My Dad once told me, “if it’s everybody’s job, then nobody will do it.” I was reminded of his sage advice today when I ran across this little story.
There is a story about four people. Their names are Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. The story goes that there was a very important job that needed to be done. Everybody was asked to do it, and Anybody could do it, but Nobody actually did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job to do. Everybody thought that Anybody could have done it, and Nobody realized that Everybody blamed Somebody for not doing the job. Still Nobody did it. The arguing got worse and finally Nobody would talk to Anybody and Everybody blamed Somebody.
The moral of the story, at least as my Dad tells it, is that I must recognize that everybody’s job is my job.
The Church’s Job is Everybody’s Job
I think this story is particularly challenging because the Bible gives the job of the church to everybody. More precisely, the job of the church is given to the entire church body, not just to the church’s leaders. Mark Dever made this point clear in his book, What is a Healthy Church? He explains,
It is for pastors, yes, but it’s also for every Christian. Remember: that’s who the authors of the New Testament address. When the churches in Galatia began listening to false teachers, Paul wrote to them and said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). Who was the “you” that Paul called to account for the false teaching in their churches? Not the pastors alone, but the church bodies themselves. You’d expect him to write to the churches’ leaders and say, “Stop teaching that heresy!” But he doesn’t. He calls the whole church to account.
If Dever is right, and I believe he is, then the church’s job isn’t just the pastor’s job. It’s every Christian’s job. It’s my job and its your job. So the next question is “what is the church’s job?” What does the church exist to do? What tasks did God give to everybody that I need to do?
I believe the church’s job description can be summarized into five major categories. I know that other authors have offered lists, some that include a few more points and some a few less. Nevertheless, I believe the following five points succinctly and effectively summarize the church’s job description. As I list them, I will try to think through how we can do the job of the church, even if we aren’t the pastor.
Proclamation of the Word
Proclamation of the Word of God describes the church’s task to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Word of God, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. These tasks are special means by which God continually communicates the gospel to our hearts.
Perhaps more than any of the other tasks, this one can strike us as someone else’s job. Of course, we recognize every member of the church should be baptized and regularly take the Lord’s Supper. But what about the sermon? Certainly that is the pastor’s task, not ours. Well, not really. We are called to be what Thabiti Anyabwile calls “expositional listeners.” That is, we are to actively listen to the message like the people of Berea, who received the message eagerly, and then examined message in light of the Word of God to see if the things being said are reliable (Acts 17:11).
Worship refers to the obedient and joyful response of the Christian and the church to the glory of God, especially as it is seen in the gospel. Worship includes making a joyful noise to the Lord through music and singing, but extends further into every aspect of the believer’s life. Worship happens through the renewing of our minds so that every aspect of our lives can be lived as a worshipful response to God.
Obviously pastors, or music leaders, can lead us in the worship service, but there is a reason we call it corporate worship. Worship is something that the entire body should do together because we impact each other when we worship together. John Hammett explains, “The primary purpose of worship is to honor God, but as worship is portrayed in the New Testament, it also serves the purpose of edifying believers and evangelizing nonbelievers.” This means that you, me, and the entire church body must work together to create an atmosphere of worship and to invite others to join us as we worship God.
Fellowship refers to a sense of unity that is derived from a common salvation shared by all believers and is worked out through love and service for one another. The development of community among the body is in view, as is meeting the spiritual, relational, and physical needs of individuals within the body.
Perhaps we find it easy to agree that the burden of fellowship belongs to the entire body. Yet, if we are honest, many of us still tend to think of fellowship as the task of everybody… else. We are more aware of how many people greeted us, than we are of how many people we greeted. We expect the church to visit us in the hospital, but don’t volunteer to be the visitor. Meeting needs and building relationship is everyone’s job, but we must make it our job first.
Discipleship refers to the training of the body to fulfill the work of ministry. It includes cognitive development aimed at helping the church develop knowledge that is key to Christian growth and practice. Discipleship also seeks to influence the affections of the church body, developing a deeper love for God and joy in the salvation He offers.
This task of training begins with the pastor who is given specific teaching and shepherding roles within the church. However, older women are called to teach younger women and older men are called to teach younger men. Fathers are given a discipleship role in their families and mothers work with their husbands to disciple their children. Thus discipleship is a task that must be accomplished by the entire church body. Each and every one of us should seek to develop ourselves for the work of ministry, which includes training our friends, family, and fellow believers to do the work of ministry along with us.
In addition to ministry to the body, the church must seek to minister to the entire world. The church is to be a “city on a hill” that proclaims the truth of the gospel and the glory of God to those who are outside of the church. This task is accomplished through acts of service and through proclamation of the gospel. Through service and proclamation the church acts as Christ’s ambassadors, imploring men from every tribe, tongue, and nation, to be reconciled to God.
God’s mission, to call people who will worship him in every tribe, tongue, and nation, is too big for any one person to accomplish. It is a task that requires everybody. Not the kind of everybody that assumes someone else will do it. It requires you and me to be ambassadors. We must tell our family, our neighbors, and the entire world about the salvation offered in Jesus Christ.