If, as most Christians profess, Jesus is indeed the only Head of the Church, it seems reasonable that Christ’s Church should reflect His personality in it’s ministries and structure.
One way that Jesus is reflected in the ministry of faithful churches has been the recovery of a balanced Word & Deed holistic ministry. By balanced I am in no way suggesting a compromise. Instead I am referring to churches that are uncompromising BOTH in their pursuit of sound Biblical and theological instruction AND in thier practice of meeting the real – spiritual and tangible – needs of their neighbors.
This only makes sense, since Jesus is himself the Word Incarnated and the one who “came to serve, not to be served”. (See Mark 10.45) Jesus’ service was expressed through miraculous practical, provision and help. And Jesus is the one who said to his disciples: “Just as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (See John 20.21) Traditionally churches have structured their leadership into the offices of Elder and Deacon, in accord with Biblical directive, to reflect Word & Deed. (Elders = Word; Deacons = Deed)
But I am increasingly becoming convinced that there is another, an additional, way that the personality of Jesus should be expressed in the Church. This additional way, often referrred to as Tri-Perspectivalism or Multi-Perspectivalism, should be expressed in the Leadership Structure and in the ministry of the church. In fact, I am convinced that it needs to be the guage by which we evaluate the faithfulness of our congregations.
The Bible teaches that Jesus exercised three distinct offices:
Each of these offices carry a significance. In exercising these three offices Jesus also reveals aspects of his personality.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes for us how Jesus exercised each of these offices:
Q. 24. As a Prophet, Christ reveals the Will of God to us for our salvation by His Word and Spirit.
Q. 25. As a Priest, Christ offered himself up once as a sacrifice for us to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God; and He continually intercedes for us.
Q. 26. As a King, Christ brings us under His power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all his and our enemies.
Another way of looking at these distinct roles is:
Prophet is concerned with understanding and communicating God’s Truth, and applying it to every aspect of life.
Priest is concerned with the Spiritual Renewal and Transformation of all Christ’s People. The Priest is concerned not only for the conversion and intial reconcilation of the Believer to God, but also that all our lives be increasingly lived out in the joy and freedom that the Gospel secures and applies to us.
King is concerned with the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom, with both the Future fulfillment and Present Realities in mind. In that sense, the King is concerned about both the mission and the structures of his Church.
What I have discovered is that each of these offices offers a unique perspective for leadership and ministry. Each is equally important. Each must be equally considered. If all three are not equally considered the ministry of the church is unbalanced. In fact, if all three aspects, or perspectives, are not equally considered the ministry is not only unbalanced it is unfaithful. It is not faithful to reflect the whole person of Christ, who is not only the Head but also the Model.
I am indebted to several people who have written extensively about this subject. In partcular I am indebted to Dick Kaufman of Harbor Presbyterian Church in San Diego for introducing me to this concept, and to Drew Goodmanson and David Fairchild of Kaleo Church who have written and diagramed some practical implications they have discovered.
Some of what I am realizing is that a Uni-Perspectival approach, a view that elevates one or two of the three perspectives above the other(s), leads to some common models of ministries, that may or may not have some strengths, but are nevertheless unbalanced and unfaithful:
Prophet Perspective – This church is probably strong in Bible teaching and Sound doctrine. But without a corresponding value of the perspective of the King the church will be empty of effective mission, and largely impotent in evangelism; without the corresponding value of the perspective of the Priest discipleship will be little more than the transfer of knowledge for the ascenting to doctrinal propositions.
This is a common error of many churches in my presbytery and denomination. We, rightly, place such a high view of Scripture & Sound doctrine, we, wrongly, are prone to minimize or ignore the other perspectives.
King Perspective – This church is probably strong in Outreach and Church Growth. They establish effective structures for ministry and multiplication. Such a high emphasis is placed on Practical Theology that there is often a neglect of Systematic and/or Biblical Theology. The value is getting people outside the church into the church. Everything else takes a back seat. Sometimes anything that seems to impede this singular priority will be omitted entirely. Without the corresponding value of the perspectives of the Prophet and Preist, discipleship is often merely pragmatic, mechannical, shallow, and even fuzzy on Truth.
It seems to me that the Church Growth Movement of the 1970’s & 1980’s, and the Seeker Movement of the 1990’s, were driven by this myopic perspective.
Priest Perspective – These churches focus on the experiential. People are accepted and connected to one another, which is a characteristic sadly lacking in many churches influenced by our individualistic Western-Modern-Culture. It is also lacking in congregations influenced by judgemental Fundamentalism.
I believe the recovery of this perspective is important, and will round out the weaknesses of many Evangelical congregations that are largely some combination of Prophet-King. I also believe it is honoring to the Lord. (See Psalm 133, John 17.)
But, without the corresponding value of the Perspective of the Prophet, these churches will be prone to practice, contrary to God’s Word, “love” without “truth”. (See Galatians 6.1, Ephesians 4.15) And because there is no end to our problems and needs, apart from valuing the Perspective of the King, there is often a tendency to get so wrapped-up in one another that there is a neglect of proactive advancement of the Kingdom. In fact, lacking the perspectives of both the Prophet and King, some Priestly congregations may overlook the ultimate need of people and the reason for Mission: People are enslaved to sin and alienated from God.
The overemphasis, or exclusive emphasis, of the Priest Perspective is commonly seen in Liberal Mainline and Emergent churches.
I write this post, not because I have discovered THE answer for all things but, because I am convinced that to be faithful we must strive toward this Tri-Perspective.
Again, I am not suggesting compromise at all, the lowering of any standards. I am encouraging, and seeking, synergy – the working together of multiple parts. And I am convinced that in this synergy we will see healthier churches, even power, because we will more truly reflect the Person of Jesus to the World and one another.