Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't call me Teacher: Accepting our responsibility

We transfer our responsibilities to others

In the evangelical and charismatic churches, we have become very “pastor” or “leader” oriented. If we have a problem, our solution is to find a “pastor”. If our children are not growing with God, then we must need a children’s or youth pastor. If marriages in our church are in trouble, then we need to find a marriage pastor. Some churches even have a facility pastor who cares for the physical church building. Why is it that so often our answer to needs in the church is to find someone else to meet those needs? While God has placed many gifted people in the church, their giftedness does not absolve us of our own personal responsibility to fulfill God’s word and work. For example, maybe the answer to the needs of our children and youth in the church is for us to mentor the youth rather than hiring a “professional” to do it all for us.

In Mathew 25, Jesus describes the end of the ages, when God will judge all mankind. Jesus describes this event as the judging of the sheep and the goats.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’” (Matt 25: 31-36, 41-43)

In this picture of the end of the age, all we see are sheep and goats. There is no clergy or laity, there are not priests or pastors, there are no churches or ministries, just sheep and goats, and their judgment and their eternal destination is determined based solely on their individual participation in the work of God. In that day, it will not be enough to say, “But it was my pastor’s job to handled all the hospital and prison visitation,” or “But our church had a committee focused on how to feed the poor,” or “But we gave money to the missionaries.” In that day, it will not matter what your pastor did, what your church did, or what a ministry you supported did, all that will matter is what you did. We cannot abdicate our personal responsibility to the “professional” clergy; we all must individually participate in the work of God.

So what is the purpose of pastors, teachers, and other ministries in the Body of Christ? Paul wrote that “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) The purpose of these ministries in the Body of Christ is not to do all the work, rather they are to train and equip us to do the work of ministry. You pastor’s job is not to do all the work; it is to train you so you can do the work.

In saying this I am not sounding the call for believers to become more involved in their church, but rather to become more involved in the purposes of God. The sheep and the goats were not judged based on their church involvement but based on their involvement (or lack there of) in the purposes of God. We must realize that we all bear individual responsibility to work the work of God. We cannot delegate our responsibility to someone else, nor can we hire someone else to fulfill our responsibility, it is ours alone to do. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

David Robison

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