Gospel Ministry as Prophet, Priest and King

Yesterday I unpacked the concept of Triperspectivalism. Jesus is our perfect Prophet, Priest and King, and our gospel ministry is patterned after his. Prophets focus on the message, Priests focus on the people and Kings focus on the tasks. Now, I want to look at a few ways that Triperspectivalism shapes ministry.

Prophet, Priest and King in the Church

  • A healthy church needs the Prophets to focus on teaching, writing and vision (air war), Priests to love, nurture and disciple individuals in smaller contexts (ground war), and Kings to keep everyone organized, strategic and on mission (logistics).
  • All three are necessary: the Bible must be taught, the people must be loved and the structures must be built.
  • A church, ministry or community group that only has 1 or 2 of these 3 roles will have serious ministry deficiencies and weaknesses.
  • Each individual is inclined to 1 or 2 of these roles, while the others are unnatural for them.
  • Each role has inherent strengths and weaknesses, and is deficient without the others.
  • Each role has its own language: Prophets love scripture, Priests love stories and Kings love statistics.

I was teaching on this at my church and the question was asked, “who makes the best lead pastor, a prophet, priest or king?” At the time I think I answered by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each and the need for a whole church to appreciate a pastor’s strengths while not expecting him to be Jesus. I also talked about how a pastor needs to recognize his weakness and have systems or people in place to make up the difference so the ministry doesn’t suffer. I still stand by this answer, but as I thought about it I realized that different sized churches will need different types of pastors.

  • a church of 50 or less people will need a pure Priest. Its the relationships that hold everything together.
  • church of 50-150 will need a Priest-Prophet. Relationships and one-on-one nurture is still primary, but the group is getting to the place where one guy can’t personally shepherd everyone. Preaching becomes a more significant part of the ministry, but relationships still rule.
  • a church of 150-400 will need a Prophet-King. In a church of this size, the pastor won’t know most people well. Priestly work is now done in community groups (which need kingly structures). Instead of leading through relationships, a pastor in a church this size leads through preaching and kingly organization.
  • a church of 400-800+ will need a Prophet to preach well, a number of King’s to keep the growing church on mission and organized and a whole pile of Priests to love and serve the people.  The Lead pastor’s relationship with almost all of the church (minus the leadership team) will be only through preaching.

Prophet, Priest and King in a Community Group

  • Your community group needs all three kinds of leadership. The key is recognizing a) what your group needs at any given time and b) who in your group would flourish in that role
  • You need prophetic ministry of studying the Bible, speaking truth to each other, confronting sin and exhorting one another. A group that is afraid to confront each others sin is not doing gospel work.
  • You need priestly ministry of prayer, care and discipling individuals. You need to be nurturing and encouraging community. A group that studies the Bible hard, but doesn’t have love for each other isn’t a community group. That’s a bible study, which might as well be a seminary lecture.
  • You need Kings so that you stay organized, plan service projects, decide when you’ll start and finish, have a schedule, be strategic in including unbelievers, hold each other accountable, etc. A group that fails to plan and be strategic may have warm community, but is less effective than it should be.

Prophet, Priest and King in One-on-One Ministry

When you’re in a one-on-one ministry situation, you need to be the prophet, priest and king! You don’t get to phone a friend. As you are listening to this person, you need to discern what type of ministry would help them most in this situation:

  • Do they need a Prophet who will confront and challenge their sin, identity distortions and idolatry? Do they need you to speak biblical truth into their life?
  • Do they need a Priest who will pray for them, encourage them, support them and love them?
  • Do they need a King who will help them make a plan, fix their schedule or make a budget? Do they need help getting organized? Do they need you to hold them accountable or give them practical tools for efficiency?

If your friend comes to you to tell you about her cancer diagnosis and the uncertainty of her future, do she need a prophet, priest or king? This is probably not the time to unpack a theology of suffering. She needs a priest who will give her a hug and pray with her.

If a friend comes to you in trouble because he is drowning in debt and continually making foolish decisions. Does he need a prophet, priest or king? A hug and a prayer is a nice gesture and a sign of care, but will it help is incessant spending? What he needs is a king who can give tools and resources, help him build a budget and hold him to account.

I could give a thousand other examples. Each situation you face in ministry will require you to discern whether you need to function as prophet, priest or king.

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