If careful, people who lead people in ministry can detach themselves from those people they are called to lead. The fact that detachment is detrimental to ministry is obvious, but the reason why people detach can differ.
- Elitism – Some people detach due to elitism. They think they are simply better than others. Our American Church culture bucks against the priesthood of the believer (1 Pet 2:9) and embraces creating a Christian celebrity culture. Even the early Corinthian church struggled with flocking to their favorite leaders (1 Cor 3:4-5). Paul had to remind them that elite leaders do not exist because God is the only one truly capable of causing spiritual growth within a church (1 Cor 3:7). From the Corinthian churches to the current churches, we have created spiritual hierarchies and judged people based on external qualities which reveals our wicked thoughts (James 2:4). It does not help us that our stages are elevated, our faces are projected, our spaces are separated, and our talents are highlighted. Even the best of motivations can start to buy what our church consumeristic culture is selling.
- Favoritism – Some leaders are detached from their congregations due to favoritism. While we would like to appear as if cliques were absent from the church, they can often run rampant. While it is normal and biblical to have a few close friends (Prov 18:24), it is selfish and sinful to avoid people who aren’t in your inner circle. Naturally, you are going to spend a significant portion of time with other ministry team members due to the time commitment involved. In order to combat any tinge of favoritism, what are you willing to do to befriend those in your congregation who would never be on the stage? The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had a reputation for creating a culture of favoritism among the people of God. They loved to be recognized and would only sit in the places of honor with other people of honor (Matt 23:5-7). Jesus claimed that their attitudes shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces (Matt 23:13) as they would ignore the needs of the endangered (Luke 10:31-32), avoid the gatherings of the sinners (Matt 9:11), and refuse to deal with those ethnically different than them (John 4:9). Jesus was opposed to favoritism and was even criticized due to the type of people he befriended (Mark 2:16-17). We are not to be haughty but associate with all types of people (Rom 12:16).
- Individualism – Elitism makes you snobbish, favoritism makes you cliquish, and individualism makes you standoffish. Individualism will detach you from the congregation either because you simply don’t trust people or don’t believe that you need people. All of us have trust issues stemming from those who have hurt us in the past. To combat that trend in our lives, bitterness must be put away and forgiveness must be embraced (Eph 4:31-32). Don’t give someone in your past the authority to ruin your relationships in the future. On the other hand, if you believe that you don’t need others, you are in the most dangerous position possible. You do need other believers in your life (Heb 3:13; 10:25), but let’s just postulate that you didn’t need others in your life (which I think is absolutely ludicrous), have you ever considered that maybe someone else needs you in his or her life? If you are that put together, how much could you benefit others! How could someone of your maturity neglect the rest of us who are still broken and needy? If you have arrived, we need your directions more than you can imagine. Truthfully, you do need others, but you must realize that Christian community is not only about what you get out of it but what you put into it.
Platform ministry can never replace relational ministry.
Regardless of why you detach, you must acknowledge the danger of an indifferent attitude towards Christian community. When people are gifted, they are often put on a stage to perform a certain type of ministry. While time on the stage may be an outlet for ministry, oftentimes, the time off the stage substantiates the ministry. Someone can sing in your church and raise the rafters with their vocal pipes. The song can provide an emotional experience overflowing with goosebumps, but it cannot compare with a talented worship leader who is intimately involved in the lives of the people in the church.
While time on stage may provide ministry affirmation, the time off stage provides ministry validation.
The more involved your ministry team is in the life of the church aside from stage time makes your ministry so much more effective. If those leading in ministry are also leading in life, the congregation will follow them anywhere. Credibility is earned and not given.