At church I’ve been talking with two friends about what “the ministry” is all about. Both are graduates from Regent College which has a unique take on “the ministry.” Based on Ephesians 4:11-16 they believe that every member of the church is a minister. Of course not all are called to be elders, but that doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t a minister of the gospel. The purpose then of the pastor is to equip all members for the “real work” of the ministry. One book that seems to have been really influential for this view is R. Paul Stephens’ Liberating the Laity (an ex-Regent professor).
This view can be clearly seen in how various versions of the Bible translate Ephesians 4:11-16. See the NKJV:
And [Christ] himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God …
Not all versions translate the passage this way. See the KJV and notice the lack of the comma and what that does to the meaning of the passage:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
In a 1994 article for the Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society, T. David Gordon defends the older interpretation of Ephesians 4:
Given the implied subject of all three clauses (“gifted ones”), the use of katartismon (“gathering or ordering into visible communion,” not “equipping”), and the use of ergon diakonias (“the work of ministry”), there is no basis for the notion that Paul sees the ministry’s importance in terms of preparing the laity for the “real work” of ministry. Furthermore, this flies in the face of the many passages that clearly distinguish the calling of a minister from the general Christian calling that belongs to all believers. Rather, ministers are given by Christ so that they can build up the flock by exercising their office faithfully.
Commenting on Gordon’s work, Michael Horton says:
Professor Gordon is, I think, quite justified in his alarm concerning the practical effects of American egalitarianism here. “Those preparing for ministry (and the institutions that prepare them),” he writes, “are turning their energies away from those skills associated with the distinctive ministry of the Word (original-language exegesis) and toward organizational, managerial, motivational (coercive?) skills.”
Now certainly I agree with Horton and Gordon’s concern for the pastorate turning into a Fast Company reading shill house, but I’m not sure about their exegesis.
What do you guys think? Have you come across this before?