I. The Benefits of a Philosophy of Ministry.
Without a philosophy of ministry drawn from non-negotiable biblical principles, it is impossible to have unity of direction. A philosophy of ministry defines both why the church does what it does, and it defines what the church is to do.
The investigation of Scripture yields explicit teaching regarding implicit methodologies of ministry.[i] “Scripture is the very foundation upon which the church is built and comprises not only the content of the message that the church proclaims but also the methods by which the church operates.”[ii]
As a consequence of the above, a biblical philosophy of ministry is not merely a suggested set of pragmatic guidelines, but a Scriptural mandate on how the church should function.[iii] As such, the purpose of the church is the same for everybody. It is a blueprint of what God wants you to do and how to do it.
A biblical philosophy of ministry is necessary in order to be efficient. With limited time, energy and resources, it is incumbent upon God’s people to clearly understand God’s purpose. Without a lucid plan drawn from Scripture, human nature is such that it will pursue personal purposes instead of God’s purpose.[iv]
Only by delineating God’s unquestioned goal can the church pursue that purpose with all its strength. When the church articulates is philosophic foundations, it can determine the scope of its ministry and it can continually evaluate its corporate ministry efforts. Driving toward a main purpose keeps the church “on task” so that its resources are not diluted.
An established philosophy of ministry allows the church to evaluate its ministry in light of well thought out biblical criteria rather than on the basis of a program’s popularity.[v]
With a philosophical foundation, the church will be better able to keep its ministry balanced and focused upon essentials. Each aspect of ministry will more easily be defined in relation to the whole.
A firmly established philosophy of ministry regularly articulated by the leadership “filters down” through the rest of the flock to form a consistent approach to ministry. As a result of such clear articulation to each member, there will be a very high potential for mobilizing a greater proportion of the flock.
A church that can articulate its philosophic foundations will have a solid criterion for judging the relative merits of a prospective ministry. Churches without a biblical philosophy of ministry tend to be “program driven.” In that situation, goals will precipitate toward pleasing people instead of being God-centered. Felt needs, social oriented ideas, and superficial views of success will tend to shape ministry programs where God’s purpose and plan are not articulated.
A correct biblical foundation provides the church with a standard that allows her to purposefully choose to cooperate, or not cooperate with other churches and parachurch ministries.[vi]
II. The Purpose of the Local Church.
The Church is repeatedly called the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23). The Church was born in the eternal purpose of God. In Ephesians 3, it is evident that God planned and purposed the Church throughout eternity, but He did not reveal it until this age.[vii]
In essence, the Church is the only divinely organized society among men. It was instituted for a purpose by Christ. Christ gave it its laws and an economy of methods and order by which to accomplish its sacred mission.[viii]
The Church exists in order to be a worshipping community. Her purpose is to glorify God by worship and by godly living. The glory of God is the Church’s first duty and is foundational to all other purposes (Rom 15:6, 9; Eph 1:5-18).
The ultimate purpose of the Church is the worship of the One who called it into being. True worship can only take place as one is in the realm of the Spirit. In that realm, one is vitalized and motivated to true worship. Worship in Spirit is also worship in truth. True worship only takes place in Christ. In Him, one is in the supernatural life of the Spirit and in the truth.[ix]
John 4:19-24 is a paramount text in our understanding of true new covenant worship. In that passage Christ predicted that a new order of worship would be instituted by God in which the OT pattern would be replaced. The NT introduces worship in Christ which does not prescribe a specific format. NT worship has no holy place. It has no sacrificial system (“sacrifices” are all now spiritual – 1 Pet 2:5: Rom 12:1, 2; Heb 13:15, 16). A select priesthood has now been replaced with the priesthood of every believer (1 Pet 2:5; Rev 1:6).[x]
The Church is to ascribe worth to God. The redeemed community glorifies God not only in its acts of worship but also in its mere existence (Eph 1:3-14). The Church’s very life and existence are a function of the exercise of God’s mighty attributes (2 Pet 1:1-4). The community of saints can thus use their own spiritual life and conversion as “exhibit A” of God’s excellencies (1 Pet 2:9, 10).[xi]
Worship services in the NT include the following: The Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11: 17-34), The Edification Service (1 Cor 14:1ff.), The Baptismal Service, The Prayer Meeting (Acts 13:2, 3), The Disciplining Service (1 Cor 5:1ff.).[xii]
The Church exists in order to be a to be a repository of divine truth (1 Tim 3:15). The Scriptures teach that believers adhered to a definite doctrinal standard (Acts 2:42; Eph 4:20). They were to guard the truth (2 Tim 1:13, 14). They were to contend for the truth (Jude 3). They were to systematically teach the truth (Tit 1:9; 2:1).
The Church exists in order to be a light to the world through evangelism (Matt 5:13-16; 28:19-20; Tit 2:11-15). The ultimate goal of all ministry is to reach others for Christ to the glory of God. Believers’ lives are to be an evangelistic witness – a light to a dark and perverse generation (Phil 2:15). Our witness is to be through our lives and through our words (1 Pet 3:15). Missions entails a worldwide view of evangelism.[xiii]
There is no excuse for a local church neglecting its “own Jerusalem.” The field is the world, but the world begins in our own backyard, at work, and across the street. Corporate evangelism is basic to personal evangelism. Personal evangelism takes on an unusual significance when a local body of mature believers makes an impact on their community by means of their integrity. Note the character issues that are joined to witness: excellent citizenship (1 Thess 4:11, 12), unselfish behavior (Rom 13:7), orderly conduct (1 Cor 10:31-33), wisdom (Col 4:6), diligence (1 Cor 6:1), humility (1 Pet 2:18).[xiv]
The Church’s objective is to make disciples of the nations. The goal is to plant a church in every nation and people group in order that the remainder of that nation may be reached with the Gospel. Church planting is the primary objective of missions. The Church is a “debtor” to the whole world. We are under obligation to let the whole world hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Every church should study missions. The study of the needs of unreached people groups results in missionary intercession, missionary contributions, and missionary sending.
By evangelism, the Church also is a witness to those who will not believe. As such, the Church is a restraining and enlightening force in the world. Believers are the “salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13-16). By their influence and testimony, believers are instrumental in holding back the unrestrained advance of lawlessness.
Though the believer is forbidden to form close partnerships with the ungodly (2 Cor 6:14-18), he is not to break off his support of causes that are positive in the community (those which promote social, political, economic, and educational welfare). Our good works give evidence that our evangelistic testimony is backed up by righteous character.
The Church exists in order to edify itself (1 Cor 12-14; Rom 12; Eph 4). This purpose includes the “building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:11-16). The church is to grow to spiritual maturity through the process of edification. Maturation makes its witness to the world dynamic. God is honored and glorified in the process.[xv]
The purpose of edification is to present every man complete in Christ (Col 1:28). The plan which brings about the purpose is by proclaiming Christ, and by teaching and admonishing every man (1:28). (“Teaching, admonishing, striving” indicate that the communication of the Word did not stop with preaching. The truth was fixed in the mind until it was clear to the pastors and teachers that their listeners were doing it.)[xvi]
The local church serves as a training center whereby people can grow through the application of teaching and the utilization of their spiritual gifts.[xvii]
True worship involves service. Spiritual gifts were sovereignly distributed by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up one another (Rom 12:1-8). Love makes us care for one another as a ministering, active community that exercises its spiritual gifts in order to fill the needs of those in the body (1 Cor 12-14).
Every new believer must taught the answer to the question, “What do I do with my new found faith?” Answer – consecrate yourself and serve (Rom 12-16; 1 Pet 4:10, 11).
The local church must be committed to the task of educating its constituency. Gifted men are God’s gift to the church for the purpose of equipping and perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-16).
The main business of assembly life is the equipping and the edification of believers. We cannot expect lay workers in ministry to possess developed gifts unless we are totally committed to the mandate of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.”[xviii] “The dynamic of the early Church came from a proper understanding of the roles of the Body: gifted leaders building up the saints who in turn exercise spiritual ministries throughout the Body.”[xix]
The Church exists in order to provide a context of loving fellowship for the purpose of mutual edification (Eph 3:16-19; 4:12-16). The basis of our fellowship is our common bond in Christ by His Spirit (1 Jn 1:3). Obedience as well as faith is vital to our fellowship with one another – “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 Jn 1:7). The blessings of the brethren dwelling together in unity is dependent upon truth believed and obeyed, not upon mere sentimentality or compromise.[xx]
III. The Implementation of the Purpose of the Church.
Many lay people are highly trained, mature believers. “Many of our lay people are much more capable of putting together and maintaining ministries than we pastors think they are.” Sadly, so many churches are structured around one major chord – solely giving lay people more information about the Bible and the Christian life.[xxi]
Implementation of the purpose of the Church begins first of all by understanding that God alone directs the Church through the Holy Scriptures (1 Cor 4:6); through His gifted people; and through the circumstances He ordains. The Church belongs to God (1 Tim 3:14, 15). Church leaders do not rule “in absentia,” for Christ is presently Head of His Church (Eph 4:15).[xxii]
God’s power, rule, and direction are manifested through the exegesis of His Word. Therefore, exegesis is the foundation and starting point of all ministry. As a consequence, church programs must be established by people who are committed to biblical principles.[xxiii]
Ministry ought to be built around the giftedness of the person, rather than around a job description or a program’s operation manual. This is especially true in light of the fact that God sovereignly distributes spiritual gifting according to His wise plan. God builds the church, placing gifted people in the body where He wishes (1 Cor 12:11).
Pastors and elders are to examine the use of gifts and equip people in light of God’s Word. The profile of a gift should shape the profile of a ministry. When elders meet, prayer ought to occupy a majority of the meeting time. The reason for this posture of submissive prayer is because they are under Christ’s authority. Seeking to ascertain what God desires to do in the Body must be primary. God’s leading is always through the authority of Christ’s Word.[xxiv]
Every new church member ought to know precisely where the church is headed. New converts, transfer members – each should be given an understanding of the purpose and direction of the church.[xxv]
The mission or purpose statement of Saddleback Church serves to demonstrate that implementation of the philosophy of ministry ought to be always tied to results rather than mere activity. Saddleback’s purpose statement reads as follows: “To bring people to Jesus and membership in His family, develop them to Christlike maturity, and equip them for their ministry in the Church and life mission in the world, in order to magnify God’s Name.”[xxvi]
Implementation that is stated in terms of results is by far the best way to evaluate and measure whether or not the local body is fulfilling the Great Commission. Results oriented implementation focuses more upon “growing people with a process, than growing a church with programs.”[xxvii]
The purpose of the Church only becomes dynamic when it becomes specific. By that is meant that the Church vision should be “personalized” so that each member understands the privileges and responsibilities of being a part of the Body. (i.e., The purpose of our church is my responsibility to fulfill and my privilege to enjoy.)[xxviii]
In order to reach the goal of equipping the saints for the purpose of ministry, it is useful to think in terms of “circles of commitment.” Circles or levels of commitment provide a biblical structure for establishing a strategy to move the believer toward maturity.
The new convert is moved into the congregation for fellowship and worship. Then he is moved into a committed relationship for discipleship. Then he is moved into a committed core for ministry. Finally, he is moved with the committed core back out into the community for evangelism. This process fulfills all five purposes of the Church.[xxix]
Central to the discipleship phase of the maturity process is the central task of equipping. The equipping of believers falls under two broad headings: Equipping for Christian living and equipping for Christian service. Jesus expects that His disciples will be involved in ministry. He expects His people to train disciples who are able to reproduce themselves (2 Tim 2:2; Luke 6:50).
New converts are to be discipled through personalized teaching. FIRST, they are to be grounded in the Christian life. This takes place through the worship/preaching service and through small groups. Small group studies aimed at new believers stress principles for godly living and godly relationships.
In a small group atmosphere, each believer is nurtured toward Christ-like maturity. This first essential of equipping is vital, but not specific enough for the believer to assume ministry responsibilities.
The SECOND kind of equipping is for Christian service. During this training, believers are instructed in the use of their spiritual gifts. The minimal curriculum for this stage of equipping includes the following: 1.) evangelism with hands-on experience, 2.) Bible study methods, 3.) Panorama of the Bible (plus Fundamental of the Faith),
4.) Spiritual gifts, 5.) Foundational doctrines, 6.) Learning to serve, 7.) Apologetics,
8.) Ecclesiology, 9.) Basics of the Christian life (Essentials of prayer, Communion with God, How people change, Christian character).
A church in which every member has been equipped in these vital areas will be well-trained for ministry.
To summarize, we would say that we implement our church purpose by evangelizing non-Christians, by edifying believers in their spiritual growth (equipping stage one), by equipping workers for the ministry of their spiritual gifts (equipping stage two), by entrusting leaders to shepherd the flock.[xxx]
Each of the above four “ministry segments” is reflected in a strategy: 1.) Evangelism: Saturday evening evangelistic Bible studies. Evangelism training with outreach experience (dinner parties, park evangelism, campus evangelism, visitation evangelism). 2.) Edification: Bible exposition at Lord’s Day meetings, after sermon Q& A, spiritual retreats, men’s ministries with the development of mentoring relationships, women’s ministries, small group studies with an emphasis on the Christian life. 3.) Equipping: Wednesday evening ministry training meetings (Bible study methods, spiritual gifts, apologetics, etc.), bi-monthly Saturday training seminars, service projects, world missions projects, discipling others, biblical counseling. 4.) Entrusting: Personal mentoring of shepherds, training in teaching, leading, administration, shepherding.
[i] Carey Hardy, Building a Biblical Philosophy of Ministry, p. 1.
[ii] Rick L. Holland, A Biblical Philosophy of Ministry, p. 1.
[iii] Alex Montoya, Internship: Pastoral Ministries PM 712, p. 3.
[v] Ibid., p. 4.
[vii] Paul R. Jackson, The Doctrine and Administration of the Church, pp. 13, 14.
[viii] Edward T. Hiscox, Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, pp. 44, 45.
[ix] Robert L. Saucy, The Church in God’s Program, pp. 166, 168, 169.
[x] Montoya, p. 5.
[xi] Ibid., p. 6.
[xii] Ibid., p. 7.
[xiii] John MacArthur Jr., Shepherdology, pp. 45-47.
[xiv] Gene Getz, Sharpening the Focus of the Church, pp. 40, 41.
[xv] Montoya, p. 10.
[xvii] Hardy, p. 8.
[xviii] Gary Inrig, Life in His Body, pp. 45, 47.
[xix] John MacArthur Jr., The Body Dynamic, p. 79.
[xx] Jackson, p. 116.
[xxi] Frank R. Tillapaugh, Unleashing the Church, pp. 76, 77.
[xxii] Donald McDougall, Paul’s Ecclesiology of the Church (An Exegesis of 1 Cor 1-6).
[xxv] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, pp. 91, 92.
[xxvi] Ibid., p. 107.
[xxvii] Ibid. p. 108.
[xxviii] Ibid., pp. 115, 116.
[xxix] Ibid., p. 138.
[xxx] D. Massimo Lorenzini, Witnessing Without Fear, A Guide to God Centered
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