What keeps a person in long-term ministry at a particular church? While the answer is no doubt complex, and probably out of our direct control, I suggest that a major influence is the nature of that person’s connection to the community. Some connections are external: we put them on like clothes. Other connections are internal: these are part of who we are.
An external, or adherent, connection is association by contract; therefore, short-term assignments are acceptable. The ministry assignment is a job, something done for rather than with the community. An internal, or inherent, connection is part of the essential nature of the community and the person; therefore, long-term assignments are fundamental. Inherent is defined as “involved in the constitution or essential character of something.” The minister is an essential part of the community in Christ and ministry is the natural outworking of that inherent connection. Ministry is a vocation, a response to the call of God.
Biblical evidence supports inherent ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers) are given by God to the church to equip the saints until “we all attain the unity of faith.” Paul goes on to speak of the essential unity of the church. Unity, maturity, truth, and love are characteristics of the body (vv. 13-15). Christ works through the whole Body to accomplish growth (vv. 15-16). The various images of the church in the New Testament provide evidence of this essential unity. The bride-groom, flock-shepherd, body-head, and branches-vine metaphors use corporate language to speak of the church, reflecting the essential unity of believers with one another and with Christ.
Christ himself has an inherent connection with the Church and if Christ himself is inherent to his Church, then his ministers surely ought to be inherent. The one Body of the church is locally expressed and ministers are inherent to these local expressions. If ministers (regardless of the particular historical-cultural expression) are gifts of God that arise naturally within the essential nature of the church, then they are not mere structural or administrative necessities. Rather, they are integral parts of the whole.
- In churches where some ministers form a paid staff, how is the relationship to the local congregation best understood?
- Given the importance of inherent connection, how should we balance local development of ministers and hiring from outside the local church?
- Since there is only one body of Christ and many local expressions of that one body, what are the differences and similarities between local development and outside hiring? If we are hiring from within the global church, does outside hiring even exist?
Previous version, titled “Can we counter the short-timer mentality in ministry?” posted December 18, 2012. Original version posted as “Inherent or Adherent Pastorate? At http://lauraswritings.blogspot.com/2004/09/inherent-or-adherent-pastorate.html