Turning Presbyteries into Worshipping Centres of Excellence

There is a great deal of discussion in the national church at the moment about the best way to use the gifts of "The People of God." I've noticed though that a number of my fellow ministers feel quite threatened by the idea that lesser theologically trained individuals might end up being used to do what has been traditionally the job of a minister. I do think that it is important that we keep standards high in the church but what to me is more important, is that we who are Christian leaders live moral lives and mentor others into leadership. The following material is extracts from a paper i wrote about this ten years ago as a member of the Church Without Walls Special Commission. I've come to the conclusion that what qualifies a man or a woman to minister is not the theological training they have or have not received, It is the quality of their everyday life. Helping people make right choices to live for Christ and encouraging and leaving room for them to serve, is one of the most fulfilling aspects of ministerial life. Its interesting to note that the early reformers way back in the 14th century, (known as Lollards), often used to comment that the only priests who could truly serve where those who lived Godly and circumspect lives. So it seems to me that whoever we get to carry out the functions of Word and Sacrament be they men or woman, the one thing that will qualify them, no doubt along with others, must be their actions over against the brilliance of their theology. If only Presbyteries with all their trained theologically aware ministers, would empower more ministers to teach and encourage those who come to offer themeselves in service. I think there is a huge gap in the Christian Church for discipleship training. I wonder if we could explore more what it means to accompany each other in Christian discipleship and service. I know that I greatly appreciated the wisdom and encouragement of an older minister in the presbytery when I first started as a young minister. I think if this role was encouraged we might find fewer ministers feeling threatened. You know the saying "if you're not in on it you're down on it" lets get more people in on it. A number of growing churches around the world operate what iI will call "a cell, satellite, centre model". The cell is a small group of up to 12 people who meet weekly for prayer and mutual encouragement. The leadership of these small groups are nurtured and mentored by the pastors of the satellite congregations. Gordon Reid retired minister of Gillespie Memorial has written a brilliant Course entitled "Take Twelve". he has designed this course for a minister to train up others in areas of service. The Satellite is a group of people from 20 -400 this is the equivalent of the local congregation. it is made up of any amount of cell groups. They meet weekly on a Sunday morning or at a time suitable. The centre is the resource that services the satellite congregations. The centre is also a worshipping community made up of all the satellite groups and model's excellence for all the satellites. The centre offers numerous worshipping opportunities during the weekend often one on a Saturday evening and perhaps on four occasions on a Sunday . The centre acts as a resource to the satellite congregations becoming a resource to thousands of people who attend the satellite congregations. Often the centre hosts a Bible School and a Worship Leaders School, and a number of regular training programmes on a weekly basis for the satellite congregations. Adapting a Model The role of a Presbytery could be adapted for the resourcing of the church here in Scotland in a proactive manner rather than being a reactive business meeting at which comparative strangers seek to vote on issues that seem far removed from their congregational lives The question needs to be asked what is it that Presbytery currently does that is vital to the life and direction of the local congregations in Scotland? What would happen if we changed the Presbytery from a business meeting to become a motivational centre for Christian discipleship and development? The business and administration of Presbytery would change to be directly linked to the management and growth of the congregations or satellites in its bounds. The Church of Scotland already has a wealth of talent employed in the parishes that could be used to staff and service Regional Centres of Excellence for training in a variety of areas including ministry and worship. The time has come to leave the old models behind and begin to change mindsets by empowering the people of God to lead and to make an impact on our nation. The model of one minister working in one parish or between three parishes is no longer viable. The local church according to Ephesians 4 is built around Christ the head, with the Holy Spirit imparting a gift of ministry to every believer. It is surely the gifts of the Spirit at work in the church that produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Ministry is therefore interdependent on each others gifts. To speak of the minister as the one in whom all the gifts reside is to limit the power of God and paralyses the church. Under this new model ministers would become enablers and teachers releasing the gifts of leadership throughout the church. So tell me what you think I'll post the next part of the article in a couple of days.

Posted By: italker   On: 14 Sep 2010   At: 12:26pm

Thanks John for you comments. I guess I’m suggesting that these changes in mindset must start with the leadership. Ministers need to see that they are called to be encouragers of the flock and that it is a shared ministry.  Yeah congregations need to gain more confidence.


Posted By: JohnO   On: 14 Sep 2010   At: 9:26am

As one who is nearing the end of the training process for ministry in the CofS, I can say that there is a big emphasis on co-operative working in the training programme (and I’m sure Sheena will back this up). That said, I think we’re still just paying lip-service to it in many respects. We get ‘management and leadership’ workshops which, I think, make anyone who has industry experience just cringe. Nevertheless, it’s a start and something that must continue to be emphasised and developed.

I do think it will take time for this mindset to filter through to congregations as well. It’s all very well encouraging the gifts of God’s people but if there is still a mindset in the pews that the minister does it all then that too needs to be changed and challenged.

But, without a doubt, there are signs of such growth and development in many congregations and that’s why encouraging stories from CWW and similar approaches always need to be heralded to the wider church.

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