How much do you trust your lay-leaders? Or how about, how much do you entrust to them? In Acts 20:28, Paul places the mantle of pastoral leadership squarely on the Ephesian church’s elders when he says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
Paul would never see his beloved co-laborers again, but he was confident that they would be able to stay firmly rooted in the gospel and the teaching (didache) that he has established them in.
And in fact, this church would go on to transform the entire region around it. It became a geyser of missionary sending and church planting – many of the churches named in Revelation would be planted by someone sent from Ephesus! Most of the fruit if this church was sown and harvested long after Paul had left it in the hands of her elders. He trusted them completely and entrusted them with everything.
What are your elders entrusted with and empowered to oversee? What are they equipped to lead? In most of my church experience, elders are incredibly mature, wise, and gifted leaders who are asked to attend consistory meetings, help set policy, make sure the pastor isn’t delving too deeply into fringe theology, and occasionally oversee the search process for a new leader. But for the most part, the ministry and shepherding is left to the “paid professionals.” And most of the time, this system works well enough for all involved.
But, does it even resemble what Paul had in mind when he entrusted the Ephesian elders to “be shepherds of the church of God?” Does such a system challenge gifted leaders to fulfill their own commission “to make disciples of all nations” and to teach them to obey everything Jesus taught?
We started Westside Oaks in 2017 with the conviction that the church is most glorious when discipleship, mission, and leadership are entrusted to ordinary people. In our context, the Westside of Colorado Springs, people are deeply suspicious of institutional forms of Christianity, so it has been a perfect place to experiment with a more Pauline structure of church leadership. Like Paul and his ministry partners, we meet in people’s homes, we entrust nearly all of our ministry to lay-leaders, and we prioritize a church-as-family expression of our life together.
A Different Kind of Church Plant
For 2 years, we have been training up leaders who we have identified as those who will oversee and shepherd our community as it multiplies. We use missional communities, worship gatherings, equipping groups, and affinity groups as vehicles for discipleship and mission, and haven’t relied solely on congregational support, but have utilized alternative income streams to help cover the cost of our life and work within this community. You might lump us in with the either the missional community, or the micro-church, or the family-on-mission movement, but most days it’s hard to pin-point exactly where we fit on the ecclesiological map!
When the Church is Glorious
The church is most glorious when discipleship, mission, and leadership are entrusted to ordinary people, but it is also difficult. Shifting from a staff-lead corporate model to a family of disciples with shared leadership, has been a constant gauntlet of paradigm realignment. Those of us who grew up in staff led churches are regularly repenting our way out of that mindset. Those who grew up outside of the church are constantly re-learning what it means to walk in covenant with other people. It has been frustrating, disorienting, slow, and sometimes is seems like we exist in a constant state of cluttered chaos. And it can be glorious.
When one mom compassionately minsters to another mom in the power of the Spirit, because she gets what it is like to feel alone and overwhelmed, the church is glorious! When a 3rd grader dares to believe that Christ will use her to reveal himself to her peers, so she starts a bible study in her bedroom for her classmates, the church is glorious. When a young couple dedicate their new home to the Lord and begin using it as a beacon of parties, and friendship, and love of their neighbors, in Jesus name, the church is glorious. When people who had assumed that their roll was just to attend church are entrusted with the leadership and shepherding of the church of God, the church is glorious.
Paul reminds us that the church is so very precious to God. He bought it with His own blood. In holy reverence and all humility, I confess that there’s at least as much that we don’t have figured out as we do. Every week I find myself reminding Jesus that this is His church and that I can’t lead it for him (or maybe he reminds me). We haven’t found the “silver bullet,” the one-and-only biblical wineskin, or the true expression of the Acts church in our day. But we have been entrusted with some amazing and ordinary people who are deeply loved by Jesus. And if He entrusted His church to ordinary people, so will we.
Leaders of Leaders Training
I have just returned from another two weeks in Kenya with EAP. I have been serving there for about 10 years. My primary role is Equipping Leaders / Building Teams.
The ministry has been growing and expanding, and for the past two years, I have been giving leadership with Dr. Colette Cozean in a “Leaders of Leaders” (LOL) Program. We identified 18 proven leaders to see if they could develop to be LOL (I know… cute abbreviation). Twelve are completing the program this June.
Last week, we continued our training, and then we met with the two people each of them invited to be mentored by them over the next two years. So, the 12 have now become 38!
Besides a national team, we now have leaders and teams in 12 geographical zones throughout Kenya, working on local projects like water wells, boy’s/girl’s homes, sponsorships, scholarships, medical clinics, laboratories, farming, rescue center, etc. Some of the programs also reach into Tanzania and Uganda.
When we come alongside local churches, leaders, and communities, we are serving “the least of these” with concrete and tangible assistance for health and wellness. We are also seeing the eight indigenous denominations doing evangelism and starting churches. We are committed to serving the whole person.
Seeing, feeling, and hearing the gospel is making a difference in people, villages, a country, and the Kingdom of God!
Consider three things:
1. Join me on a trip to Kenya and see some amazing people and ministries. Get involved!
2. Give personally or as a congregation and be a RCA Mission Partner with EAP.
3. Pray for me and the work of EAP as it celebrates it 25th anniversary this June.
The RCA is really out there! Here are a few connections I had on this trip:
A. I met some pastors and congregational members from the church in South Sudan. They credit RCA missionaries for their knowledge of Jesus Christ.
B. I attended an ordination and Educational Centre dedication at a Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA) in the slums of Nairobi. The church was literally built on a dump…and is being a light set on a hill. They are transforming lives and the community… street by street (It reminded me of Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount which has committed to transform the city…block by block). Three leaders from the Reformed Church in the Netherlands were also present.
C. I was able to visit with Roland Van Es who serves as a missionary, teach at St. Paul’s University.
East Africa Partnership (EAP) is a RCA Mission Partner (https://www.rca.org/east-africa-partnership)
Written by Lynn Ann Huizingh
When I accepted God’s invitation to be Commissioned as Pastor of Discipleship May 6th of 2012, I entered understanding that I am called to be a Disciple maker. That was, and is, my passion to this day.
In June of 2012 I attended a county meeting that would lead me on a path of personal spiritual discovery and revelation. Severe Weather Collaboration was asking the question: “How do we invite churches to open their doors to the homeless community on life threatening winter nights?” I was one representative of five different churches around the table that day. Together, across denominational lines, we gathered to answer that question.
As I write this brief article in March of 2019 I am astounded by all that God has done through this ministry that provides emergency shelter on life threatening winter nights. We are meeting and engaging more than 350 individuals each year and hearing their stories. Gaps in city and county services are being elevated and I find myself becoming more and more of an advocate and a mobilizer on our guests behalf as I meet with leaders in all branches of the local government, leaders in the social service industry and leaders in the Church community.
This was not my dream when I accepted the call to be a Commissioned Pastor in the Reformed Church in America. No training or class equipped me to do and be what I have become as a leader. Instead, I find myself digging harder into Scripture and asking myself these questions:
- How did Jesus build and sustain His identity and relationship with the Father?
- What were His life patterns and habits that allowed Him to sustain the work to which He was called?
- What does it look like to be a follower of Jesus Christ who willingly denies myself, daily takes up my cross and follows after Him?
I am confident in this; I cannot lead where I have not been. I cannot equip others with what I have not practiced. I cannot keep my eyes and my spirit focused on the Kingdom goal unless I constantly seek the face of the One who calls me Daughter and sends me out with His authority and power.
I know that I am serving Him through Severe Weather Shelter Network. Every shelter night I look into the face of Jesus. Sometimes the eyes looking back at me are bleary with alcohol. Sometimes they are bloodshot with the effects of other abused substances. Many times the arms that reach out for a hug have not seen a shower in more than a week. Always, the smile that comes when they hear their name reminds me that each heart longs to be known.
I lead others by taking them with me. I lead by asking them the same questions I ask myself and encouraging them to listen intently for His voice and direction. As we serve together it is an opportunity to encourage, to correct, to remind to whom they are ultimately accountable.
Our key passage, to which we refer often, and on which our ministry training is built, is Matthew 25:34-40. This passage reflects the heart of the Father. Meet first the immediate need as you identify and see it. Welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked. Relationships become possible after that. Care for the sick, visit those in prison. We can only care and visit once we know not just the face, but the name and heart of the one whom God has inscribed on our own hearts.
Again and again I have seen new volunteers grow from those who follow to those who lead others. Isn’t that really what we are all called to be? A sheep who follows the Good shepherd and has other sheep following behind us. I believe the nature of leadership to be one of personal submission and elevation of others. Always pointing to Jesus as the perfect example. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.
Lynn Ann Huizingh is a Commissioned Pastor at Faith Community Church in Littleton, Colorado. She is also the Executive Director of Severe Weather Shelter Network serving in Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties. Lynn Ann is married to Murry Huizingh for 35 years and together they have 3 adult children, a 15 month old grandson and another grandchild on the way.
While we often read and hear stories of the big companies and larger churches in our communities, statistics reflect that the significant majority of businesses (99 percent in fact) and churches are small.
Blessing of being Small
Perhaps there is something to be said for the blessing of being small that our culture often chooses to ignore. For such a time as this, in the midst of a rapidly changing context of church and ministry, I am blessed to serve as a pastor of a relatively small church. The journey of being pastor has been far from easy, yet it has also been a journey filled with blessings that I could never have imagined decades ago—blessings that have helped me celebrate that I am called to lead in a small church on a Big Mission.
Making Disciples who make Disciples
In the fall of 2017, the book Small Church on a Big Mission: Cultivating Missional Discipleship in Smaller Churches was published by 3DM Publishing as a journal of discovery. It chronicles my discovery of who I am as a beloved child of God and reflects the character and competencies that God has been developing in me over the last fifteen-plus years through a variety of ministry experiences. Most importantly, this is a journal of discovery in the call of discipleship and mission that God has placed on my life. This journey of discovery has led me to celebrate the blessings of being small while engaging in the Big Mission of revealing the Kingdom of God as we make disciples who make disciples.
Go Slow to Go Far
If you are looking for a new program that will provide you with a “let’s grow the church fast” strategy, you might as well stop reading. I have come to realize that when it comes to culture change – you have to go slow to go far. In reality, revolutionary cultural change often feels like it is moving at an evolutionary pace.
3 Next Steps
If you are looking for practical principles for shaping your culture toward discipleship and mission that celebrate the bigness of God’s Kingdom, then I invite you to do three things:
- Get some Information – pick up a copy of Small church on a BIG Mission with its focus on Personal Transformation, Practical Realities, and Purposeful Direction.
- Follow someone who is worthy of Imitation – this was the most important step for me as I received coaching, encouragement, and challenge to grow in my character and competency as a disciple-making leader.
- Avoid the temptation toward Innovation – yep, you heard me correctly. Don’t just grab this book and try to overlay it on your context as a program. Instead, like the disciples who journeyed with Jesus – plan to abide and BE during a season of apprenticeship. Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you and tell you when the right time to move forward applying appropriate Innovation as you use these tools and resources of discipleship in your context.
To connect with Jeff Allen, or to learn more about resources for discipleship and being a Small church on a BIG Mission – go to www.smallchurchbigmission.org or email Jeff at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim gets up every morning, grabs his cup of coffee and heads off to his job at Proctor and Gamble. He’s been working on the production line for years and makes just enough money to get by. But when Jim gets home from a long day at Proctor and Gamble his work is not done. Jim has a call to ministry and pastors a local church in a small town. He has people to visit in the hospital, a board meeting to attend and a sermon to prepare. He is a multi-vocational pastor.
The early Apostles and ministers give us great examples of multi-vocational ministry: carpenters, fishermen, tentmakers, and entrepreneurs in the dye and cloth industry, just to name a few. We can learn much from the limited insight we get of Paul as a tentmaker, Peter and a few other disciples as fishermen, Lydia as a local entrepreneur, and even with Jesus as a carpenter/stoneworker/handyman (Gr. tekton). I’m sure they had some of the same challenges we do regarding how to live in the joy of ministry responsibilities and provide for our families at the same time.
As the church in North America continues its steady decline it’s time to get strategic with the next generation who will lead the revival of change, including how to sustain it. The future of a sustainable church in North America needs to look differently than it does now. And it’s time to take a new look at multi-vocational ministry, seeing every sphere as an opportunity to proclaim the good news by bringing the character of Jesus into it, including the workplace. But how can we be strategic in the kind of work we do as bi-vocational people (or even tri-vocational) so that it works symbiotically with our ministry calling and responsibilities? Simultaneously, how can we look for ways to lessen the burden on the local church in order to multiply ministry?
I entered the ministry as a “starving” artist, having run as far away as I could from a call to ministry. Beginning as a domestic missionary, then overseas missionary, leading to teaching and chaplaincy in Christian Schools, which led to church planting, building networks and starting businesses that further the Kingdom mission. Currently, I’m a tri-vocational leader who gets to work on some amazing teams, including:
- Co-Lead Pastor at Christ Community Church in Buena Park, California,
- Mission Catalyst for Gospel Ventures (a Gospel-centered network that works to train planters and churches to plant more churches in North America and around the world)…
The third strand of my multi-vocational call is working with groups to think around Business as Mission (BAM) as a way to lessen the burden on the local church and multiply ministry. I’m currently learning much of this firsthand in two specific contexts:
- The first is as the Strategic Manager of two farming projects in Africa, raising various animals and crops on 25 acres in an effort to sustain an indigenous church planting movement with a goal to plant a church in every major city in Uganda in the next 3 years. I love giving this example because it was made possible through a generous donor who took a chance before this made sense to anyone else. Three years later this two-property farm is self-sustaining, employs 12-15 workers, feeds the community and gives money to advance church planting ministry.
The Global church has had to think creatively on how to be sustainable out of necessity. Most pastors work jobs during the week and shepherd congregations at the same time. Because the Holy Spirit is growing the global Church at such a rapid rate it makes sense to look globally to see how multi-vocational ministry plays a role in such growth.
- The second context is working domestically with B2 (Benefit Twice) Outlet Stores that has a growing presence in Michigan and is expanding nationally. This business began with the Kingdom in mind. They continue to press into the concept of doing business for the purpose of blessing the community, giving a significant portion of their profits to Kingdom endeavors. This is a radical shift in how we see business intersecting with ministry, having a clear intention to give sacrificially, not just with what is leftover. Duane Smith, co-founder of B2 Outlet Stores, attributes their rapid growth in the last 3 years to this radical model.
When we take the multiplication principle we find in Scripture and apply it to the business sphere, we’re seeing amazing things happen. What would it look like if more entrepreneurs would design businesses to bless people in tangible ways while making a profit that can sustain even more ministry?
Throughout my ministry, I’ve always been intrigued by what others would “count” as ministry and what was outside of that designation. A segmented, practical theology between the secular and sacred leads us to think and act within these lines we draw in the sand. And that can lead to limited imagination in how to live our ministry calling in a multi-vocational way. But what if we were more intentional in lessening the burden of the local church and multiplying ministry by blurring the sacred and secular lines as we step into bi/tri-vocational ministry? Perhaps by pursuing multi-vocational ministry for our livelihood like Paul and the other apostles did, it would become the starting point for deeper trust and more creativity in following the Holy Spirit, while sustaining the next generation of the Church.
A number of years ago I was at a retreat for pastors, and one of my mentors started using the language of “Apostolic ministry” and “Prophetic ministry” and “5-Fold ministry”. He was making a compelling argument that in terms of ministry, that much of the Church is missing it. That many of our churches are not living into the fullness of ministry made available to us through the grace of Jesus Christ.
The text is Eph. 4: 1-13. At the end of this section Paul writes:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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.” Eph. 4: 11-13
My friend gave the argument that if the churches’ mission was to drive from New York to Chicago, then we are driving in reverse; or at the very least, we have five gears and we are only utilizing two gears. Jesus has equipped his church with a powerful engine but most of us are only utilizing the “shepherding and the teaching” leaders and ministries, we have three more gears that we can use.
I thought to myself, “If this is true, this would have significant ramifications for the ministry of the Church. If this is true than we are neglecting both leaders and aspects of ministry that Christ intended to be utilized in his church. If we are meant to equip his people, then we are not utilizing all the tools. If we are striving for unity, maturity and fullness in Christ, then we should certainly be using the full array of his leaders and ministries. This was a paradigm shift for sure.”
Yet, at the same time I had some significant hang-ups with this understanding of Ephesians 4. Perhaps my biggest struggle with was my understanding of Apostles and what is known as the “Apostolic Age”. I had assumed that there were only thirteen apostles, Jesus’ original twelve (this includes the addition of Matthias to replace Judas) plus Paul.
I assumed that this number was set because the qualifications to be an Apostle was that they had a personal experience of Christ Jesus, and that he had personally commissioned them as apostles. As these thirteen “sent ones” proclaimed the good news of the Messiah, Christ’s church and His Kingdom spread. As each of the thirteen were either martyred or died, the “Apostolic Age” ended.
How many apostles? Answer: Original 12 – Judas + Matthias + Paul = 13
From this perspective, we shouldn’t expect apostles or apostolic ministries to continue in his church today. The other four leaders and ministries from Ephesians 4 could persist, but not the Apostles and the ministries they represent.
However, in examining the scriptures regarding apostles and the continuation of apostolic ministry, I have come to a vastly different conclusion. I believe that the early church understood apostles in two ways; one as being specific to the original twelve and Paul, and then also in a broader sense, with others as Apostles. And therefore “Apostolic ministry” is not only valid for today, but absolutely crucial.
I have experienced this profound shift in ministry philosophy for three main reasons.
1) The Number of Apostles Recorded In Scripture:
The reality is that there are several more people named as apostles then the 13 noted above. I would say you have some additional folks that are DIRECTLY stated as apostles and some INDIRECTLY stated as apostles. First those clearly stated as apostles:
James – (Not the James of the original twelve, but the brother of Jesus). ‘I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother.’ Gal. 1:19
Barnabas – ‘But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd …’ Acts 14: 14
Epaphroditus – ‘But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger/apostle (apostolos), whom you sent to take care of my needs.’ Phil. 2: 25.
2 Unnamed Brothers –. ‘as for our brothers, they are representatives/apostles (apostolos) of the churches and an honor to Christ. 2 Cor. 8: 23b
Andronicus and Junia: ‘Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Romans 16: 7
Let’s count. If we add these seven folks to the original apostles (plus Paul), that gives us twenty. But I believe scripture adds more, you could say INDIRECTLY.
Apollos: ‘Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos … (vs. 6) … For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession’ 1 Cor. 4: 9
Silas and Timothy: ‘We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.’ 1 Thess. 2: 6
Let’s count. So if we accept these INDIRECT references, which I think the text warrants in every instance, then we must add three more.
How many apostles? Answer: 13 original + 7 direct + 3 indirect = 23.
So, it seems clear that scripture understood apostles both in a specific sense of the original twelve, but also in a wider sense that others were identified as apostles by the early church. Barnabas is a particularly interesting circumstance in that he is identified as being a “teacher or a prophet” in Acts 13 (like Paul), but then identified as an Apostle (as seen above) only after he is “sent out” with Paul.
2) The Test of being an Apostle:
As part of an “Apostolic Age” paradigm, I mentioned that I believed the “test” of an apostle was that they had a personal experience of Christ Jesus. I believe this understanding comes from when Paul is making a defense of his authority:
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
1 Cor. 9: 1-2.
But notice, that Paul doesn’t actually say this. He is arguing for his authority to speak into the Corinthian’s lives, his experience of Jesus is not proof that he is an apostle but another reason they should listen to him.
In fact, Paul gives another “test” for true apostleship.
The things that mark an apostle –signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance. 2 Cor. 12: 12
There are a few different places that the early church had to test individuals who were claiming to be apostles. In the church of Corinth, you had people claiming to be what Paul called “Super-Apostles.” In the earlier letter to the Corinthians, he said he would test these arrogant folks with both a “message test” and a “power test”:
But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 1 Cor. 4: 19-20
And then in the church in Ephesus, we are told in Revelation about those claiming to be apostles:
I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. Rev. 2: 2b
It seems that this true test, as identified in scripture, is yet another argument for both a specific understanding of the apostles and the broader sense of apostles. If the early church understood only the twelve plus Paul as apostles, there would be no need of a test. They would simply say, “Guys, you can’t claim to be apostles, there are only thirteen and you are not one of them.”
3) The Purpose of the 5-Fold Ministry:
I think the final argument is the Ephesians 4 passage itself. We have noticed that the purpose of the 5 leaders and ministries is to “build up” the church, to bring “unity in the faith” and “knowledge” of Christ; the purpose was to bring “maturity”, that the church would attain the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
That is quite a lofty goal and purpose. Would anyone argue that we have arrived at that place yet? Would anyone want to argue that at the end of the so-called “Apostolic Age” (believed to end around 100 A.D.) that the church had arrived? I don’t think so!
Again, this has huge ramifications. If we have neglected at least two (possibly three) of the five ministries that Christ wants to use in growing his church and kingdom, we are on the highway, driving the car in second gear. We better start rethinking the fullness of ministry that Christ has granted us. We better start praying and pressing in for all that Christ has for us.
In the next article, I will look at another perspective that has been a barrier for many to a 5-Fold ministry viewpoint. Specifically Prophetic ministry and did that cease with the Apostolic Age (or when scripture was canonized). And then in a final article, I will give a picture of how our church is starting to live into this ministry shift.
1. Even though Paul uses the exact same Greek word used to designate others as “apostles,” translations use the word “messenger.” I think this represents a biased towards the “Apostolic Age” perspective.
2. Again, the Greek word “apostolos” is used, but translated something different. If you read the verses in context, I think it favors a more straightforward translation.
3. A highly debated text, but the most straightforward reading of the text favors these two as apostles in the broader sense of the word.
4. In the opening verse of 1 Thessalonians, it is stated that Paul, Silas and Timothy, are the authors of the letter. So when Paul (as the primary author) uses the pronoun ‘we’, we can assume he is referring to these three. All three had ministered with Paul in Thessalonica.