Could it be possible that you've been doing ministry all wrong? Could it be possible that you've actually been robbing people of something they need and something that would bring them profound joy? These are big questions to ask of those who have been doing ministry for quite some time. In the book Leveling the Church, Micah Fries and Jeremy Maxfield assert just that.
It was actually the subtitle of this book that caught my attention—Multiplying Your Ministry by Giving It Away. To me, that sounded kind of nice. I could multiply my ministry and be more effective by giving it to others? That sounds like a dream. Fries and Maxfield would argue that it isn't a dream, it's the biblical model.
Micah Fries is the senior pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. He also served as a church planter in Burkina Faso, West Africa and is also working on his PhD at Southeastern Seminary. Jeremy Maxfield is the Discipleship Pastor at Brainerd Baptist. He is also a writer and consultant.
"Scripture seems to indicate that church leaders are not called primarily to do ministry themselves as much as they are called to prepare and deploy the church to do ministry" (11). This statement would rattle some cages in local churches. People would ask, "What are we paying the pastor for?" It is certain that the model Fries and Maxfield are trying to sell, is a controversial one. However, in this book they make their case and they make it well.
"Paul said that the role of the pastor is to train the saints for the work of ministry. It couldn't be clearer. Church members are called to do the work of ministry" (18). It is hard to argue with Paul, but I imagine many church members would. Fries and Maxfield have to teach pastors not only the biblical model, but how to convince their congregation that this model is good and for their betterment. They go on to say, "The aim of this book is not to point fingers at anyone. The desire is simply to point to Scripture and ask whether our leadership and churches resemble what we see in the text" (23-25). That is the question that will be tackled in this book. Frankly, we must ask ourselves, if we do not see this modeled in Scripture then why are we trying to do something else?
The authors will go on to lay out the dangers pastors and churches can face when they do all the ministry such as professionalism—church members thinking they can't do ministry and should leave it to the one who is professionally trained, materialism—looking at church in a consumeristic way rather than the church realizing they are called to serve, independence—thinking we don't need anyone to help us grow in Christ, and the super pastor—the congregation thinking the pastor can do it all or is the only one who can do ministry. These are all real dangers that can both harm the pastor and the church when the congregation looks at the pastor and staff to do all the ministry. So what do we do?
Fries and Maxfield lay out biblical leaders for the pastor to learn from and model his ministry after. Jesus, Moses, Paul, and Timothy all have things to teach us when it comes to leadership and each of those men are examined in a chapter in this book.
I found this book to be extremely helpful when it comes to ministry. Fries and Maxfield do a great job of making the case for the biblical model of giving ministry away. They aren't saying the pastor should do no ministry such as visit those in the hospital and care for the needs of members, but they are saying that he should be equipping others to do these things as well as teaching the church that this is the biblical model. The pastor, in this role, becomes very much a teacher and trainer. Because of this, members get to enjoy greater blessings by being heavily involved in ministry themselves.
This book was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to pastors and church staff. Leveling the Church won't be easy, but our people need to know that they aren't just called to consume. They're called to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.