Philosophy of Ministry Overview

Barre Evangelical Free Church, Vermont

1.  What is a “Philosophy of Ministry?"
In simplest terms a philosophy of ministry is “a statement of how you will accomplish your purpose and why you do what you do in ministry.”

 By Contrast…

  •  Our DOCTRINAL STATEMENT gives a clears & distilled interpretation of the fundamental doctrines of the faith.  This is the same for other EFCA churches.
  • Our PURPOSE STATEMENT (in the constitution) defines the unchanging Biblical purpose of our church (and every other church)

By Illustration…
If you and I decided to go from here to Chicago, but could not agree whether we should fly, drive, take the train of bus – we simply could not go together, nor could we cooperate IN THE PROCESS.  We would agree and have unity in the DESTINATION but not UNTIY in the METHOD.

 So       

  • The DOCTRINAL STATEMENT shows unity of belief (like and anchor);
  • The PURPOSE STATEMENT shows unity of destination;
  • The PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY shows unity of method.

2. Importance
Without unity of method (i.e. unity in Philosophy of Ministry) the ability to do those things that we believe in are hampered.  It is the Philosophy of Ministry that equips us to function and accomplish tasks together.  In this sense agreement on the philosophy of ministry is actually more important to getting ministry done “together” than the constitution or by-laws.  I believe most of the splits & strong frictions within churches today (certainly not all) are really arguments over very widely differing philosophies of ministry.

If a philosophy of ministry is so important why haven’t I heard of it before?  EVERY functioning church has a philosophy of ministry – and it always has. However, few are written down.  You an easily tell a church’s philosophy of ministry by observing its behavior (not what they say, but what they do) – because the philosophy of ministry is simply a statement of the “how and why” of the ministry that they do.  A philosophy of ministry also defines what the role if the Pastor and the congregation are.

 3. Common Philosophies of Ministry in USA

A. Soul winning church
The key value is evangelism.  The people’s job is to bring visitors. The pastor’s job is to lead them to faith in the service through alter calls. The result is lots of baby Christians.  Example: Old Time Southern Baptist.

B. Social Action Church
The Key Value is social reform. The pastor is seen as a social action leader, the people are to demonstrate, do petition drives, be involved in soup kitchens, etc… The result is to make social activists. Example: Mainline Churches

C. Experiential Church
The key value is a to feel. This usually has a dramatic preacher or performer. People are to be a receptive audience. The desire is to produce feeling spirit-sensitive believers.  Example: Charismatic Churches

D. Theological Stance Church
The key value is a pure & usually particular doctrine.  The Pastor is the theological expert & the people are the learners.  The desire is to produce doctrinally pure people.  Example: OPC/Reformed

 Diversified Church
Sometimes called the shopping center church – this has something for everyone.  The Pastor manages the staff, people are program staff and the desire is to be “satisfied Christians” by doing something for everyone.  Not unusual to find a sub group for most situations in life. People come and say “What do you have for…” Example: Only possible in the Mega-Church

 F. Diciplemaking Church
This is what we are committed to.  Our goal is to make reproducing disciples after the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 (The Great Commission).  The Pastor is a leader and trainer – like a player coach. The role of the congregation is to make disciples. The end result is mature, reproducing people.

Now if you think carefully of each one of these models, they all have at least some good in them. The Philosophy of Ministry is not a matter of right & wrong like a doctrinal statement may be. It is a matter of how & why. We believe there are more effective and less effective “philosophies of ministry” in light of scripture. However, if the church is going forward together it must have agreement on the philosophy of ministry at least on the leadership level. If someone insists on this being a social action church (let’s say on the area of abortion) as our primary task, we will have constant conflicts because a local church can’t go two primary ways at he same time (at least not unless you are a mega church doing everything).  We will reflect items in each of the different Biblical Philosophies of Ministry in specific ministries within the church, but they will be subservient to our overall“how & why” found in our disciple making church Philosophy of Ministry.