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The number of communities of faith that are embracing the Hebraic roots of the Messianic faith is increasing each week. Most of these are starting from scratch as a few folks meet in homes and things develop from there. Others are converting from a different perspective of Scripture as cell groups in churches explore the roots of their faith. Most are small in size and often spend significant time and human resources exploring many options regarding their structure. The tendency is to ultimately settle into a structure that is familiar. However, that may not be the best thing to do.
Any group of people trying to do anything, has two key elements to consider – what are they to do, and how are they to do it? This is true from the local grocery store to the YMCA in town, and even your family's vacation. A group of believers in fellowship face these same questions... what and how?
Too often, these questions, and the work associated with their answers, fall into the lap of someone called, "The Pastor." This is the person who is charged with what and how. From "hearing from God" to scrubbing the toilets, "The Pastor" is looked to for all things... even when we know that there is no way one person can be equipped for that scope of service. The smaller the group, the more jobs "The Pastor" fills. With most Messianic/Hebraic groups being small, the person in that seat is in a high risk position.
Over time, what started out as a friendly Bible study evolves into something else. People show up. The Father is indeed awakening the bride of Messiah and the bride has real needs and concerns. There are family issues, trouble between children, logistical concerns, people get sick, others get married, and of course all of the theological issues. The friendly Bible study is now starting to look and function like a small congregation. The structure that brings support to the group often lags behind the amount of issues that need to be addressed. If the structure is weak, we should not be surprised when the house falls apart. We can do better. We must do better. The good news of Yeshua, His Torah, and the restoration, should not be hindered by our lack of preparation. The problem has existed for a long time, just read Paul's letters to "the churches." We can learn from history. Scripture gives us a better way, but we have to be willing to accept our role and be faithful to the call.
Communities of faith are indeed a two sided coin. On one hand you have the "spiritual gifts" while on the other is the administration. One side deals with, "what are we to do" and the other addresses, "how shall we do it." Too often these boundaries and positions are not firmly established, so it becomes like a children's soccer game where all the players run to wherever the ball is at that moment. When the ball moves, all the players run to the ball again, leaving gaping holes as important areas go uncovered.
Scripture is clear that assemblies are to be directed by elders. How many is not the question here. It might be one or it might be ten. The point is that the administrative side of an assembly should have elders who deal with running the community. Things like location, meeting times, finances, and structure of the meetings should be determined, through prayer and counsel, by the elders.
The other side of the coin, "spiritual gifts" is where the pastor functions. The pastor is part of the "five- fold ministry" – along with the teacher, prophet, evangelist, and apostle. Many of these positions are missing in the assemblies of our day. That is one reason why so many groups struggle. Another reason for the struggle is often the administrative and spiritual gifts sides get entangled. For our groups to get healthy, it is imperative that they untangle the mess and look to fill the needed positions. Like any team, if you don't have the players in proper position, you will not be victorious.
In many churches, we became accustomed to the pastor filling many of the roles in the assembly - from cutting the grass to washing the glass and maybe even fitting in some evangelism. While that might get some things done, it is not the best structure. We can do better.
Once you see the need for separating the various functions, it becomes easy to grasp the reality that the pastor (shepherd) has a specific job that deals primarily for caring for the spiritual and physical needs of the people. Therefore, the pastor should be a "people person." Now, if you have someone who is an anointed prophet functioning as the pastor, you might have a problem. The prophet is to turn people back to God. To do whatever it takes to get them to see the error of their ways. But, he/she is not typically the best one to care for their ongoing needs. The prophet Jeremiah would have been a horrible shepherd. Once again, in our past assemblies, these positions have been often lumped together and rolled up into this worn out/stressed out ball, called, "The Pastor."
We are called to be a Kingdom of Priests. Priests serve. As a Priest, are you called to be a pastor, prophet, teacher, evangelist, or apostle? How will you serve? Perhaps it is your gift that is missing in the body. Community is a team sport and everyone is a player. If you are not serving, then find a way to step into a role. Start small, grab a broom, and be the best sweeper in the house. Priests sweep. Be faithful in the little things and more will be added.
Are you qualified to be a leader of the congregation? Maybe that is what you do... lead. This will be revealed through how you serve. Too often we confuse the leadership (administration) side with the gifts side of things. The roles should be distinct. There can be crossover, but the roles should be clear. For instance, someone serving as an apostle might also be one of the elders. The pastor/shepherd might be an elder, or maybe not. The teacher should teach, but that does not mean that the teacher is the leader. The elders should lead.
In our assemblies today we confuse these boundaries and wonder why things get a bit messy. We say we don't want or need a leader, yet we really do. While we are all equal in the eyes of our Father, there are indeed differing gifts that he has equipped us with. Anytime you have two or more people together, someone is going to lead. When dealing with the people of God, good leadership is vital. If the teacher is leading, when he/she is not qualified to do so, do not be surprised when you end up at the wrong destination. They might be a great teacher, or a wonderful evangelist, but that does not mean they should lead. Look at your assembly and I think you will see what I am referring to; right before your eyes. It is the wisdom of the collective elders that will give your assembly the stability and depth perception needed for long term success.
Yes, there are two sides to every assembly. For the assembly to be healthy, it is imperative that it is functioning as Scripture directs. Even then, at times, the administrative side of the group hinders the spiritual side. Sometimes the spiritual side is at odds with the administrative side. There is a need for both sides to flourish if the assembly is going to move forward. The key to this is realizing that there are indeed two sides to every community of faith.
One person can wear multiple hats, but she or he should also be looking to hand some of those responsibilities off when the Father brings along the right person and that person has demonstrated good fruit over a period of time. Today, as we are returning, wearing multiple hats is common, but that is changing. The next generation is rising up and wants a hand on the wheel. People with good experience and stable backgrounds are rising up. Elders with age and experience in the Hebraic roots of the faith are now part of many assemblies. Don't be afraid to get folks involved, but make sure you take a good look at their fruit and not just their swagger. For all of us, we should realize that there are plenty of opportunities to serve and that is what being a priest is all about - servant hood.
It is time for our assemblies to take the next step in their growth. Maturity comes slowly, but it comes. Establish a solid two sided structure that will support your group's growth as the people grow. Separate the administrative and spiritual concerns. In synagogues, it is very typical to have a Rabbi (teacher) and a Nassi (president) who co-labor in service to the community. It is even OK if the administrative leader is just the leader. Don't force people into spiritual positions that they are not called to. Realize what Yahweh has called you to, and what you should leave to others. Then, you will see your community flourish. When all His priests function in their given role, His people will arise once again. The time is now.