The other day on Twitter, I came across a ministry that focuses on the outsourcing of ministry related management and administration for the church and non-profits. This ministry provides outsourcing services of administrative duties so churches, non-profits and other ministries can focus on their missions unencumbered by managerial tasks. In theory, the service provides the church more time to do ministry and keep the main thing the main thing.

Outsourcing and the church is an interesting concept, and I am still unsure of what I think about it; I haven’t quite gotten my mind around this concept yet. At first glance, this seems like a good idea; but I am sure there are many facets to this, negative implications and complications with the outsourcing of church work. Some of the implications could be becoming detached from the organizational structure and people and over-dependence on outside resources rather than the church body and the power of God through His Holy Spirit.

One thing for sure is the family and the church are primarily responsible for discipleship and ministry. God has designed and designated the family and the church, His body, as His platform for discipleship and ministry. Our mission to disciple and to minister as the family and the church is our responsibility and charge as Christians. Discipleship and ministry to the family and to the local church body cannot and should not be outsourced by the church.

Jesus commanded that we make disciples of all nations in the great commission when He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age: (Matthew 28:18-20).

Recently a friend of mine took a position as pastor of discipleship at a local church. This is a ministry dream job! The opportunities and the potential that exist in this position are so important and essential. These opportunities include ensuring that discipleship happens within the church and outside of the church. This is a vital position in the local church, because equipping families and the local congregation to know Jesus, to follow Him, and to make Him known is what we should be about as the church.

My friend would be the first to emphasize the fact that the discipleship pastor’s responsibilities do not include being solely responsible for discipleship in the church. As a matter of fact, he most likely would not have taken the job if he thought the church was handing him this responsibility exclusively. This would be an indication of an unhealthy church with no clue as to how effective and healthy discipleship looks in a growing and vibrant community. In other words, if my friend had thought discipleship was being outsourced to him, this would have been a red flag indicating an un-biblical understanding of discipleship. This would have sent him running far and fast.

My buddy, and the church that hired him, understands discipleship is everyone’s responsibility. The church seeks to equip everyone to make disciples who make other disciples. The leadership, the church, the youth pastor, the college minister, the children’s minister, the worship leader and the discipleship pastor—everyone works together synergistically to ensure that discipleship occurs effectively and successfully to the glory of God in His church. The church and the leadership understand a biblical view of discipleship and recognize that discipleship is everyone’s responsibility.

We cannot outsource discipleship. The Great Commission commands us all to make disciples; no one is exempt from this vital role in God’s church. We cannot pass off this obligation or outsource it to someone else or to another organization. Doing so certainly would not be obedient and never would set us free. As Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Disciples are those who know and practice God’s Word in obedience, and this includes making other disciples.

Many areas of work and expertise can be and often are outsourced. Discipleship and ministry, however, cannot be and should not be outsourced by the church. Doing so would degrade the very nature of the church’s call and purpose in the world and to the world. Outsourcing discipleship would be an affront to God’s very design. Discipleship is personal, affecting and implicates individual congregants. Discipleship is corporate, encompassing, involving, and impacts the community and the world. Discipleship is the church’s responsibility individually and corporately.

It is common for church members to think ministry and discipleship are jobs reserved for the ministry professionals. This is most likely the church’s blunder because of its teaching and common practice. I certainly have experienced this in youth ministry, in pastoral ministry and in teaching in the local church. In hiring the youth pastor, college minister, teacher or discipleship pastor, some churches believe they effectively have done their jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hiring a minister to fill a position is actually when the hard work begins. This hard work includes everyone doing his or her job—discipleship.

Ministry and discipleship is everyone’s responsibility. The professional minister, youth pastor, college minister, pastor, teacher and discipleship pastor’s responsibility is to equip families and the church for individual and corporate discipleship and ministry, which fulfills the great commission. We are to be disciples, who make disciples, who also make other disciples and so on. Discipleship is multiplication, not addition; and it involves everyone dynamically.

The church as a whole must embrace this mission to be disciples of Jesus, who make disciples of Jesus, who also make disciples. The goal is to reach the world for Jesus Christ. With this magnitude of a call, everyone must function in his or her role and do his or her part. There is no outsourcing of this essential calling of every church member, layperson, pastor and church leader. We must be participators in discipleship; there is no room for spectators. Everyone is implicated.

The greatest dangers we face in ministry and discipleship outsourcing is neglecting our calling and forgetting our purpose and vocation as ministers. We cannot forget what got us excited about ministry in the first place. We cannot forget why we started following Jesus and the passion He invoked in us. Outsourcing for the sake of ease can cause us to loose ourselves. It can kill our joy. 1 Peter 2:21 indicates this about suffering for doing good in ministry: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” It is not burdensome to follow Him in obedience to His glorious call in our lives. We may rekindle our passion and fire for ministry.

Peter goes on to say we are called to “shepherd the sheep” in our care. In 1 Peter 5:2-4, Peter says, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” There is no room for outsourcing here. Our motivation in ministry is serving Jesus, the good shepherd, in His example as shepherds ourselves. Again, this simply cannot be outsourced, but it does come with a noteworthy reward.

Finally, Paul also warns us in Ephesians 4:1-3 “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Obedience to a sometimes difficult and demanding call to make disciples can leave us tired and wanting to defer to someone else. We must resist this temptation and walk worthy of our call by the power of the Holy Spirit with lowliness, gentleness and longsuffering as we bear with one another in love.

Here are some questions we should consider and keep before ourselves as ministers when we are considering outsourcing:
1. Is this outsourcing ministry or discipleship for which I am responsible?
2. Does outsourcing this task neglect what God specifically called me to do?
3. Is this outsourcing what is best for the church, the community and for making disciples in the world?
4. Am I passing this task off to avoid a hard but necessary conversation or interaction?
5. Is outsourcing this helping me to avoid a difficult person or situation I know God has given as my ministry responsibility?
6. Am I being lazy?
7. Is outsourcing this good stewardship?
8. Does outsourcing this glorify God?
9. Is outsourcing this responsibility the best possible solution?
10. Am I abdicating what is clearly in my job description?

As ministers, we should be intentional and prayerful about how we minister and make disciples. We should seek to honor God in all we do and do everything with excellence to God’s glory. Let us do this. Let us live up to our callings and not forsake them by outsourcing them, selling them out or giving them away. Would we make disciples of Jesus boldly and powerfully, reaching the world for Jesus, acknowledging His own promise to us in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Bibliography
Miles Advisory Group, ministry outsourcing.

The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Pe 2:21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Pe 5:2-4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (Eph 4:1-3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Robbie loves Jesus, youth ministry, the great outdoors, writing poetry and writing about theology, discipleship and leadership. He has been in ministry more than 17 years and graduated from Trinity School for Ministry with a Diploma in Christian Ministry and from Columbia International University with a B.A. in Bible and General Studies and a minor in Youth Ministry. Follow his blogs at RobbiePruitt.Blogspot.com and RobbiePruitt.com and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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