Meanderings of a Minister

Church: A Three Layer Cake or One Layer Plate?
May 23, 2013, 8:32 pm
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Happy Birthday

In a recent article in Your Church Magazine, Ed Stetzer wrote that many churches, and many Christians, have created a three-tier system of ministry that is hurting the church worldwide.  What is the three-tier system and why is it so hurtful?  Good questions.  While I don’t normally mention articles or magazines in my newsletter articles, I found this one salient to our situation at First Southern Baptist Church as we move into another busy summer of activities during which we hope to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Stetzer says this three-tier system is comprised of Tier One:  Lay People.  This is the lowest tier and represents the majority of people who attend a church, but do not serve in any kind of leadership position.  Stetzer says, “While most pastors would never openly say this, often they look at this tier’s main job as to pay, pray and get out of the way.”  I would add to his comments that many of the people in many of the churches of our day see themselves this way.  They might never openly admit it, but, when it comes to ministry, “That is what we pay the staff to do!”

Stetzer goes on to say the second tier is made us up Pastors and Church Leaders.  These are those “called to ministry”.  These are the people serving in ministry from which they receive pay.  They are paid to lead the church while all others are expected to yield to their leadership because of their expertise.  They often see themselves as the only voices that matter and the congregation often agrees.

Finally, there is tier three.  This is made up of missionaries.  They travel far away, give up their lives to work cross-culturally, don strange garb, eat bugs for breakfast and are often introduced as the only real missionaries when they visit churches.  Many in the congregation see them as uber-Christians with a calling that sets them above the average person.  Many of the pastors and staff see them as a cut above and feel guilty that the Pastors and staff don’t live up to that calling because they are only called to ministry and not called to missions.

While this is an accurate picture of the way many people look at the segmentation of the church, is it Biblical?  Hardly!  One of the hallmarks of the ministry of First Southern Baptist Church is to empower and equip every member to be on mission.  In the Orientation to First Southern Baptist Church seminar required for membership, we state “every member is a minister”.  We could just as easily say, “every member is a missionary”.  As a pastor, I love to hear about a church member that has led a friend to Christ, has reached out to meet a need, is discipling a co-worker or is heading off on a “mission trip” to their neighbors.  I believe this is the essence of what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that they would do many more wonderful works than He did (See John 14:12).  He meant that they would do more in number because they were more in number than He alone.  As we all minister and all are on mission and all are praying, studying, sharing, serving, meeting needs, worshipping and fellowshipping, we are the Church as Christ intended.

As Summer approaches, it is a time of vacation, longer days, outreach, family gatherings, Sunday School, cookouts, swimming, worship, camping, theme parks, travel, and ministry.  Join me as a fellow follower of Christ as we reach out in His Name.  Whether it is inviting people to an outdoor movie, passing out water, watching inflatables, making sno-cones, or grilling in the backyard with friends and family, going to a family reunion, or camping with your own family, let’s look for and take advantage of opportunities to reach out to people with the love of Christ, share with them the message of Christ and attempt to introduce them to the Lordship of Christ.  Let’s buck the trend and get rid of tiers that must cause Christ tears and be the Church!


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