A question that is nowadays commonly asked of people who are thinking about working in the church, or in another Christian ministry, is whether they are cut more like a prophet, a priest or a king. The point of exploring this question is to identify what kind of ministry the person is most suited to. In this thinking - which doesn't strictly follow the biblical models for these roles - the three types are described and suggestively deployed as follows.


 A 'prophet' is someone who presents God's words with penetrating insight into their own culture and who therefore might make a good preacher or teacher. A 'priest' is someone who nurtures, cares for and walks closely with individuals through all their personal and spiritual struggles and they might therefore make a good chaplain. A 'king' is someone who effectively leads others in projects that build up the structures and programs of the church and so they might be good person to have charge of large, growing or complex ministries.


One of the reasons that it's become more popular to filter aspiring Christian workers through this triplet in recent times is because it has helpfully exposed both the lack of certain types of pastors and the misfit of others to their roles. So, for example, there has been a recognition that some church denominations have failed to raise up many kings. Consequently, they have either narrowed their understanding of pastoral ministry to the prophetic and the priestly, put prophets and priests in kings' roles to which they're not well suited, or taken the kings they do have and pressed them into prophetic or priestly roles. In these sorts of contexts, asking the prophet-priest-or-king question may well be a helpful part of making some important corrections that would benefit the church or ministry organisation.


But there's a terrible risk in asking this question. It doesn't just liberate Christian workers to think about themselves and their ministries differently, nor just help the church think about better matching its servants and labours. It can also create a false trichotomy that allows gospel workers to de-prioritise some of the things they must do. R.B. Kuiper puts it helpfully in his book, The Glorious Body of Christ. He says,


   It must also be born in mind that the special offices in the church are  

   rooted in the universal office of believers, by virtue of which every church

   member should function at once as a prophet, a priest and a king. It

   follows that every prophet in the church is also a priest and king, that

   every priest is also a prophet and king, and that every king is also a

   prophet and a priest.


Not only is Kuiper reminding us that the 'special offices' of church or ministry leadership are just extensions of the work that all believers should be engaged in, he is also pointing out that each Christian worker is to be prophet, priest and king. All three together are necessary. The prophet cannot neglect to tend the flock any more than the priest can ignore the need to labour towards building up the church or the king can choose not to proclaim the word. Following Jesus as the prime example, all these tasks are inseparably intertwined and important for everyone active in Christian service. It's not an either-or-or, it's an all-three. This is not to say that there can be no recognition of ministry strong suits and no specialised ministry service; that would be to overcorrect. But it is to say that once the prophet-priest-king question has been asked, there needs to be subsequent questions about how we will ensure we engage in an holistic ministry, as well as how we play to our strengths.