One of the most important functions of an equipping church leadership is to clarify how their members can transform their vocations into ministry. We cannot assume that the believer will make this connection. We must therefore get away from the practice of focusing all our preaching on the first steps of the Christian life. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews addresses this issue in Hebrews 6:1-3.
Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this, if God permits (NRSV).
By focusing our teaching and preaching too much on the basic teaching about Christ, we risk reducing Christianity to a generic set of rules that fail to penetrate the culture of our churches and communities. Capacity development requires that we communicate specific expectations and guidelines.
Communicating specific expectations may sound like a contradiction in light of previous posts I have made about the need for autonomy and empowerment. This is one of the great paradoxes of leadership because, rather than a contradiction, a clear vision of expectations is liberating.
Here we have two truths that, when viewed in isolation, seem to contradict one another, yet both are true and necessary. The first of these truths is that people need freedom to make autonomous decisions. Without that freedom, they cannot respond to the direction of the Holy Spirit in their heart. People also need a clear mandate. Without this, they feel like a ship without a rudder. A capacity-developing environment includes both elements.
This means that part of our leadership responsibility is to help people define the vision. For a ministry under the umbrella of the church, this means communicating the specific requirements of church policy.
If, for example, someone feels called to be a part of the finance committee, we must explain what church policy requires. If they feel called to lead a small group, the leadership must make sure the new ministry leader understands the base-line expectations for such a responsibility.
If, on the other hand, this is a ministry that emerges from within the church member and is not under the umbrella of the congregation, then rather than communicating these specific expectations, the leader’s job is to assist as they define their own expectations. We can help them look at their project from perspectives they had not thought about: such as cost, impact on others, time taken away from family, legal requirements, needed training, and so on.
Remember, however, that ministry is not just what occurs within the church. A broader understanding of ministry includes how the believer can work to bring the will of God into the workplace as it is in heaven.
Being a capacity-developing leader means we study the lives of our members, learning the challenges they face at work, and looking for connections between those challenges and the word of God. It may also mean allowing mature Christian men and women to teach others how biblical principles have guided the way they have done something similar. What if your church conducted a six-month series of focus group sessions where Christian managers came together to investigate and discuss how the Bible informs them about representing the kingdom in the workplace? The goal is to provide specific guidance that will help church members see their vocation as ministry and conduct their careers as representatives of the kingdom of God.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.