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The Role of the People - Rodney G.S. Tedds

Almost 50 years ago, I attended the induction of a new minister at the Moonah Baptist Church. A Church leader was speaking; most likely it was the Secretary. He said that the Minister in a church was the slave of the people. That took me aback initially but then I realised what he was saying; the Minister was the servant of the people. In the New Testament, the Greek word "doulos" is interchangeable, and can be rendered either servant and slave. The Minister can easily become the slave quite literally when a congregation sits back and allows him to slave away as it were, "after all that is what he is paid to do!".

It is important to get the governance structures in a local church correct and understood by all the Members so that there is harmony between people but more importantly to gear the church up to fulfil its responsibilities before the Lord. Jesus came to bring salvation and to serve. In these ways He is our example. I believe that too often the local church fails to recognise the role of the support structure as a tool to enable ministry and the pastor finds that administration absorbs so much of his/her time thus causing the ministry to suffer. What do I mean by ministry? Putting it into four boxes: worship, fellowship, strengthening the saints in their faith through teaching and spreading the Gospel. The role of the pastor is a leader in all these areas by personal example as an encouragement to others through caring, teaching and so on.

The role of the people is to support and care for the pastor and one way to do this is to remove the obstacles and frustrations caused by poor administration. How do we this? To start with we need to be aware of the roles of the whole church and I am speaking of the people not the building. There are three main vertical strands in an organization: the purpose for its existence, care of the employees and the administrative support. In a church these are the ministries of preaching and teaching and outreach, caring for the people who comprise the local body and the administration needed to keep the wheels moving. Of course, there are overlaps and all have a role in caring as an example, but I am referring to three principal areas. The pastor is the leader with prime responsibility for the first two but it is the rest of the members who carry responsibility for the third area, that of administration. Having stated this, it needs to be clear that the authority of any Baptist Church is the membership under the guidance of God. This is local and internal and usually termed congregational government.

This has become more confusing in recent years and pastors have had to take on matters beyond their brief. I attribute this mainly to lack of clarity about church governance in the Baptist denomination and the reluctance of the local membership to take on their responsibilities fully for a variety of reasons. The pastor is now regarded by some as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the church when in reality it should be the Church Secretary whose task is to ensure that ministry is "executed", i.e. administered. The pastor is the leader of ministry. We cannot impose any model of governance on the church from the secular world around us. We are speaking of ministry and saving the lost, not trying to get maximum profits for our shareholders. We are about service, initially to God and then to our fellow-man. The challenge to me as a person in the pew and an administrative leader is this, "Am I giving maximum backing to the ministry of the church by creating the best administrative support structure under the guidance of God that I can?"

Because of its brevity, this article only addresses some underlying issues but hopefully it may stimulate positive thinking and even better, some action!

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