By Guest Blogger, James Merrifield
I will start by saying that I found R. Paul Steven’s book The Equipper’s Guide to Every-Member Ministry (Regent College Publishing, 1992) to be every practical. I also found myself wondering how different churches would look if the things in this book were applied in the widespread congregations across the country. Dividing the book into eight chapters Stevens takes on the challenge of moving our current church culture forward by examining different areas in which the whole congregation can get involved in living out their biblical call to be ministers.
From the very beginning of the book Stevens does an excellent job of laying a biblical foundation for the practices he will be talking about. With this biblical foundation is able to challenge cultural ideas about how the church structure should look. The laying of this biblical foundation for his arguments is very necessary simply because there is a good chance that many people will either feel threatened or afraid that he is trying to destroy their church. Of course he is not trying to do this but rather strengthen it and build a stronger. One of the possible areas where people could feel threatened, or fear the change that Stevens is suggesting, is in his presentation of having multiple lay preachers within the congregation. These multiple preachers would work together as the team to encourage and grow one another in their gift of preaching.
Another very interesting thing that Stevens does with this book is that he has guest writers come in and write. Chapter 2 is written by Dan Williams and chapter 6 is written by Michael Green. By doing this Stevens demonstrates one of the messages of his book, that pastors are to be equippers of the congregation, equipping the members to do the ministries for which they are gifted. This means then that the pastor is not always the best person to handle an issue, there may be more qualified people within the church congregation that the pastor should refer of the person or issue to. Stevens also points out that a person’s qualifications should be based around their gifts, and that the pastor is to work with the congregation and identifying the gifts of the members and helping them to become equipped.
At the end of the book Stevens provides several appendices which add to the books practicality and hands-on usefulness. The different appendices in the back range from helpful information on writing curriculum for your church to a commissioning service for lay pastoral care givers to a pastoral letter on prophecy within the church. These appendices help to bring the practical messages of the book off the pages and into the equipping hands of the church.
Finally I feel that this is an excellent book for pastors and church leaders. It should either encourage or challenge them to bring their whole congregation into the biblical understanding that every member of the body of Christ is to be a minister. I feel too, that this book could and quite possibly should be required reading for any seminary student who is planning on or thinking about being a head pastor or assistant pastor or educational minister.
James Merrifield is a graduate of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.