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Multiple Ministers

How many minsters should a church have? Can a congregation have too many ministers? In this common era of so-called "mega-churches," it seems the more ministers a church has the better. Churches routinely advertise and employ pulpit ministers, youth ministers, family ministers, involvement ministers, education ministers, music ministers, counseling ministers, children's ministers's, etc. I assure you that the purpose of this article is not to challenge or criticize the idea of specially talented, intensely trained, financially supported, full-time devoted "ministers" who serve the church in important and vital ways. The early church at Jerusalem had at least 12 preachers on staff in the beginning, and added other specialized staff along the way! Acts 11:25-26 tells us that when the church at Antioch grew, the local preacher Barnabas "departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people." Later in Acts 13:1 we discover that "in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul." That makes at least five preachers at the church at Antioch. The following verse, Acts 13:2, erases any doubt as to what they were doing. The Holy Spirit records, "they ministered to the Lord." Multiple ministers was no problem in the early church, and ought not to be one now if the local situation demands it be so.

The real problem in most modern congregations is not that we have too many ministers, but that we don't have nearly enough! We have, in some cases and some places, replaced the Biblical model of "every member a minster" with the idea that "ministers" are the paid, specialized professionals whom the church "hires" to perform certain activities and functions. If not careful, we end up thinking that teaching classes, preaching sermons, attempting to win people to Christ through personal evangelism, visiting hospitals and nursing homes, and all kinds of "ministry" is only for the "ministers." The Biblical idea is found in 1 Corinthians 12, summarized in verse 12 — "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." A careful study of this chapter compels us to see that every member is a minister and ought to have a ministry! The idea that the church's only ministers are paid people whose job is to minister to and for me is a popular one, but it is not from the Bible. Churches of Christ have rightly preached against the idea of a clergy-laity system. But many contemporary Christians and congregations are guilty of practicing such a system. You are guilty when you think you can be a member and not be a minister. How many ministers should this congregation have? Just count the number who claim to be members and multiply times one.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ