I recently remarked, after a particularly beautiful rain, that it was just what my raspberries needed. One individual who heard my comment asked me a simple question, “Do your raspberries have seeds?” I assume that his question meant that he did not appreciate seeds in his raspberries. I thought about Genesis 1:11, where God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself...” From the beginning, before the fall, God planned that fruit would have seeds.
Jay A Martin
In 1890, John F. Funk published the first minister’s manual for the Mennonite church. He defined the office of bishop with the following paragraph: “The bishop or elder in the Mennonite church is simply the minister who has been ordained to the special charge of caring for, and officiating in the church of a certain prescribed district. This district may contain but one place of worship or a number of places which are at a considerable distance from each other.
For most of us, the three-office ministry has been the normal, accepted, and traditional practice of church government. In our congregations, bishop, ministers and deacons, work together in their distinctive roles to lead and guide the church. This arrangement has been a blessing to the church collectively and individually as we face the various issues of our day.
Has the church always been governed by a three-office ministry? Do we have a biblical and historical precedent for this practice? We want to consider the subject from several angles.
In recent years, I repeatedly hear a common confession expressed in our conservative churches. Sometimes it is acknowledged in a council meeting, revival meeting, a public testimony, or in personal interviews. In a few occasions, having been involved in small accountability groups, I have also heard this common confession. I have needed to acknowledge this common need in my life as well. This common confession is often declared, “I need to grow in my prayer life.” Why is it that our prayer life often needs improvement?