Only in the Local Church?

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I continue to be amazed at the number of people whose paths I come across who have mistakenly been led to believe that if God is calling them toward some form of ministry, doing it in or connected to a local church is their only legitimate option.

It is sad to see such a truncated, warped ecclesiology hold back what could be a wave of highly committed, gifted, apostolic leaders. I am grieved at the wounds that are inflicted by such a view of the Church that is so biblically, theologically, historically and missiologically deficient.

Conversely, it is amazing when the “lights go on” for such leaders, particularly those who are thrashing around trying to find a structure into which they can fit. Too many get stuck in the unfortunate cul-de-sac of local church supremacy.

One of my greater joys is blowing out their limited understanding of where God’s calling can be accomplished, expanding the scope of what he could do with their lives, and helping these men and women find the right venues where they can break out of their shells and soar.

As in every age of the Christian movement, apostolic people need apostolic structures if their contribution to God’s kingdom purposes are to be fulfilled.

5 Responses to “Only in the Local Church?”

  1. Wes Roberts Says:

    ...preach it, brother!

    ...preach it

    ...with you on every word!!

  2. andrew s-r Says:

    Hey Sam – Thanks for this post. It’s something I’m wrestling through these days myself, as I work both in a pastoral capacity and as a program director for different denominations. I am called to minister. I am in ministry, in vastly different denominational contexts. And yet, figuring out what path to take (whether in the local church setting or elsewhere) is difficult.

    To be perfectly honest, I find I still have a blindspot when it comes to Other Options. Especially when there is much encouragement to enter local church ministry, and not as much (that I’ve found) for other forms. Thoughts? Help?

    andrew

  3. Brian B Says:

    Sam—Great post. I think you hit the nail on the head with the phrase ‘apostolic structures.’ Structures are so different than programs. It seems that the church is tied to programs, which draw a specific audience. Structures on the other hand are broader, yet still focused.

    As a campus minister with Campus Crusade, that’s really what drew me to it. My church experience seemed so program-driven, yet Crusade seemed so structure-driven.

    Thanks for the insight.

  4. Sam Says:

    Andrew:

    A few brief suggestions which I hope are helpful:

    1) I believe in which “structure” one lands is primarily an issue of giftedness. If I exhibit “apostolic” gifting, then functioning in a pastoral roles could be frustrating. That doesn’t mean, however, that people with apostolic gifting can’t find a niche through the right ministry in a local church. Rather, if that’s the setting they choose, they inevitably will find other structures that are broader and “outside” if their gifting is to be fully used. Often times, they create these structures.

    2) Have you looked at the vast array of other ministries outside of local churches? Are you in setting where you get exposure to an array of other ministry opportunities. For example, at the Urbana Convention every three years, there are hundreds of ministries and agencies who take part as exhibitors.

    As is characteristic with sodalities, such entities are focused, task-oriented and specialized. As you work to discern specifically what God has called you to do, then search for that agency or organization which matches that sense of calling, ie where personal calling and organizational calling mesh

    3) Most apostolic structures are financially lean when compared to local churches, and the most common means of financial support is through personal fundraising. That’s a different paradigm from the way salaries are paid in local churches.

    While not foolproof, it can actually serve as a qualifier and even a screening mechanism to help one determine if they can function in an entrepreneurial setting. I’ve found that most people with apostolic gifting are able, one way or the other, to find the resources necessary to fund themselves and others in such ministry. Of course, there are some qualifiers to this, particularly contextual and cultural challenges, but as a general rule, it is true.

    All that to say that if you are serious about “other options,” be prepared for having to raise some form of financial support. As Henry Nouwen so aptly put it, fundraising is a profound experience in spiritual formation. Sharing your vision and helping other people make wise stewardship decisions to partner with you comes with the turf in an apostolic calling.

  5. John Ahuna Says:

    Aloha Sam,

    I inadvertently (yet God-directed?) came across your blog as I was “Yahoo-ing” James Choung, after reading an article in Christianity Today about his 4 Circles. Your article has now helped me to reconcile the tug of what I believe to be God’s call on my life and the local church.

    My dear wife of soon to be 20 years (July 1st) has always been “establishment oriented” (local church) when it came to ramblings about what the church (local) is doing, should be doing, and what I would do. Her response, in essence, has been “talk to them.”

    When I have talked with them, it seems as if my observations and/or insights fall on deaf ears and they go on doing what they’re doing. I come from a highly entreprenerial history, having been self-employed in financial and “health” services since 1980—although not very successfully when it comes down to the “numerical score board” aka income. Anyway, I, therefore, tend to look at things as an entrepreneur does—marketing, sales, service, organization, communication, etc.

    The church leaders, for the most part, do not have that kind of background. To me, they have a “religious” vs. spiritual background, which doesn’t effectively and efficiently transfer to meeting the practical needs and desires, for that matter, of people which would either lead them to Christ and/or enhance their belief in and commitment to Christ. I like what I heard nearly 20 years ago from a minister from Australia who said, “It’s perfectly natural to be spiritual, and it’s perfectly spiritual to be natural. God is not only concerned about ‘pie in the sky’ (heaven) as eternally important as that is, but He is also concerned about ‘steak on the plate’ (earth) [because it’s part of the whole. The bicycle would function properly for too long is the small little nut holding the sproket in place were missing].”

    Recently, within the last 3 months, what’s been coming up in my spirit is “start a church.” That’s the last thing I would wanted to do because I already have a lot on my “God-plate.” I thought perhaps that was a result of my many dissatisfactions with how my local church was being run. These are by every means “good people,” but their agenda is “the local church” and, to me, not the PEOPLE in the local church.

    Recently, I got an email from one of the leaders of the church personally inviting me, which I appreciated, back to Men’s Ministry. When I responded that that’s not where God was calling me, his response was, okay, pray about being involved in a men’s Bible study. In the 7 years we’ve been attending this fellowship, to my recollection, no one has ever asked me, “How can we help you fulfill God’s call on your life?” They seem to think, consciously or unconsciously, that they already have the answers and, therefore, the agenda, so they don’t need to ask.

    I firmly believe what God is calling me to do, because of my experiences, education and observations is establish a nationwide system of non-profit “wholelistic fitness” centers—spiritual, financial, relationship, physical and self-management fitness. Being a financial planner, I know rich people have “charitable urges.” If they get directly or indirectly get blessed by your cause, or just believe in your cause, they will willingly and gladly with great satisfaction pull out their check books!

    Okay, my wife tells me I ramble. So this was a long explanation for a short feeling of thankfulness for your article and a confirmation of what God has been speaking to my heart. Interestingly, the sponsoring “mother church” of my local church, again recently, sponsored a “financial seminar” from a pastor who was initially involved in insurance services who the Lord led to start a church. Someone else now runs the insurance business, but they still take their “handsome” support from it, which allows all the contributions to the church to be used for “ministry” and not for them, “the ministers.” To me, whiile I recognize and support the principle of tithing and giving, it seemed like a conflict of interest and easy for the pastor to say, “Give, tithe,” because he was the beneficiary of the giving! There was no accountability to or identification with the people in the pews who may have been struggling. Anyway, that’s another story.

    Thank you once again for your, to me, “confirming insight.” I pray that this communication find you and your loved ones in the best of health in every dimension!

    Sincere Aloha thru Him,

    John Ahuna
    Dream Liberator & Wealth Catalyst

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