Christian Generalists

Currently, there’s a trend among pastors and church leadership to define their roles. Lead Pastor. Teaching Pastor. Executive Pastor. Counseling Pastor. Pastor of Evangelism. As if the Bible didn’t define “pastor” well enough.

Following the lead of the churches that support them, missionaries have likewise specialized within their calling. I’ve met “church planting missionaries” who use their emphasis on new work to isolate themselves from other believers. I know some “missionary advocates” who don’t actually engage people with the gospel, choosing instead to try to encourage and care for the other missionaries they may come across. “International Evangelists” are something like missionaries who take no responsibility for following through with making disciples after people come to faith.

In terms of jobs and access platforms, we need more diversity. We’re severely limiting ourselves if every “missionary” is an English teacher. But in terms of ministry, we need more “generalists.” We need people devoted to the ministry of counseling who do so with excellence, but without ignoring proclamation and evangelism. We need preachers who are good for something else besides. We need well-rounded leaders who don’t retreat into what they’re comfortable with. God provides a variety of gifting, but where are the “general practitioners?”

The cause of my concern is that this sort of “specialization” bleeds over into the lives of Christians everywhere. In misguided efforts to find identity in our gifting (rather than in Christ Himself), we’ve specialized ourselves out of Christianity into “that’s not my job;” where anyone who’s not “gifted” in service is justified in ignoring need. “Teachers” forsake all contact with unbelievers. “Prayer specialists” cloister themselves away, “Discerners” don’t have to be nice to anyone. Ever.

How do we avoid this unhealthy hyper-specialization? For starters, let’s get back to the basics of following Jesus. Loving God, loving neighbors, loving enemies. Working together as the Body of Christ to stand for justice and peace and against sin, oppression, and empty religion. Let’s remember that “making disciples” and “teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us” includes “doing unto others” even when it doesn’t come naturally. Let’s make more Christian Generalists.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.