The benefits of having an outside worker

Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church recently raised a good question concerning the place and function of itinerant ministers in the church. It got me to thinking about the benefits of having an outside worker. The saints I church with have recently been blessed to run across one such brother who has committed himself to help us in our going on with the Lord. At this point he is visiting us once a month. We spend the day together in fellowship, then have dinner together in the evening and a more formal meeting afterwards. Every time so far has been a great blessing and strength to the church.

As I see it this is the pattern of ministry shown in the New Testament. Men like Paul, Timothy, Gaius, and Peter were cleary itinerant, travelling often from place to place to raise up and strengthen the testimony of the Lord. None that I see ever settled down to become the resident priest or pastor over any assembly of believers. 

I was convinced of both the scriptural-ness (is that a word?) of the travelling worker and the need for churches still today to benefit from this gift of the Lord long before I got to enjoy the actual experience of it. Now that we’ve been receiving visits from this brother I see more clearly the benefit of such a ministry. 

First and foremost has been the opportunity to drink in the measure and experience of Christ from one who has not only enjoyed years in the church life himself but has also been called and sent by the Lord specifically to do His work (the Lord’s work is to raise up the church). This alone has been wonderful.

Second, the primary benefit of having an outside worker come in to minister to the church rather than a paid pastor (in the modern sense of the word) is that the saints are given help that does not make them overly dependent on the worker himself. It’s not like we’re gathering together every week to listen to a sermon from the same guy. No matter how great the message or how deep the revelation, this practice is simply unhealthy. The gifts of Ephesians 4 are given by the Lord to the church in order to equip the saints themselves to do the work of the ministry. As long as there is a professional minister standing in to do the job for them, most of the Lord’s people will never rise up to fulfill their God-given function in the local Body. That’s just how it is, unfortunately. Having a travelling worker who comes in from the outside to minister periodically accomplishes more of a practical equipping of the saints and safeguards against the fostering of an unhealthy dependence on himself. The brothers and sisters are conditioned to hold fast to the Head and not to one particularly gifted member of the Body. At least, this is what is proving itself true in my own experience. And I believe the scriptures show the same.

Your thoughts?


About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

17 responses to “The benefits of having an outside worker

  • Michael Young

    Oh yes. I completely agree. 🙂

  • Marshall

    Encouraging note! A door is opened.

    come the Spring of 2005, Father set me off to serve a portion itinerant among house churches, church-community & small ekklesia.

    to consideration: From the New Testament writings, itinerant workers did not assume or identify a periodic ministry; as the Spirit directed, so they went and were sent.
    People and groups may tend to form a hitching post around itinerant workers [i.e., per I Corinthians 1:10-17]. And, there are other caveats.
    We know that God, by His Spirit, sends out workers as a herald to His liberation in Christ; so that the ekklesias might be further strengthened, though NOT that we have itinerant workers so that we may receive or drink.
    Dependence may arrive as sample-size, small, medium, or large?
    All members of Christ’s body anticipate hours, days, or more, as a traveling ambassador of Christ. Also our heart moving with/in the Spirit. Itinerancy as a common work of God, even if there be but a few set to it thoroughly.

  • bjcorbin

    I agree with what you’re saying here Josh. I think that no matter how devote we are, we all tend to develop spiritual blind spots in our walk; and I’ve found that local bodies can easily do the same. It often takes someone from outside that local sphere to speak to those issues, which have often blended into our spiritual landscape. You see Paul doing that in his letters to the churches. I’ve also noticed that familiarity can breed complacency. Often times my kids don’t really grab a hold of a truth that I give them until they hear it from someone else, like a coach or teacher. God bless you brother.

  • How do itinerant workers benefit the church? | The Assembling of the Church

    […] It was exciting to see that Josh from “Called to Rebuild” is also writing about this subject in his post “The benefits of having an outside worker.” […]

  • brotherjohnny

    Good article, Joshua, and I am blessed to hear that your group is in fellowship with a seasoned brother in Christ!
    Outside help can be very beneficial for a local assembly.
    I would also note Marshall’s words above concerning becoming dependent upon outside ministry.
    What I see in the apostle Paul is a brother who essentially gave birth to new Christ- Communities, and he also sought to raise them up to full maturity. There was a definite process going on. Today, the context is different….

  • lawdawg23

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Marshall and Bryan, you each bring up good points. And Johnny, I would be interested in hearing how you view today’s context differently than that which existed in Paul’s day. Care to elaborate?

    • brotherjohnny

      Sure. Basically, with the exception of the Christian workers who go out and minister Christ to those who have never received Him,most “churches”, “church plants” (organic or otherwise), etc.., are made up of individuals with varying degrees of maturity, experience, baggage, etc…
      So, essentially, a large part of “Organic Christian” work involves stepping into a mixed bag of ‘surprises’… which is also void of the authentic father/children *relationship* which Paul had the privilege, honor and responsibility of fostering.
      Not saying that it can’t or shouldn’t be the way it is…(?), but trying to read today’s cultural context into first century history is a sticky task to say the least.

  • Marshall

    concurring with brother Johnny… often a rarity of authentic father/children relationship; weak or distorted husband/wife relationship; typically Protestant/Catholic backdrop (displacing Moses/Temple), etc.
    seeing Paul of Tarsus carry on (in writing), the early workers surely also met with some surprises.
    The mission remains, while the times have changed?

    • brotherjohnny

      Marshall, RE: father/child relationship…
      I was specifically referring to the relationship between an apostle and a local congregation which begins with a ‘conception’ of Christ and a progression of Christ being fully formed in and among them.
      I’m not sure if I communicated that point very well.

      As to “the mission”…, I’m honestly not totally sure how that translates today (there is probably a good deal of variety involved with all of that). I do still believe in God’s eternal purpose and yes, that the time have changed significantly since the writing of the letters.
      I am increasingly convinced that Christians today still look to “the letter” of scripture more so than the Spirit… and this can sometimes become a great distraction from Reality.

      • Marshall

        yes, brotherJohnny. we understand the genuine paternal-spousal-familial relationships as to metaphor & paralleling; and so like you, I also am thankful for the spiritual relationships. (John, Paul, Peter… all refer/rehearse different facets in these; and from the gospel accounts.)
        “division” takes credit for many changes of times since. to example, there are some today who look to “the letter” in contrast with others who oppose/condemn the letter; with associated conflicts between many who pursue a method or a doctrinal system rather than Christ, all to a great distraction from Reality. Admittedly, some of the troubles come to distract or taint itinerant workers. For the Holy Spirit of God, there is much work in power yet to do.(?)
        Christ is our Reality, and in Him there is no division.

  • lawdawg23

    Thanks for the further elaboration, Johnny. And for your concurrance, Marshall. Your all’s insight is much appreciated. 🙂

  • brotherjohnny

    Amen, Marshall. And the letter ought not be condemned either.
    Yes, the Holy Spirit of God is not done yet.
    Grace, Peace, and Mercy to you as you go, brother Marshall.

  • burgenator

    I would say amen. Double honor for these brothers that were sent by our Lord Jesus Christ. To build the house (not in vain) to and for Jesus Christ. That he is the mission, he is the all in all, he is the point, not a subject, or what he did. But a learning and growing of who he is. A real and living person. To be under his headship alone. Paul only stayed three to five months. And of course we don’t want to become dependant on them, but we definenlty need them for a season and too think otherwise can truly cause the house to not be completly built by him. These are seasoned workers sent by the Lord who have faced years in body life under the headship of Christ. Thanks for the beautiful post brother.

  • lawdawg23

    Thanks Burgenator! Nice name, by the way.

  • The worker is to the church like a joint is to the body « Called to Rebuild

    […] more on the subject, check out this post from April of last year and this one from May. They were written while we were actually in the thick of things. Share […]

  • The worker is to the church like a joint is to the body « Called to Rebuild

    […] more on the subject, check out this post from April of last year and this one from May. They were written while we were actually in the thick of things. Share […]

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