"The Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two" (Luke 10:1).
When Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, His pairing of partners was more intentional than accidental. "None were sent forth alone, but brother was associated with brother, friend with friend. Thus they could help and en courage each other, counseling and praying together, each one's strength supplementing the other's weakness ... It was the Saviour's purpose that the messengers of the gospel should be associated in this way. In our own time evangelistic work would be far more successful if this example were more closely followed."*
Seventh-day Adventists have historically applied this partnership principle in public evangelism. Also, large congregations are served by a senior pastor and a staff of associate specialists who form a team to provide pastoral care and leadership. However, economic constraints have virtually eliminated the teams of those golden years of public evangelism. Today, most congregations are part of multiple-church districts in which one full-time employee leads several different and separated congregations.
Who forms today's pastoral team?
In a time of team-worker shortages it is vital to focus on God's original human team. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. . . . And they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:18-24). The answer was right there in Scripture all along: man and woman, called together and serving together to hasten Jesus' coming. The two becoming one in flesh as well as in ministry.
This utilization of both halves of the whole seems to be God's plan from Creation: man and woman mutually sharing the responsibilities and privileges of ministering. A summary of Adam and Eve's status before the Fall states, "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created" (Gen. 5:2). Not only were man and woman described as "one"; they were even called by one name! So total and complete was their partnership that the matter of position was never an issue. Authority was mutual more than equal. Co-equal might be a better term in view of humanity being made in the image of the eternal Godhead.
We cannot construe God's intent to be subordination even when He declares He will make a help meet for Adam. The "help" was a completing partner, making the other half of the whole. The "meet" was a creature appropriate in design and potential, a completing partner.
Only after the Fall is woman viewed as a separate identity from man. The post-Fall situation brought a tragic division between God and humanity, and between man and woman. The curse of sin emphasized these differences.
What, then, is team ministry? Frankly, it will be different for every pastoral couple, just as every pastoral couple is unique and unlike any other. Some ob serve that team ministry is what we have always had all along that it has been both expected and necessary to even survive. Others point to the reality that two incomes are demanded for survival in the economic environment of many countries today. From another viewpoint too many pastoral families enter ministry today with a view of ministry that suggests that his career and her career impact each other only insofar as the two individuals happen to be spouses.
Therefore, we suggest a developing definition of team ministry that, rather than legislating its parameters, explores the possibilities. Please read with your spouse the following four points of this developing definition. Then, if you will, share your reactions with us.
Team ministry: a developing definition
Team ministry is the combining in service for Christ of the best skills, gifts, and strengths of two very different personalities so that each brings out the best in the other and together they provide a stronger "servant leadership" than either could if they acted alone.
Team ministry will be different for each pastoral couple because it emphasizes their own unique talents, capabilities and interests. It will involve shared responsibilities in serving the church and in managing the home in such a way that neither spouse will despair from lack of support.
Team ministry is a decision. It is a choice or commitment more than it is a job description or an employment opportunity. For the present, it offers less in financial remuneration possibilities and more in spiritual, psychological, and nurture support for pastoral families.
Team ministry recognizes that both spouses are called by God for service and presupposes both are equally dedicated to the ministry of proclaiming the good news of salvation and hastening the return of Jesus Christ. From this commitment grows a concept of "family ministry" that ultimately becomes the model for the congregation to become the caring church that ministers to the larger community.
In short, team ministry is the present-day experience of Christ's intention when He sent out His disciples two by two.
*Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View,
Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940), p. 350.