Ministry Teams vs. Multi-Staff Ministry

The topic of this blog post is ministry teams, which is different from multi-staff ministry.  I learned this key difference from Pastor Christiansen at Webster Gardens Lutheran Church.  He expressed that in team ministry everyone is working together!  In team ministry a well-defined mission and vision statement is key.  In a church with multiple staff and more than one pastor, the mission statement and vision statement is what brings every department, every ministry into alignment with one another.  Every ministry department has the same goal, the same objective.  If one ministry within the church hits a home-run, the youth ministry for example, then every ministry hits a home-run, because every ministry has shared alignment and buy-in to every ministry’s success, because everyone is on the same team with the same standard of what it means to hit a home-run.  Pastor Christiansen explained that in multi-staff ministry everyone is playing a different game; a home-run for youth ministries wouldn’t be a home-run for senior ministries.  Another fascinating element to Christiansen’s explanation is that he said some churches will have two pastors who take turns giving the sermons, take turns doing the funerals, take turns doing, well — everything.  He said this is also a sign of multi-staff ministry.  One has the label of senior pastor, but they both essentially have the same job.  In team ministry, the pastors have different roles on the team – their jobs are vastly different, which is how it is on sports teams.  The pitcher is not the catcher.

ministry teams

From Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson’s book, Leading from the Second Chair, two paradoxes of being an associate pastor stood out to me.  They are the seeming contradictions of being both a leader and a subordinate at the same time and being called to have a narrow, specifically focused ministry while also being involved in the breadth of all the ministries in the church.  Concerning the paradox of being a subordinate-leader, I found the section on testing my subordination to be the most helpful and eye-opening.  As a teacher, when administration made decisions that had a direct negative impact on my role and ability to meet my teaching goals, I would typically openly disagree and directly challenge their decision, or I’d simply continue with my job, frustrated and angry, which of course would impact my teaching ability.  I rarely could stay involved without confrontation or without being eaten up with bitterness.  I also did not do a good job of hiding my feelings and thoughts even when not speaking.

All of these struggles I have in subordination could stem from my ESTP personality (which has been defined as a “laws don’t apply to me” personality), my Eagle-Disc personality, and political leadership style, but after reading Leading from the Second Chair, and from hearing Pastor King speak on his relationship of being Pastor Christiansen’s second chair, I have walked away much more comfortable being a second chair pastor (if that is where God will place me) knowing how my strengths can be utilized in this position of leadership, while having a better understanding of what to do with my weaknesses.

For instance, I work well in an environment where my strengths are recognized and my opinion is respected and held in high value.  I also do well when I’m given freedom to rule, lead, and reign in my assigned job task with little to no interference from my administrators, as long as I keep meeting or exceeding my administrator’s set target marks for my job.  As an associate pastor, I’ll be given the opportunity to excel and be respected for my expertise in a particular focus of ministry, while at the same time have the opportunity to have influence across the entire breadth of the church’s ministry.  I’ve also noticed that my previous administrators would come to me for input and guidance on certain key decisions that they knew I’d be able to provide valuable input as well as being recruited a few times to be a source of influence for getting other teachers on board with big changes they had decided to make or to serve as a helper in the transition.  Looking back, I can see how poisonous I was when the executive decision didn’t go as I had wanted.  Now, I see the value of letting some decisions go and never speaking ill publicly of such decisions and just take the lumps, knowing that the lead chair takes the brunt of all the hits for the team when the team misses the mark or fails.

AWA and Its Impact on Church Culture

Church denominations vary wildly in many aspects, such as doctrinal teaching, polity, roles of the pastor, roles of the laity, and the order and purpose of church services.  This statement stands as being obviously true to the vast majority of Christian believers, even to those who haven’t had the personal experience of visiting many denominations.  But what might stand as more of a shock to one’s system is realizing that even within a denomination that confessionally, or even on paper, contractually, holds all of these aspects in unity among its congregations, the culture present in each local body of believers can differ significantly to the point a worshipper might feel like a foreigner even in his own denomination.  This cultural difference isn’t in reference to expected differences that could arise from geographical variants, such as between Wisconsin Lutherans and Californian Lutherans.  This cultural shift lies within the church body itself and the change arises from the size of the church body’s Sunday average worship attendance (AWA).  Recognizing this cultural distinction is important for each congregation to be the best that it can be.


In Gary L. McIntosh’s book, One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Bringing Out the Best in Any Size Church, he makes three cultural categories for churches based on the size of their AWA: small (15-200 AWA), medium (201-400 AWA), and large (401+ AWA).  From McIntosh, I learned that small churches have a relational orientation (everyone knows everyone and the pastor has personal a relationship with everyone), medium churches have a programmatical orientation (people mostly know others who are in the same program, group, or class and the pastor works more closely with the leaders of those groups and doesn’t know everyone in the church while still knowing a decent percentage of the congregation personally), and large churches have an organizational orientation (primarily the orientation comes through the senior pastor and the board’s vision and the pastor rarely interacts personally with people who are not part of the paid staff or under his specific ministry branch if he’s not the senior pastor).  In a class presentation by Dr. Peter on this information, I also learned about Arkub Riytgayge’s division of the cultural size differences which contains four groups: family size (1-50 AWA), pastoral size (51-150 AWA), program size (150-350 AWA), and corporate size (350-500+ AWA).  The differentiation between these sizes were very similar to McIntosh’s model, except here, the size divisions also created two additional divisions, that between the homogeneous congregation and heterogeneous congregation and between the group-centered church and the pastor-centered church, as demonstrated in the table below:

Pastor Centered


Pastoral Size
(Pastor knows everyone so it is homogenous)
Corporate Size
Group Centered


Family Size

Program Size
(Varied worship services and groups, but the groups make it group focused)




From McIntosh’s book, I learned that if a pastor tries to lead his congregation outside the bounds of his congregation’s size-culture, he will frustrate his congregation and himself.  The example in One Size Fits All was that of a pastor of a small (family) church who was leading as if he was a pastor of a large (corporate) church.  He was making all the decisions and creating new programs that were flopping.  He was vision casting and dreaming numerical growth strategies five to ten years into the future to people that only cared about the present state of the family (the church body).  He was doing all of this on his own initiative.  This could be fine if he was the senior pastor at a large congregation, but he wasn’t, and since he was at a small church, he really was doing all of this on his own.  Even in the large church, the senior pastor doesn’t do all the functional, nuts and bolts work, since he has a team of leaders that he directs and holds accountable, while they manage and work out their assigned ministry tasks with their teams.  For his setting, the pastor learned that he needed to be more relational, meeting with the members one on one, face to face, throughout the week, while saddling up next to the members who have primary influential sway within the congregation to get their approval for any new initiatives he’d like to implement before launching away with his plans.  As a lay member of congregations, I also learned that my previous experience being a part of a small church soured my understanding and expectations of the last congregations I’ve been a member.  They were medium sized churches that ran programmatically, and I wasn’t entrenched in any of the programs, while wanting to know everyone and have relationship with everyone like I did in the small congregation.  The result was that I hardly knew anyone and I felt as if the churches were failing to meet their most basic role in my life.

From that last point, I have had in mind more of a pastor-centered, pastoral congregation size setting for how I would lead as a pastor.  I have had plans in mind to be a pastor (shepherd) that goes to my sheep.  I’d want to meet with every man in the congregation one on one at least once a year, by meeting them for breakfast before their work day starts or going to their job site, meeting them at lunch breaks, for prayer, counsel, and basic relational bonding, as well as for encouraging and equipping them in using their gifts and talents in the congregation and in their day to day interactions.  My wife and I have discussed having a family over for dinner once a week or every other week for the same purposes, so that I could I get to know and minister to the women and children in the congregation too while protecting my marriage (following the Mike Pence rule!).  Now, from what I have learned about congregational size dynamics, I know that this approach to leadership will likely work wonders in a small church setting and help me build much trust and authority and influence to lead the church, but such work won’t be so helpful in a medium or large church.

In a medium sized church, I’d have to adjust this relational leadership plan to be focused on meeting with the leaders of all the congregation’s programs and boards:  Sunday School Director and teachers, praise band leader, elders, mission team leaders, small group leaders, and other key members.  McIntosh also mentioned that medium sized churches expect strong teaching and well-prepared sermons from their pastors, which is an element that I find appealing and I think I can excel at from my previous experience and evaluation feedback from being a teacher for the past twelve years.  It is through solid Sunday presentations that those in the congregation I don’t know will be connected to me, and based on the culture of the medium sized church, they’re fine with not personally knowing me as long as I deliver the goods on Sunday morning with excellence.  This means that in the medium-sized congregation, devoting more time to sermon and teaching preparation will be understood by the congregation, as long as I am generating quality material to justify that time allocation for those purposes.  Being a pastor at a medium-sized church might be up my alley, since I could still have much of the relational ministry element I desire, as well as the freedom to emphasize teaching in my pastoral ministry.

In a large sized church, I’d have to adjust my relational leadership by reducing my focus to the other pastors under my care if I’m the senior pastor, as well as the plethora of other staff, and of course the board of directors.  I’d also have to find the most influential members in the congregation and work and meet with them almost exclusively from out of all the members in the church.  Again, this is the culture of a large, corporate church setting, so this would be expected by the bulk of the congregation’s members, and it is what would be necessary for the church to thrive.  In many respects, this could be a very fulfilling position for me, since the relationships will be fewer and almost exclusively focused on the mission, vision, and work of the congregation – something that does fit well my political style of leadership.

In closing, after discovering the different culture dynamics that accompany the size of each congregation, and the necessity for the pastoral leadership methods to shift based on these dynamics, I’ve discovered that my one on one relational approach to ministry has a place in all sized congregations, but that the focus of who I should be relating with personally and ministerially will have to change depending on the size of the congregation.

Metallica – “Broken, beat, and scarred. We die hard.”

“Broken, beat, and scarred.  We die hard.  What doesn’t kill us, makes us more strong.  We rise, we fall, we get up again.  What doesn’t kill us makes us more strong.  Broken, beat, and scarred.  We die hard!!!”

Some pretty intense lyrics if we think about them.  They come from the Metallica song, “Broken, beat, and scarred.”


When I read the writings of the apostle Paul and hear about his flogging, stonings, and imprisonments, I think that I surely haven’t suffered much for my Christian faith.  Despite all of Paul’s persecutions he kept rising up again.  Forget John McClane – The Apostle Paul knew what it meant to “Die Hard.”  I have not yet shed blood for my faith in Jesus in Christ.  I might never do so, but the words of Paul still ring true for me and all of us when he says that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope doesn’t disappoint us.

Yet, I know I complain a lot about my present sufferings.  I think most of us do.  But here, coming from Metallica, I am reminded that what doesn’t kill us makes us more strong.  I think of Paul when he said, “When I am weak, I am strong.”  When he’s weak, he has no choice but to cling to God!  When he is holding on to God, then he is strong.

One complaint against Christianity is the problem of evil and suffering in the world.  It’s easy to say “what doesn’t kill us makes us more strong” when it’s simple sufferings, broken arm a bad breakup, but what about genocide, rape, a four-year old with cancer.  We tend to want to wave our fist at God!  What’s your problem???  Why didn’t you stop this.  We can’t see the good that can come from it.  What loving Father would allow such a thing to his children – stronger – yea right!

The answer lies in Jesus.  Being God, perfect and sinless, he still suffered.  He suffered on our behalf, because of our shortcomings.  It lies in God’s patience with us!  Does he want pain and suffering for us – no!  But he allows it.  If he were to intervene now, what would that mean for everyone who doesn’t know him.  He is patient in his return, waiting for more people to come to repentance?  It’s his will that no man should eternally perish – sadly, we are set to face a physical death as our exodus from this life.  The answer won’t satisfy everybody and I hope and pray that I stand firm in the faith and trust God’s plan of redemption when the worst of the worst hits my life.  In the end, at Christ’s return, those of us who died in Christ will be raised to new life with bodies that will never be broken, beat, or scarred.

Irenaeus’ Argument Against Gnosticism Still Works Today

Irenaeus was a 2nd century apologist for the Christian faith who was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor, in the first part of the century.  His death date is not certain, but it is likely that he lived until the end of the 2nd century.  Irenaeus became the bishop of Lyons, France, and he serves as an important church father for several reasons: he was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, he is an early and reliable external source that verifies who wrote the four Gospels, he wrote against the Gnostic religion that had infiltrated all of Rome by the 2nd century, and through his writing helped establish apostolic tradition and the early formation of the New Testament canon.  It is on these last two points that this paper will focus.  Gnosticism was an esoteric religion that assumed Christianity into its teachings.  It spoke of God, Jesus, and salvation, yet due to its esoteric nature, Gnosticism contained “wisdom” as its name suggests (since gnosis is wisdom in Greek) that was new and true, even though it was secretly obtained.  These doctrines contradicted the doctrines of Jesus’ apostles, the founders of the Church.  In Irenaeus’ excerpt, “Priority of the Apostolic Tradition,” from his work Refutation and Overthrow of the “Knowledge” Falsely So Called, he makes the argument that the teachings of the apostolic tradition are authoritative over and beyond any other religious source that might take hold of Jesus’ name and work.

Seeking the truth, recognizing the truth, proclaiming the truth, and defending the truth is at the heart of why Irenaeus is writing.  Gnosticism is abounding all over the Roman world and in many regards it uses the same language as the Church and even incorporates Jesus into its heretical teachings, while distorting the true nature of Christ and his work.  In this excerpt of his argumentation against Gnosticism, Irenaeus focuses on apostolic tradition as the basis to reject Gnosticism  The Church in the 2nd century in which Irenaeus is writing is on its third and fourth rounds of leadership, in other words, they’re not sitting very far from the apostles.  Irenaeus says that he and others can enumerate the bishops that the apostles placed in charge, giving their names and cities, and they can also do the same for the bishops that those bishops placed up to the present.  He ensures them that the apostles didn’t keep any secrets hidden.  They passed on all there was to pass on concerning the teachings Jesus handed to them.

The apostles are so vital to knowing the truth in Irenaeus’ argumentation, because as I just stated, they got their teachings from Jesus.  Jesus, as Irenaeus reminds his readers, is the Son of God.  He reminds them of the teachings of the apostles, that Jesus stepped down from heaven and was incarnate, made man, born of the virgin Mary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, but came back to life!  He reminds them that Jesus is coming back to save those who are saved, and to cast everyone else into eternal fire.  Jesus is not the guy you want to be on the wrong side of in history.  You want to be in right standing with Jesus, and the way to do that is to be in right standing with the teaching of the apostles.  Jesus gave everything he wanted us to know to them, they passed it on to their disciples, who passed it on to their disciples.  Why, oh why, would anyone want to hear or entertain the teachings of the heretics, “For they had no Church or form of doctrine.”  He then names a couple of big wig heretics that his readers would have known, Valentinus (a Gnostic theologian) and Marcion (a dualist who was close to being a Gnostic).  His point here is that these two men’s teachings had no origin before them.  What weight does their teaching have to be considered true?  None!  What weight does the teachings of the apostles and their succession of bishops have?  Jesus!  They got Jesus!  Case closed.

This argumentation from Irenaeus still proves helpful for us today.  At the start of the 20th century, all we knew about Gnosticism was preserved from the writings of Irenaeus.  Then the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1940s and they resurrected the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, because within the collection of codices found in the caves of Qumran were a slew of Gnostic Gospels discovered for the first time.  Peter Jones has written extensively on how the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries have relaunched Gnosticism, pointing out how many of the tenants of Gnosticism are found in the New Age Movement, whose leaders have been known to have read these newly discovered Gnostic texts (Jones, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back).  These newly discovered Gnostic texts have brought about a need for a reaffirmation of apostolic tradition and succession to counter why the Gnostic Gospels are not in the Bible. It is often claimed that they were intentionally removed from the Bible by the Church leaders because their teachings contradicted that of the Church.  This charge against the Bible is so simple to answer, but few Christians today seem to know how to respond to this attack.  Irenaeus’ argument remains more than sufficient: the Gnostic Gospels all emerged out of thin air, arriving chronologically after the teachings of the apostles, contradicting the teachings that Jesus personally and historically handed down to them.  The apostles have Jesus, the Son of God, upon which their teachings stand.  The Gnostic Gospels stand on nothing except the thin air from which they are derived.  Case closed.


Bai, Han Gook. Apostolicity as a Church Response to Gnosticism in Irenaeus. St. Louis,  Missouri: Concordia Seminary, 1970.  BV4070.C69 M3 1970 no.1

Hochban, J. I. “St. Irenaeus on the Atonement.” Theological Studies, 7 no. 4 (1946). Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.

Jones, Peter. The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An old Heresy for the New Age. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1992.  BP605.N48 J67 1992

Kerr, Hugh T. Readings in Christian Thought. 2nd ed. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1990.

Olson, Mark Jeffrey. Irenaeus, the Valentinian Gnostics, and the Kingdom of God (A.H. Book V): The Debate about 1 Corinthians 15:50. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen Biblical Press, 1992. BR65.I63 A39 1992

Ware, James. “Paul’s Hope and Ours: Recovering Paul’s Hope of the Renewed Creation.” Concordia Journal. 35, no. 1 (Spring 2009). Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.

Wingren, Gustaf. “Saint Irenaeus” In Encyclopedia Britanica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. 2013. Accessed Dec. 11, 2018.

Soren Kierkegaard – Christianity is Dead.

KierkegaardSoren Kierkegaard lived a short live in the first part of the nineteenth century.  He was born in Denmark in 1813 and died there in 1855.  In this lifetime, he was largely unknown to most of Europe and he only wrote in Danish, yet in the mid-twentieth century his writings became more influential.  His writing was too hard hitting against the culturally norms of his day and the church authorities and the state of Christendom to ever grow wings in his lifetime.  In writing his unpulled critiques against Hegel’s philosophy which emphasized the collective of the masses working together to usher in a better and better world and humanity, Kierkegaard focused on truth being found in the individual and even a questioning denial of one absolute dogmatic religious truth which later gave way to existentialism, a view that places existence over essence (Karr, 266).  The other element of his writings that stands out is his views that being Christian comes from being a contemporary with Christ in one’s own living.  This emphasis on Christian living gave way to another important, enduring teaching of his, which is that the Christianity of the New Testament no longer exists despite Denmark being a Christian nation!  Before Friedrich Nietzsche would write, “God is Dead” in the back half of the nineteenth century, Kierkegaard essentially proclaimed, “Christianity is Dead.”  It is on this last emphasis of his writings that his work, Christendom, falls. In an excerpt of that text entitled, “Whether Christianity Exists,” Kierkegaard lays out all the many reasons why the Christendom of his day in Denmark was not true Christianity.

Kierkegaard found himself in a “Christian nation,” Denmark.  But on close examination, he could not see what he thought was true Christianity, and Kierkegaard seemed think he was the only one with this realization, so he wrote to convince others of this with the aim to get people away from the worst of sins, hypocrisy, which is to say everyone in Denmark was just “playing Christianity.”  They were actors merely engaged in “Sunday Christianity.”  Sure, Denmark had the vast list of churches with all the great inventory that goes along with them: candles, bells, organs, sepulchers to the prophets, garnished tombs for the righteously departed in their communities, and of course a gang of priests to play the leads in this drama, but what was lacking was a true New Testament Christianity of the first century that saw a body of Christians denying themselves, shirking the world, and in fact dying from it.  Kierkegaard saw in himself and in his countrymen the opposite of that New Testament example; he saw an ever increasing value and seeking after the temporal joys of this earthly world in himself and others year after year.

Again, hypocrisy, is the root problem for Kierkegaard.  He saw that priests were living for the world in their vocations.  They were constantly seeking job raises and promotions within their profession. They weren’t denying the world or their earthly ambitions and desires as they were calling others to do.  The people showing up every week to church to hear such messages weren’t doing that either. Kierkegaard saw that people had compartmentalized their lives.  Sunday was for the Christian stuff and Monday through Saturday were for their earthly pursuits and passions.  The two were not in-synch with each other.  People were content with the numbers – everyone identifies as a Christian, so we must all be Christian.  People were content with their Christianity and thus were happy to live in the lie of being Christian, knowing in their heart of hearts, it wasn’t true Christianity; it wasn’t the true calling of Christ to his people, the true calling to pick up your cross and follow him, to partake in his suffering and death – now!
This message seems to ring very true of a good number of big name modern day church writers and speakers.  In particular, I’m thinking of Francis Chan and his book, Crazy Love, and Daivd Platt and his book, Radical – both authors are New York Times Bestsellers.  The following is part of the description of the book Radical found on the book’s website:

It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily . . . (

The follow up question in the description is, “But who do you know that lives like that?  Do you?”  The answer is no one, except Platt is inviting you to live like that by committing to a one-year experience called the Radical Experiment.  Unlike Kierkegaard who said he and everyone in Denmark wasn’t a Christian based on the life Jesus called his disciples to live and so should stop being hypocrites, Platt says, “You can do it!”  And if one listens to Platt enough that doing is the sign that you are a true Christian.  It’s what can let you sleep at night, knowing that if you die before you wake, your soul God will take.

Francis Chan in his book, Crazy Love, start out well, proclaiming the “crazy love” that God has for us, but then the rest of the book is about how we should reciprocate that love by being “crazy in love” – or “radical” as Platt would label it.  Chan says that the term “lukewarm Christian” is an oxymoron, because we all know God spits out the lukewarm from the letter to the Laodiceans in Revelation.  When he describes the sorts of things Christians should be doing based on Jesus’ teachings or morality and generosity, for instance giving away your coat if you have two, we find that no one lives up.  Chan even admits at one point that we all have some elements in our lives that our lukewarm, but if that’s the case, then no one is a Christian since he says it’s an oxymoron to be a lukewarm Christian.  Chan is the worst at this sort of exhortation, because he also admits in his writings that he doesn’t want anyone to doubt their salvation who is lukewarm – too late Chan, I know someone who has doubted their salvation from reading your book.

It’s clear to me that what Kierkegaard and most recently Chan and Platt have written about concerning the Church by and large not looking like the Church in the New Testament Scriptures is for the most part true.  However, I think this shortcoming arises more when we focus on the book of Acts.  When we read the letters Paul and others wrote, we see that the churches in the first century had some rampant sins to be contested, such as the man who very knowingly by all in the community was having sex with his mother-in-law with no church discipline or repercussions.  All except one of the seven churches to receive letters in Revelation got chastised for their lack of works or zeal or misplaced trust in worldly possessions and remedies.  The author of the book of Hebrews had to even exhort the Christians to not give up meeting together as many were in the habit of doing.  Those first century Christians didn’t even have the excuse of being able to listen to the sermon online if they played hooky from the Sunday gathering.  For sure, we’re not all living the “radical” “sold out for Jesus” lifestyle, but we can’t all do that.  It’s not everyone’s calling. Someone needs to earn the money to be able to host the house church gatherings, someone needs to earn the money to sponsor the missionary journeys, someone needs to earn the money to feed the kids (the next generation of Church leadership).

The other large problem here is that Kierkegaard’s assessment is only valid for himself.  He cannot see into the hearts of the men and women he is judging.   If such New Testament living is the standard of being a Christian, then many of us are not saved.  Where would David or Solomon fit with this standard?  Where would the chief of all sinners, Paul, who did not do the good he desired to do, but instead did the evil he hated, stand before an almighty God?  Would they be called friend?  Will they receive the praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”  Will any of us? This leads to the biggest problem with this type of judgment, especially when shared completely void of the Gospel message: judging our salvation by our adherence to the Law of God is devastating to one’s faith in Christ.  It takes our trust off of Jesus Christ crucified.  Instead of boasting in Christ, we are turned inwards toward our own deeds.  We must point to our works to demonstrate our justifying love to God and our neighbor.  However, Scripture demonstrates that it’s from God’s love for humanity that he sent Christ who demonstrates that love for us by dying for all of our sins.  The penalty for all of our sins is paid in full.  That’s where our assurance of salvation comes, from an alien righteousness, a righteousness from outside ourselves that is imputed on us.  It is not an infused righteousness.