Monday, August 03, 2009

On Being Irreplaceable

I've been reflecting recently on changeover in Christian ministry. And I have come to a great realization - that nobody in the church is irreplaceable. In the work place, being irreplaceable is a good thing. To be irreplaceable reduces the possibility of becoming redundant. Being irreplaceable can keep you your job. But in the church, this isn't such an issue. In a passage that takes my breath every time I read it, Paul writes:
"But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,

‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’

...The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love." - Ephesians 4
I think it is amazing that King Jesus, rather than receiving presents, gave gifts out to his people for the building up of the church. All types of gifts given to all types of people. Which means that when people move on from ministry, and take institutional knowledge and skills with them, it shouldn't be a huge disaster. Because there are people out there gifted by God to take on the ministry. Amazing! I wonder if seeking to be irreplaceable as a Christian is actually a sin because it's a refusal to promote the body's growth and "building itself up in love".

I also feel a tension in this. I don't want to deny people's unique distinctiveness. People are different and ministry will always look different according to how is doing it. Paul's image is also of different parts of a body working together. Being replaceable is only possible through the grace of God, but at the same time this doesn't quash our diversity. But in a climate of redundancies and retrenchments, knowing that God has given all of his people gifts to lead us to the full stature of Christ should be quite liberating for our ministry.

1 comment:

tdix said...

I think this issue is a real test of faith (and humility). Do we trust that God will provide new people to take up the challenge when we have to move on? On the page/screen the answer is: yes, of course. But in practice it can be harder than perhaps it should.