Almost anyone who has recently served on a pulpit committee will readily agree that one of the most pressing problems presently confronting the Church is a shortage of pastors. Many pulpits are vacant; there simply are not enough ministers to go around. Serious though this problem may be, there is another kind of ministerial shortage that is limiting the effectiveness of the Church even more drastically. The reason for this shortage is that very few Christians seem to take seriously the biblical teaching—exemplified by the pattern of evangelism in the early Church—that every Christian is to be a minister.

Paul states this principle when, in speaking of the gifts Christ has given to his Church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers), he states the purpose for which they have been given: “He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service [literally “the work of the ministry”], to build up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12, Good News for Modern Man). Paul is not saying here, as an extra comma in the Authorized Version implies, that the building up of the saints and the work of the ministry are two different purposes for which Christ gave the gifts mentioned. He says that the saints are to be built up in order that they—not just the apostles and pastors and prophets—might do the work of the ministry.

The distinction between clergy and laity that sees the minister as the paid professional responsible for carrying on the work of the Church is foreign to the New Testament. The New Testament picture of the Church leaves no place for spectators. In the early Church, everyone was involved in caring for the needs of others in the community (Acts ...

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