Essential vs. Non-Essential Components of Church Ministry


Clear Category Error

Wallace makes a clear category error in his post.

First, he lists 6 essential components of a church service. (I think giving is a bit iffy, but that's beside the point.)

Then, he talks about essentials of church ministry.

See the problem? Church ministry considered in its totality is not identical to a church service. He has transposed "what is essential for a church service" onto "what is essential for a church." In order to be valid, his argument would need an additional premise: "What is essential for an individual church service is identical to what is essential for a church."

The essentials of church ministry, considered in a broad sense, are probably better listed as objectives rather than as elements or activities. For example, some overlapping categories might be:

1) Worship
2) Evangelism
3) Discipleship
4) Mercy

With objectives in mind, a church is (relatively) free to implement the forms and functions necessary to achieve those objectives. So, Sunday school may not be essential per se, but it is quite possible that in a particular church, that Sunday school plays a vital role in achieving the church's objectives. Of course, another church might fulfill biblical objectives through another vehicle, rendering the presence of a Sunday school superfluous or even burdensome.

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Quote:Wallace makes a clear

Wallace makes a clear category error in his post.
Isn't he is actually addressing something very narrow, namely, those who believe that a church must have certain programs when it meets and do certain things when it meets (e.g., Sunday School, Sunday night, offerings, etc.)? He isn't even addressing the category you are talking about.

In fact, he says explicitly, that he is talking about "what the church should be doing when it meets together." He further says, "I am not focusing on the foundational purposes of the church in this post."

So don't expect something out of the post that it clearly states it was not intending to give.

His whole post is exactly what your last paragraph is, that a church is free to carry out things in different ways.

Scope Shift

If he had stuck to describing what a biblical worship service looks like, then that would be fine. He's basically articulating a (potentially milder) form of the Regulative Principle of Worship. However, he keeps jumping between categories. His list of essentials are all elements of an individual service. However, his list of non-essentials includes both elements of an event and events themselves. For example, in his list of non-essentials is a Sunday night service. But wait, that's not an element of worship. Nor is Sunday school. Nor are missions conferences and revival meetings. That's like saying essential car parts are the driveshaft and axle, but non-essential car parts are Honda and Nissan.

So, his post shifts as it goes along. It starts talking about the essential elements of a church worship service, but then broadens to church ministry in general. There is a technical term for this error. It's called scope shift. If one follows his reasoning to the end of the article, one concludes that the author thinks the essential of church ministry is a worship service with six elements. "If a church has all of the essential components of a church service, but does not have Sunday School, or a Sunday evening service, or special music, or a traditional invitation — guess what — they can still be a 100% biblical church." He has effectively reduced the church to a church service, and in doing so, has provided a poor frame for church ministry.

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Charlie, I understand your

Charlie, I understand your argument, but I wonder if you might be missing his point and instead are reading too much into it.

My guess is that he comes from a background of "traditionalism" (or perhaps is trying to lead a traditionalistic church to change) where the SS/Sun AM/Sun PM/Wed Prayer type structure was common, and had even grown to be the "biblical way." These churches end up with all manner of things which become "the biblical way to be a churhch." In this mindset, people don't look at what you do when you gather (his opening points). They look at what you have on the weekly schedule, and judge you as unbiblical because you don't have SS, or Sun PM, or certain other things. Or like judging churches as unevangelistic because they don't have come-forward invitations. I have been accused of that before. It mistakes traditions and practices for biblical obedience. It might not be common in your world, but I think it is pretty common in some IFB circles.

His point is that SS or Sun PM or missions conference or passing the offering plates are not how to judge biblical churches. You judge them by whether or not they do what the Bible says to do, even if they might do it in another format.

Opposite Problems

Larry, it's interesting that you bring up the context. Indeed I think that might be his motive behind writing. When I was in seminary, the opposite was the prevailing mode. One learns the regulative principle, and one follows it. The church is the church service, and the church service is these 5 or six elements and no more. A nice illustration of how readers bring different concerns to the table.

In the end, though, I think his approach is still tied to the problem he is combating. Some IFB people apparently have a long list of activities that a church needs to be a good church. He has shortened the list to one activity, the worship service, which he then subdivides. It's still not a very objective-oriented or holistic framework for discussing ministry issues.

My Blog:

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

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