How one church is facilitating the priesthood of all believers—inside and outside the church walls
By Justin Horey
Is a Little League coach a children’s ministry worker? Is a backyard barbecue a discipleship group? Is living out your faith as a public school teacher as important as serving in student ministries? At Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland, the answer is yes.
Lead pastor Ben Cachiaras says Mountain Christian Church encourages ministry both inside and outside the church walls, because it’s essential to do both.
“We legitimize ministry even if it’s not within the four walls of the church,” Cachiaras said. “We’ve got to let that count.” Otherwise, he said, “A call to serve really just means ‘help us run our programs.’”
But Cachiaras is quick to point out that external ministry is not elevated or exalted above internal ministry. At a megachurch like Mountain, there are literally hundreds of ways for people to volunteer and serve within the church—from the sound team to Sunday school (they call it “Mt. Kids”). Mountain aggressively recruits volunteers to serve in those ministries, but Cachiaras and the leadership team recognize there are many more opportunities—indeed, unlimited opportunities—for people to serve outside the church walls. Mountain is committed to equipping its members to meet both kinds of needs.
Much of this philosophy comes from an understanding of Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
If every Christian is not only called to ministry, but created for ministry, then in Cachiaras’s words, “by encouraging people to serve we are giving them an opportunity to fulfill the very reason they were put on the planet.”
Staffing to Support
Mountain’s leaders believe this approach gives real purpose to a person wanting to know how to live out his faith.
“Service gives meaning to people’s lives,” Cachiaras said. “Everyone wants a cause—especially millennials. And the church has the greatest cause in the world! So let’s connect people to that cause by encouraging them to serve in ministry wherever they sense God’s calling.”
This philosophy has required a change in Mountain’s approach to staffing. By encouraging all kinds of service and ministry, the paid staff at Mountain has had to transition from organizing and managing every ministry, to developing and deploying people into ministry. Cachiaras describes this by tweaking an old advertising slogan: “Our staff doesn’t say, ‘We can do it, you can help.’ They say, ‘You can do it, we can help.’”
The ultimate goal, however, is not just for people to serve, or even for people to find meaning. The real goal is for Christians to develop into mature disciples. As Paul wrote:
Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. . . . We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13, 15).
In its goal to develop mature disciples, Mountain Christian Church doesn’t ask, “Where would you like to serve,” but instead, “What has God called you to do? What has he called you to be?”
This paradigm shift allows the Holy Spirit to speak to each individual believer, leading him or her to a particular area of service. And it helps move members away from a staff-centric model of ministry.
“Churches of every size have bought into a model of ministry with some paid person in the center,” Cachiaras said. “It’s time for us to truly equip and unleash the workforce of the church, which means we need to stop bottlenecking ministry with staff.”
He offered one simple but profound question for any church staff to ask itself: Does everything at our church funnel through the staff, or are our people free to do ministry?
At Mountain, the staff is leading a churchwide spiritual campaign called “Unleash Love,” teaching that God wants to love the world through us and encouraging everyone to find a way to show God’s love.
“There is so much pent-up potential and energy and prayer and service in most churches,” Cachiaras said. “Let’s unleash it! Let people do what they were made to do!”
Measuring What Matters
Most churches record and track many of the same numbers—attendance, offerings, baptisms—and for good reason. At Mountain, those things are measured, but the church also tries to measure service.
“You measure what matters to you,” said Cachiaras, who agrees with a growing number of church leaders from across denominations who have said, “The greatness of a church is not measured by its seating capacity. It’s measured by its sending capacity.”
Mountain teaches that followers of Jesus are “sent to serve.” The church encourages people to serve by seeking to involve them as early and as easily as possible. Even the “Welcome to Mountain” class for new attendees includes stories of people serving, both inside and outside the church walls.
“When people hear the stories, they say, ‘I could do that.’ And they do,” Cachiaras said. “We want everybody serving so that the only question is, ‘Where will I serve?’”
One obvious answer is “Second Saturday Serve,” a monthly event where anyone can join in service projects in the community—painting, repairing, caring for people. These projects are always out in the community, not on the church campus, and they regularly attract first-time servers.
At Mountain, ministry service is increasingly becoming an entry point to the church, with new attendees committing to acts of service like the “Second Saturday Serve” before they even commit to Christ!
The Great Commission-ing
While community service projects are great entry points, Cachiaras said service is not just about volunteering.
“We want people to use their greatest gifts in kingdom service,” he said. To that end, Mountain conducts a regular commissioning service to formally anoint people into ministry of all kinds.
At the service, Cachiaras briefly reviews the “priesthood of all believers” as outlined in 1 Peter and encourages everyone to set aside their fears and obey, proclaiming, “What you have right now is enough. If you love Jesus, you are called.” At the end of the service, everyone is invited to complete a commitment card that says: “My name is (blank). Having been called by God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, and commissioned by Christ, my mission field is (blank).”
Everyone who completes a card is invited to join a pastor, elder, or leader in the church who prays for them and even anoints them with oil. Cachiaras said it’s an experience that the commissioned and the commissioners remember for years.
All of this requires a great deal of faith and trust in the Lord—not only by the members, but by Mountain’s pastoral staff. Cachiaras said Mountain isn’t trying to control the outcome of every external ministry. The church is trying to equip and enable that ministry, and trust God for the results.
Quoting Frederick Buechner, he said, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Justin Horey is a writer, musician, and the founder of Livingstone Marketing. He lives in Southern California.