by Peyton Jones: When Jesus ascended with His work unfinished, He knew that no one person was going to be able to follow in His wake. The five kitbags each represent a specific skillset necessary for a church leadership team, like a sapper, sniper, commando, Navy SEAL, and heavy weapons expert. A church planter is never a splinter cell who acts alone, but the leader of a platoon of daredevil pathfinders. Church planting resembles a covert commando operation that travels covertly in small teams, creates an opening for other special teams, and gets the heck out of Dodge when the mission is accomplished.
Wimps need not apply. Typically, church-planting teams have not been very specialized. If somebody plants a church, it’s assumed that he must be a pastor. What about the other four roles? Imagine Navy SEALs outfitted in full scuba gear getting ready to jump out of an airplane. They just don’t have the kit. Don’t get me wrong, a pastor may be called to plant, but he’s going to need to jump with an apostle. If a pastor isn’t particularly gifted on the evangelistic side of things, he’s going to need somebody on hand with the evangelism kitbag. What good would it be if we were all Navy SEALs? I need a sapper. I’m gonna probably need a sniper as well. If you’ve seen Stallone’s The Expendables, you’ll know that the individuals in that team of elite mercenaries were recruited because of their special skills. So were you. When Jesus recruits leaders, He equips them like a Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Couture, Austin, Crews, Rourke, or Willis to assemble a super-team of highly specialized talents. We may be a Dirty Dozen crew of specialized ex-convicts, but we have skills. The Dirty Dozen impacted cinematic history because it concentrated on special teams. If it had been called The Dirty One, it would have conveyed an entirely different meaning, or it would have blown as a film.
Nobody wants to watch one guy doing everything. Nobody buys it, and it doesn’t work in real life. Because the church has assumed that all you need for simple shake-and-bake church planting is a pastor, the church has not learned to knit bands of special teams together, and rather than becoming the Expendables, they’ve often become the Disposables in terms of expanding the kingdom. The church desperately needs to see the return of the A-Team. The pastor-only club is killing the leadership of the church. Guys are burning out, losing their families, sabotaging their marriages, or simply going back to selling used cars. It’s time those of you in ministry got your life back. There was only one guy who could shoulder all five jobs on His own, and He’s not physically camping out here anymore. Jesus was the Master Chief of those five roles. Master Chief is a cybernetic super-soldier who can use any weapon of any make, alien or otherwise, simply by picking it up. He possesses integrative software hardwired into his cyber-suit that immediately breaks down the operational component of any weapons system. You and I, unfortunately, do not possess such a suit. We’re grunts. Therefore, we specialize. A shepherd can’t concentrate on evangelism; a teacher has to hit the books and resist being bogged down with too many namby-pamby counseling sessions.
Jesus alone mastered all five roles: •Apostle: “Consider Jesus, the apostle” (Heb. 3: 1). Let’s face it, He is the ultimate pioneer, missionary, messenger, and sent one. •Prophet: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers— it is to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18: 15). After Jesus gave the people bread in the wilderness like Moses did, John did the math for us: “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (John 6: 14). Good guess. •Evangelist: When Jesus took the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth, He read Isaiah 61: 1, which says that He was anointed to “bring good news [gospel] to the poor” as well as liberty and the Lord’s favor. If John’s gospel presents Jesus as anything in His conversations, it presents Him as an evangelist. •Shepherd: “I am the good shepherd” (John 10: 11). Peter calls him our “chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5: 4). •Teacher: “And he opened his mouth and taught them” (Matt. 5: 2). “Never man spake like this man” (John 7: 46 KJV). ’Nuff said. FIST leadership isn’t something we’ve made up; it’s what our Master Chief has distributed to the church so that He can “fill all things” (Eph. 4: 10). That means to spread out! Therefore, He calls some to be apostles, some evangelists … you get the picture. Facing a task unfinished, we seek to fill the hole that He’s left behind. When Bugs Bunny ran through a wall, he left a Bugs-shaped hole, rabbit ears and all. What does a Jesus-shaped hole look like? You got it: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. Each of these leaders plays a vital role in equipping believers with a specialty so that they become a balance of the five roles. That’s why Paul said these leaders are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to … the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4: 12– 13). Last time I checked, the whole church hasn’t attained that fullness yet. These roles have been given until we attain it. Therefore, I think we’re gonna need these roles to stick around for a bit, until He comes back. If people see just the pastor-only model, they mistake Jesus’s leg for the whole body. But when all five roles operate, the church’s other three limbs will begin to be built up and attain Christ’s stature in the world.
The church is a bit like Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Voltron featured a team of five young pilots who each controlled a giant lion vehicle that combined to form Voltron, a super robot as big as a skyscraper and nigh invulnerable. (Yeah, it’s an eighties thing.) On their own, each of these lion robots, cool as they were, got their metallic butts kicked by aliens. For some reason that only the modern church could relate to, the five pilots repeatedly tried taking on said aliens individually before finally uniting to form Super Robot Voltron. Now, I was only eight when I watched this, but every day I knew their modus operandi was doomed. So I just waited till they got their cans kicked enough till they decided it was time to press the red button, uniting them into (step back) Voltron, Defender of the Universe. Once Voltron took shape, alien mutants got cut down, massive energy swords flashed, some alien chick screamed, and the universe got saved. Thus endeth the lesson. It’s tough for an evangelist to strike out on his own when he doesn’t know how to shepherd the community of people who get saved under his ministry. The pastor shepherds the people in the church while praying that he doesn’t leak more out, but he struggles to get them to walk through the doors no matter how hard he tries. The pulpiteering teacher swashbuckles through the riggings of exegesis like Errol Flynn, but he has no clue how to care for his hearers when their lives fall apart. If we would take a lesson from an eighties Saturday-morning kids cartoon, we’d start to unite the five lions in order to create the image of Jesus, who would tower over our communities wielding the sword of the Spirit.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.