Towards a Strategy Part 2
By Revd Dr Mark Pickles
“Furthermore, reduction of the number of full-time clergy does not and will not lead to churches growing and flourishing, Jackson again; (Jackson, Bob What Makes Churches Grow? London, Church House, 2015).
‘Many clergy asked to take on increasing numbers of churches testify to increasing stress and workload and reduced overall effectiveness. One vicar took on the incumbency of three churches with a combined attendance of around 200. After two years he was exhausted and had to conclude it was not possible to attempt evangelism, mission and growth in more than one of his churches at once. He asked his bishop. To show hum just one multi-church benefice in the diocese where more than one of the churches was growing numerically, bu the bishop could not.’
“It is not a surprise. All the evidence supports the claim that fewer clergy pastoring more churches will not lead to growth but will perpetuate decline and increase stress.
“More importantly, so too does the Bible. There is a deadly fallacy that has almost become a commonplace in the desire to dress ufpdecline as renewal, namely that less clergy allow for the liberation and growth of the laity. We have recovered the biblical concept of ‘every member’ ministry and it is believed that this is enhanced and fostered by the reduction of clergy. This is to completely misread and misunderstand biblical teaching.
“In Ephesians 4, Paul writes of the gift Christ has given to his Church of ‘the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).
“Given the we no longer have apostles and prophets today as the Word of God is complete, we would equate the role of the pastor-teacher most closely with that of a pastor/gospel ministry — what was the purpose of Christ giving this gift to the Church? To what end?
“Paul is clear, ‘to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (4:12-13).
“The effect of the pastor-teacher’s work is that the saints (i.e. Christians) will be equipped — for what? For the work of ministry.
“Again, its simplicity can be missed. Who according to Pul is to do the work of ministry? Answer — all of God’s people, the laity. But they can only do it effectively and appropriately if they have been properly equipped. And how are they to be equipped? By the ministry of the pastor-teacher. To state the opposite makes it clearer: what if there is no pastor-teacher? Of if pastor-teachers are so thinly spread and overworked that they are unable to fulfil their task properly? Then the inevitable consequence is that the people of God will not be equipped adequately and so will fail to do the work of ministry.
“Reduction of clergy, far from releasing the laity, leaves them ill-equipped, badly taught, unprepared and inadequately trained for the work of ministry, so it will either not be done or will be done badly. It is a deadly fallacy, yet one that is perpetuated and deeply ingrained in current thinking and planning.”
From Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, Pickles, Revd Dr Mark, pages 95-97, 2017.