Swiss Army Ministers

I am still processing a lot of the ideas, information and inspiration that I received from the conference this week. (Did you notice the alliteration? I am a Baptist minister who trained at Spurgeon’s College!).

[brings thought process back to the matter in hand] Ahem.

When I trained at Spurgeon’s College (note joined up link) I was trained as a Swiss Army Minister. That is a Minister who is able and expected to fulfil all the roles needed for being a Minister in a church. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Most churches need their Ministers to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades and master of at least one.

But I was struck at the conference by the thought that Paul’s five-fold description of ministry in Ephesians 4 from verse 11…

It was [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,    12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

… is Swiss Army Ministry in many churches. The Minister is expected to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. This places an incredible burden and responsibility on her or him, and indeed probably places unrealistic expectations on her or him. Paul was speaking of different people being called to those roles, not ONE person fulfilling all those roles. Yes, there will be aspects of all of the roles that will be fulfilled by a Minister, but can we really be omnicompetent? I know I am not (even if I sometimes delude myself that I am or start to believe my ego).

In churches of any size that is difficult to do. In larger churches it is impossible for one person to fulfil all of those roles adequately. This is why larger churches need teams of people that complement each other (and hopefully compliment each other too). This is why churches that are not larger need to make sure that the roles are being fulfilled by different people within the church and not expect their Minister to do them all.

I can remember at Spurgeon’s College being asked what my personal mission statement is. I said that it was to do myself out of a job. My naive ambition was so to equip my church that they did not need me any more! As I look back on 17 years of being a Minister I realise that more often than not I have tried to be a Swiss Army Minister and in the attempt or in the projection of being such a person I can disable others from fulfilling their Ministry.

I am in the process of trying to explore the five-fold ministry and consider which of them is my primary gift. That is NOT to say that the others are less important. What it does mean is that I need to work harder on the others to ensure that other people are released, encouraged and trained to use theirs so that instead of a Swiss Army Minister we have a whole toolkit of ministers (aka the Church).

And let’s never forget the purpose of ministry – “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

So what are you?

Corporal Jones was assigned to the military induction center, where he advised new recruits about their government benefits, especially their insurance.

It wasn’t long before Captain Smith noticed that Corporal Jones had almost a 100% record for insurance sales, which had never happened before. Rather than ask about this, the Captain stood in the back of the room and listened to Jones’s sales pitch.

Jones explained the basics of the Insurance to the new recruits, and then said: “If you have Insurance and go into battle and are killed, the government has to pay £200,000 to your beneficiaries. If you don’t have insurance, and you go into battle and get killed, the government only has to pay a maximum of £6000.”

“Now,” he concluded, “which bunch do you think they are going to send into battle first?”

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One response to “Swiss Army Ministers”

  1. I often catch myself thinking of 5-fold (or however many you count) ministry being about leadership as in a leadership team.

    Hmmm… does that suggests 5’ish people can be the swiss army knife for the church in our culture? It gets beyond one trying to be a multi-tool but my obsession with formalising leadership as a church minister/manger has just let 4 more in with me to my thing. Perhaps it’s also about giving away the tool as it belongs to the body and for me that means not overly reading Ephesians 4 through a leadership lens.

    B.t.w. is the stone remover for horses hooves the apostles? I’ve always been baffled with what to do with that blade as a ‘good’ Baptist…

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