During the years that I was in university the church in which I grew up underwent a gradual decline in membership and giving until it was finally unable to call a full time pastor. For many congregations this event is the final toll of the death knell indicating that its time to lock the doors for the last time. But the folks at Knox Church weren’t ready to give up the ghost. Over the years, they had developed resilience and confidence in lay collaboration. So they decided to band together and make it work for as long as they could. It’s now been some 15 or so years since Knox’s transition to what they called a “shared ministry model” and they’re still making a go of it.

When I return to Knox for visits, I’m always astounded at how well things are going. I’m not saying that it’s a well oiled machine or that you won’t find bumps or bruises. But this is a congregation that is behaving like a body, with every part contributing something of value (or at least encouraged to do so).

I see a lot of promise in this approach to shared ministry.

  1. Congregation as Body of Christ: Shared ministry takes seriously the New Testament teaching on distribution of spiritual gifts among the laity and works toward fulfillment of the Old Testament hope that at one point, all would function under the anointing of the Spirit.
  2. Leadership clarity: Shared ministry focuses the task of leaders specifically on equipping for maturity and service. Shifting out of institutional functions and hierarchical roles can be a challenge, but shared ministry called leaders back to our core biblical calling.
  3. Discipleship: the more folks are included in significant service, they more their faith matures from an inward conviction to a lived social reality.
  4. Particularly for small churches or those serving in difficult environments, shared ministry seems like a very good use of resources, allowing some churches to divert funds they would have spent on salary into outreach, evangelization and discipleship.

I’m curious to know if you have experienced an intentional shared ministry model before?

Is this something your church is actively pursuing?

What are some of the benefits and struggles you’ve faced along the way?

What kind of guidance and resources have you found helpful?

Miscellaneous

President Ilves on Estonia

Estonia, Miscellaneous

“For the visitor unfamiliar with Estonia, the smallness and flatness of the country can be deceptive. Like the taciturn and reticent Estonians, the subdued landscape, with its absence of emotionally dramatic vistas and panoramatic heights, recalls in the late 20th century an earlier time, quieter and more spare, where there simply were fewer people in the world, where things were quieter and nature, rather deceptively, more pervasive. Nature in Estonia does not intrude on the consciousness through drama, but through its sheer presence. One does not need a Mont Blanc, a Grand Canyon or the Rhine river valley to be struck by Nature. A quiet meadow, a primeval forest, a spawning island for Baltic Sea seals, all quietly assert the primacy of Nature over human artifice.”

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, quoted in the Regio Road Atlas, 1998.