In his book “Sojourners and Strangers” Gregg Allison argues that before we describe The Church “functionally” (what it is there to do), we need to describe it “ontologically” (what it is).
1. How we would describe what the church is?”
2. How this might affect our approach to church life?
Allison offers a list of seven characteristics. In sum, they focus on our relationship to the Triune God, that we are Word centred, that we are meant to be missional (note this is about what we are, not just what we do), confessional (confessing Jesus as Lord individually and corporately), covenantal (a relationship to our Lord and to each other) and gathered, rooted in real time and space.
We will also want to talk about the Church as, the bride of Christ, as a royal priesthood, as the body of Christ and the family of believers.
I think that one way in which thinking about what the church is will get us thinking about roles and responsibilities in church.
1. How much of the debate about men and women in ministry is shaped by thinking functionally and then thinking hierarchically?
2. What about job titles that suggest hierarchy: Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Assistant Pastor, Lead elder? Don’t these miss the point of who we are. I suspect the problem with this is that we are trying to do two things. First of all, there is the responsibility someone has towards the congregation as a pastor/elder/teacher. Secondly when a church starts to pay multiple people then there are employment responsibilities including line management. The two issues are conflated leading to a hierarchical view in the church. By the way, it also risks assuming that the best person to lead strategically and to line manage people is the one who does most of the preaching, has been there the longest etc (when did you last hear of a church asking someone to come in as the senior pastor when an established preaching pastor is already in place). Personally, I would rather focus on appointing elders/pastors and then when they are asked to carry out a specific responsibility within the church identifying that responsibility rather than using titles to identify seniority.
These are just some first thoughts, feel free to reflect