I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve benefitted from the writings of Elton Trueblood, a Quaker author and professor of philosophy from the last century. He had much to say on themes of spiritual formation and ministry. I came across this little treasure as I was reviewing some of my excerpts from his book The Incendiary Fellowship (one of my favorites). (I’ve revised the language to be more inclusive).
“Since the equipping minister must not be above the heat of the battle, [s]he is, ideally, not only a coach, but a ‘playing coach,’ sometimes carrying the ball [one]self and sometimes seeing to it that another carries it. Thus, [s]he is both a minister and the encourager, a teacher and a developer of…fellow ministers, who are the members of the Church of Christ. The mark of…success is not the amount of attention which [one] can focus upon [one]self, but the redemptive character which emerges in the entire congregation or team. Fundamentally, [s]he is called to be a catalytic agent, often making a radical difference while being relatively inconspicuous.” (p. 43-44.)
In An Unhurried Life, I wrote in my chapter on “Maturity” that “These leaders are a gift of Christ to his people, a gift that enables each one of us to better offer our gift for the good of the body. I am grateful for such gifts, for the men and women God has used to help clear obstacles in my path, to show me the way, to help me find healing, and to encourage and enable me to contribute to the good of his people. Certain God-appointed individuals have helped me journey to places of a deeper faith in God and richer intimacy with Christ. These people have, in fact, helped me grow more into the fullness of Christ. What great gifts God gives (p. 148).
When I was in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago for The Journey there, I had a chance to speak a little about this. I shared that too often, those of us who have served in pastoral roles have equipped men and women for jobs in the church gathered rather than equipping them for their own ministry in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and such. Of course there are opportunities for us to gather together and serve one another in meaningful ways, but so much of our time is spent as the church scattered, and investing our equipping energies and focus on this far larger facet of each one’s ministry would likely bring a far greater return. This is the way to make a radical difference in the world around us.