Tom does not like the word "committees." He considers them an outdated way of doing church. "Teams," he suggests, "better reflect the model of Ephesians 4:11-16. They are opened-ended and everyone has a role. But the team shares a common goal."
Tom is not exactly cutting edge. He's eclipsed eighty. His face is aged; hair, white; and smile, wrinkled. But his eyes betray a youthful fervor when he speaks about the church. He preaches regularly from the Ephesian text, calling it a "vision of the church from God's perspective." He often adds the word glorious.
Clergy and committees, Tom warns, both restrict the church in her effectiveness. Paid staff cannot (and should not) do all the work of ministry. He always grins when telling the story of speaking to seminary students about equipping. He'd asked them if they were "preparing for ministry, or learning to train others in ministry?" Long silence. "They looked like deer in a headlight," he explains.
And committees are ministry momentum killers. Neither passion nor spiritual gifting are required. Merely a name. And a vote. And a year of meetings. I once heard Tom politely argue with a consultant about the distinction between teams and committees. The consultant referenced a paper he had written. Tom chose not to reference his book.
While Tom's refrain for teamwork often conjures up motivational posters I'd expect to see in a Christian junior high locker room (read: Teamwork makes the dream work), I cannot help but agree with him. Ministry works better in teams. Leadership must become less about playing to the pastor's strengths, and more about expanding the congregation's service capacity. The apostle Paul described it this way, "[God provides leaders...] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service." Surely, this is glorious.
Travels with Tom (Part 3)