about. Like the bones of the body or the foundations of the building they carry weight and give strength and shape but are hidden. It’s the flesh that carries the life and is seen. Felix, to my mind, embodies that principle and is a gift to the church.

LHOY EDANIOL

Lhoy and Venus EdaniolLhoy I’ve introduced in the previous post. He met me with tears at Felix’s church and we proceeded to Sapang Palay to meet the two churches that he was fathering in San Jose del Monte, a significant city in the hills above Manila. Five years ago God restored a very broken Lhoy back into ministry and gathered again the scattered flock that he had left – and added another battered flock to him as well. By the time we arrived Lhoy, with the enthusiastic help of his wife Venus,  had formed them into a couple of vibrant churches with equally enthusiastic workers reaching out among the poor and planting home based churches among them.

Part of the reason I went was to check that he had put into place some protections for himself and his family. Church planting is hard work in the Philippines, especially under old paradigms of ministry. I left him, confident that the safeguards are in place (before I came he had submitted himself to an older pastor in the area who loved him)  and confident also that God had restored him from the wilderness to be a key man in the city. For he carries an apostolic heart for the city, for the churches of the city and for the many other pastors who have fallen under the weight of ministry. God is making him a father beyond his local congregations. And I’m looking forward to being part of that process, raising some support back here in Yeppoon and dropping in now and then to strengthen him in a great work.

MOLONG NACUA

Then there was Molong.  But he definately requires a separate post … stay tuned.

IN DEFENCE OF APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

This is a comment that I made the other day on the Simple Church Journal, a useful site that I came across recently. It was in support of an excellent piece by  John Marcus in defense of the need to honour and restore the vital ministries of the apostle and prophet in the house church/simple church scene, where there sometimes seems to be a fear of any kind of leadership other than the leadership of the Holy Spirit. 

While I so agree that we must get away from the adulation of men, the “I am of Paul…Cephas…Apollos” syndrome that Paul corrected the Corinthians on, we also must avoid the “I am of Christ” group that he also rebuked. It sounds very spiritual to take that position but I’m not sure that Jesus gave us such a purist option.

After all “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” (Eph 4:11) Paul’s great balancing revelation however is that Christ gave these ministries, not to gather people unto themselves but “to prepare God’s PEOPLE for works of service”, to release that great ‘people movement’  that was birthed by the Spirit to go and fullfill their true calling. But I contend that it is not going to happen just by us sitting in in our living rooms and ‘allowing the Holy Spirit to lead rather than men’, as if the Spirit is restricted and cannot lead through men.

Truth is there has never been a move of God where there was not key men or women in some leading role, whether it be a Moses, a Wesley, a Zinzendorf, an Edwards or whoever. These leaders, although they were rarely acknowledged as such, were actually apostles and prophets, men who carried a bigger picture than just the local fellowship. This is their foundation laying function; to establish Christ, not just in the individual lives of gathered believers house to house, but as the Head of God’s Government over the nations, person by person, street by street, city by city.

It concerns me for instance when I hear homechurches refer to themselves as local churches when Paul, with the bigger picture, seemed to see all the saints in a local area as the local church, encompassing a variety of ways of meeting but with an eldership over the whole town that carried a much bigger vision than the smaller ‘house to house’ gatherings, vital as they were. I believe that that is God’s bigger intention and that only the restoration of true servant apostles and prophets can take us into that fuller expression of Christ.

I’m passionate about home church/simple church but I tend to believe that until we welcome the restoration of apostles and prophets among us we will finish up where we’ve come from, “of Paul… of Apollos… of Cephas” with an elitist and marginialised group maintaining that they are “of Christ”.