As followers of Jesus we are all given the Great Commission (act of discipling as we go) in Matthew 28:18-20, but for some reason in the West it has been communicated that it is the job of the church leaders only. This is typically interpreted one of two ways. First, many groups in the West still believe and communicate that one cannot be in “ministry” aside from attending seminary and getting a vocational ministry position. Personally I struggled with this for many years as I knew God had called me into ministry, but I did not feel that I fit many of the typical ministry roles often seen in the West. Second, due to the attitude described above, many church members got to the place of believing it is only the job of those paid to do ministry, after all that is why we pay them isn’t it?
Leaders who think in this way have a misinterpretation of Ephesians 4, where we see it is the job of leaders in the church to equip and release all the people of God for the works of ministry. Leaders who do not think and operate in this way communicate that they think they can build their church instead of allowing Jesus to build his church. This way of thinking has also put too much emphasis on what happens during a gathering on Sunday morning, which many in our culture refer to as “church” when the “professionals” are on stage doing all the preaching/teaching. Thinking in this way is amongst what has led to the lack of disciple makers in the West, where instead of releasing people to engage the places they go, connect, and pause, we ask them to invite the people from their domains of influence to a church service to let the professionals handle reaching them.
Greek scholar, David Alan Black, sums it up well when he says, “Evangelism is not the task of the ordained clergy. All of us are called upon to share the Good News with others. It is simply one beggar telling another beggar where they may find food” (Acts 13). Throughout Scripture we see ordinary followers of Jesus being the ones that impact the lostness around them. Think Samaritan woman in John 4. Think Zacheus in Luke 19.
My background is in Missiology, which led me to serve as a church planting catalyst in India for a couple of years. And although each country has its own struggles I was able to see first hand what happens when leaders start equipping all people to Go, not Come. This mentality is the difference between treating people as passive church members/attenders to disciple makers and equippers. This isn’t some new way of thinking and doing ministry, but in actuality is a return to the “old” way of making disciples from the New Testament, which started with the eleven in Matthew 28.