Mutual ministry is the shared, non-hierarchical, back and forth (one to another) ministry between the people in a church. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, but it is very rare, almost unknown.
However, mutual ministry is biblical. The New Testament is full of “one another” commandments, exhorting us to engage in mutual ministry.
I recently discovered a book published in 1977 called: Mutual Ministry. It was written by James C. Fenhagen, an Episcopal priest and seminary professor. Here are some quotes from it:
“The ministry of the Christian church is a ministry not limited to the ordained but given to all who bear allegiance to Jesus Christ.”
“The church needs to build into its very structure a genuine mutual ministry of the ordained and the non-ordained.”
“One of the great heresies of the contemporary church is the idea that the primary role of the ordained person in a congregation is to exercise a ministry of caring on behalf of the of the others who are responsible for his hire. Such a view is heretical because it institutionalizes and delegates the ministry of caring to one or two individuals rather than to the congregation at large.
“Ministry is a function exercised in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul notes in his first letter to the Corinthians, ‘In each of us the Spirit is manifested in a particular way, for some particular purpose.'”
“Genuine mutuality is the exception not the rule. To recover this is the most serious task we face. It will mean rethinking the very nature of the church.”
“The local congregation has a primary responsibility to enable persons to discover and exercise the ministries they have been given.”
“I am convinced that the greatest single obstacle to the genuine renewal of the church is the lack of mutuality between the clergy and the laity.”
“The function of the leader is not primarily to do ministry but to help others identify and carry out the ministries which are uniquely theirs.”
“Ministry involves moving out of our boxes.”
“It is more important for the ordained ministers in a congregation to enable others to identify and carry out their ministries than to do it themselves.”
“The pastor, for good or for ill, is in a position to encourage and support or to block and dilute whatever initiative emerges in the congregation at large.”
“Innovative efforts to recapture that sense of ministry that the church was given at Pentecost will not last unless there are structural and attitudinal changes in the church to sustain what is begun. The forces at work against mutuality are buried deep. Much will depend on the energy and the discipline and the care that we are willing to put to the task. Nothing, I believe, is of more importance.”
“Ministry is not something we do solely on our own, but something Christ does in us, through us, and with us. The ministry of the church is exercised by every man, woman, and child.”
“A sign of authentic community would be the mutuality that exists between the members of the community, or the way in which people’s differing gifts are identified and made use of. There are many Christian congregations in which it is very difficult to experience genuine community. Relationships have been ritualized to the point where authentic encounter is almost impossible to achieve. Well established and often hierarchical patterns of decision-making keep individual gifts well hidden and creativity under control. There are some congregations that are so structured, so governed by custom, that it is a wonder community occurs at all.”
“The sign of a congregation’s capacity to care is the number of people who are being trained and supported in caring for one another.”
“For spiritual growth to occur , there must be regular opportunities for interpersonal sharing, opportunities to wrestle and question, opportunities to encounter the mystery of another human being, opportunities that call forth our emotions and inspire us with new possibilities.”
“Although worship is by definition God-centered, it is an act offered by the entire Christian community. The test of vitality and life, therefore, involves the degree and the way each member of the community is enabled to participate.”