The truth is that even though the disciples were in training for the ministry of Christ, they were not at all in training for "the ministry;" Christ's aim was to make them disciples, not pastors. Christ's aim today is the same.
Our churches have lost sight of this aim quite a bit, or at the very least, we have redefined what it means to be a "disciple." Today, it means something scarily similar to being a "member." And you can tell because of the great pride that a number of churches take in the mere number of "members" they have on their lists, whether or not those members ever attend a small group or even a Sunday service, whether those members are growing or maturing (or not), whether those members live their lives like real disciples of Christ.
That's one of the reasons it's so dangerously easy to let our churches become overrun by the business model, to use our ministries as rungs on the corporate ladder rather than as opportunities to make the deepest impact in the lives of our people. After all, if all that the church needs is numbers, then it makes sense that the church becomes a training ground for those who will be responsible for those numbers in the future. It makes perfect sense that if all we care about is how many names we can record, then it's only natural that we invest our time and energy in those that will be responsible for those names in the future.
But that's just not what Christ ever dreamed of for His church. Not by a long shot.
We look at some of the things that the disciples were doing, both when Jesus was with them and when He had gone on ahead of them. They were preaching the word, visiting the imprisoned, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, breaking the bread, leading worship, defending the truth, accepting the offering, praying, and telling the story of the Christ, who they knew so intimately.
And we in the church look at that list and think how convenient it is that those are all of things that our pastors do for us today. Thus, surely, God had in mind a professional ministry for His disciples all along. Didn't He? I mean, just look at what they're doing, all those things we could never do.
We were meant to do those very things. And that's the passion, the power, and the presence that the church has lost in the world today by no longer focusing on making disciples, but rather, on making members.
When was the last time someone in your church did any one of those things above? When was the last time you heard the testimony of Christ from someone who knows Him intimately, who has been walking with Him for years...and who doesn't have their name on the church door? When was the last time you asked for presence and were visited by someone not in official leadership? When was the last time you were sick and the person who sits next to you in the pew (assuming you don't sit by an elder or a pastor) laid hands on you?
Let's get a little more raw. When was the last time you took responsibility for the testimony of Jesus, as someone who has been walking with Him for years? When was the last time it was meaningful for you to even know that you know it as intimately as you do? When was the last time that someone in your life was in need of presence and you showed up for them? When was the last time you heard of someone who was sick and you laid your hands on them? When was the last time you prayed prophetically, took up an offering for the needs of the church, cast out a demon, or raised the dead?
Oh, you mean you're not doing those things? Why not? These are the things that disciples do, that disciples have always done, that disciples should be doing. And Jesus told us in no uncertain terms that our entire aim was to become disciples and then to make disciples. Not pastors. Not preachers. Not professional ministers.
Or are you just a "member"?
This...without a doubt, this is the number one threat to the life, passion, and power of our churches. Too many ministries, not enough ministers. Too many attenders, not enough belongers. Too much business, not enough blessedness. Too much corporation, not enough community. Too many pastors, not enough friends.
Too many members, not enough disciples.