Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Models for Ministry

Yesterday I wrote about our class for training church members in our Vineyard ministry "model." Let me explain more of what I meant by that.

Within the boundaries of orthodox Christianity, there is a lot of freedom for diversity in practices and methods. Different denominations and traditions have developed practices that reflect their defining theological systems, values and core principles. There may be multiple ways to do various Biblical functions that all fit within Biblical boundaries. Not everyone preaches the same way, runs a communion service the same way, baptizes the same way, evangelizes the same way, etc. But if you are going to preach, pray, teach or otherwise minister in a particular communion, you should follow that communion's philosophy and models - or go to another communion where you are more in agreement on philosophy and practice. Importing alien ministry models can cause disruption and conflict that help no one.

I like to use and example from the world of professional football. There are rules that the entire NFL must live by and play under, the ones enforced by the officials and referees. Within each team organization, however, there is a coaching staff which has a particular offensive and defensive philosophy that fits under those rules. Some teams like to run, and use infrequent passes to open up the running game. Some like to pass, and run just enough to keep the defense honest. Some mix short passes and ground plays. But on any given team, that coach's football model stands no matter what other teams may due with their freedom within the rules. If you are a quarterback who wants to throw long bombs, but you've joined a team that runs a lot, you have to adapt to the coach's decision in order to be a team player. If you are a running back on a passing team, you may have to improve your pass blocking skills and forbear the glory of long ground gains for the good of the team.

So, in our "Ministry Class" we explain to our folks that there are many ways of doing prayer ministry within the Body of Christ. In our communion, on our team, we have developed models and procedures that grow out of our core values and theology. Therefore, if you want to participate in our ministry activities, you should learn our model. Models and practices learned in other Churches may not be compatible here.

But we also emphasize, to take the football analogy further, that part of our model is "everybody gets to play." We do not believe in Christians sitting on the bench or as mere spectators in the stands. Every believer has a place on the team, on the field and in the game. And we will train you and coach you so you can join the game.

More on this tomorrow.