We have been married so long we are on our third bottle of Worcestershire Sauce! We just had our 37th anniversary and returned to the site of our honey-moon. On that occasion I had bought my bride a delicate necklace with a butterfly ornament. Often since I have given her butterflies of varying types and this particular trip I found another. I think men should give gifts to their bride.
Jesus sets us an example of this. As he ascended he gave gifts to the Church, his Bride. He gave “some to be Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists and some Pastors and Teachers.” He adorned his Bride with these gifts so she would beautifully reflect the glory of Christ himself.
Sometimes, though, it is difficult to discern these gifts. The “Pastor” has become the favourite, of these gifts, and other gifts seem to languish. This is a tragedy of the modern church. We have exalted one gift and eschewed the others. The result is that Bride is not fully adorned and unable to fully reflect his glory.
Organizationally the church has made pastoral ministry the preeminent recognized ministry. This ignores the gifts that Christ himself gave to his bride. Alan Hirsch advocates for a return to an ‘ APEST’ model of church leadership which recognizes: Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic, Shepherding and Teaching gifts. It is difficult for a church that has over many years developed a polity that is biased toward the pastoral, to adapt. Our church is never very nimble at change let alone change this radical (radical meaning back to the root).
Threshold is a community of Evangelists. We are used to ‘plugging away’ with only the most tepid of partnership with the church at large. I am certain that those with gifts other than the Shepherding gifts also feel the ennui of the Church. The lack of enthusiasm or encouragement is a mark of an unhealthy reliance on one gift over and above the rest.
The real problem is that only those with sway within the polity of the church can bring about any change and these folks are the pastors. Shepherds by nature are cautious folk. A competent shepherd’s primary concern is the safety and care of the sheep. Entrepreneurs propose risks. Advocates for justice make us uncomfortable. Concern for those outside the fold distracts from concern for those ‘inside.’
Hirsch suggests a leadership that represents each gift. A proposed activity would be debated from each perspective. The shepherd would often be the much needed voice of caution. The welfare of the sheep is a priority concern but the voice of caution ought not to drown out the voices of those with a view to extending the rule and reign of the Kingdom.
Over the years I have come to discover I even read the Bible differently than my pastoral friends. As we share ‘what we got out of’ a certain passage, I often share a perspective that is outward focussed, toward a lost and hurting world, while my friends are moved in an entirely different direction. Neither is right or wrong but together we get a more wholesome understanding of what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
The temptation has been for those who express other than pastoral gifts, to move into parachurch roles. I am not convinced this is healthy but it is better than being silent. A better way would be to move in partnership with the shepherds. The old saying goes “It takes two to tango.” A call to APEST leadership demands cooperation from both, the venturesome APEs and the more cautious Shepherds and Teachers.