There have been some disappointing posts recently on the ELS ministry discussion list. In some cases it has actually degenerated to name calling. What I have seen too infrequently is the kind of spirit that seeks to understand the argument of the other side, making a careful presentation of its own position.
Some would blame the medium, email. I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is our impatient, prideful human nature. Email just facilitates our sin, like pen and ink or photocopiers, only much faster.
One of the participants recently took a break for a whole week. He may have been composing his responses during that time, because they certainly show more forethought than usual. I won’t reveal his name, to protect the innocent. However, I will quote a paragraph from his post that shows the reasoning behind his position.
His position is this (and I am willing to be corrected, if this summary is inaccurate): Jesus did not instituted an office to be filled by incumbents. Instead, He instituted freedom, so that the Church may create as many different kinds of offices as she may need. He also instituted the use of the Means of Grace. For example, it was His idea that someone should be there to baptize other people from time to time, and that someone (not necessarily the same person) should be there to administer the Lord’s Supper from time to time. Likewise, it was His idea that someone should be tapped to teach the Gospel, and (perhaps another person) to preach it on some regular basis. This free public use of the Means of Grace is called “the Ministry.” The writer supposes that this is the sum total of what the PMW teaches.
It is not, but maybe I’ll demonstrate that another time. For now, see Pastor Jay Webber’s Parsing of the PMW for a fair, “unbiased” understanding of the document.
Here is the writer’s carefully-worded defense of his position. Note that he is arguing against the notion that Jesus only instituted the position of “Pastor,” whether that means parish pastor or something more generalized.
I have in previous emails mentioned other public servants of Christ
that are mentioned in scripture. We are nowhere told that the lists
given is intended to be exhaustive, nor are the various lists
consistent, nor unchanging. We do read of deacons, which were not
the same as pastors, but were specifically mentioned in 1 Timothy. I
have also mentioned evangelists as part of the list in Ephesians 4.
We are not told in scripture that evangelist was a form of pastor. I
have mentioned that St. Paul was not called to baptize (1 Corinthians
1). Though he did baptize a few people, as he mentions, this does
not undo what Paul wrote (that he was not called to baptize). Any
one of these should be sufficient, but just as the early church had
freedom to select seven to serve the church, and these seven were not
pastors (though descriptions of their service included ministry of
the Word, and this may have been part of their call), the church has
freedom to call people into various forms of public ministry; even
those that had not previously existed. This doesn’t make their
service into public ministry any less divinely instituted, just
because scripture doesn’t provide all of the details and specify all
of the forms that public ministry may take.
As I see it, the reasoning is as follows. First, he claims that any one of the following points is sufficient proof for his argument:
The Bible mentions titles of public servants other than the title “pastor.” The Bible is silent about whether lists of such titles is exhaustive.
Deacons are mentioned in 1 Timothy, and are shown to be distinct from pastors.
Evangelists are mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, and scripture does not say that Evangelist = Pastor.
St. Paul in 1 Cor. 1 says he was not called (sent) to baptize.
In addition to those “proofs,” the following argument is offered.
- The early church had freedom to select 7 to serve the church (Acts 6)
- The 7 were not pastors.
- Ministry of the Word may have been part of their call.
- The church has freedom to call people into various forms of public ministry; even those that had not previously existed.
Finally, the following claim is asserted (in my words):
Though scripture doesn’t provide all the details and specify all the forms that public ministry may take, this does not mean that the service of offices created by the church is any less divinely instituted.
OK, there are a few things here, and careful readers of The Plucked Chicken may already have identified a few problems. But that hasn’t stopped me before, so away we go.