The short answer to this question is a resounding YES!
The idea of a church consultant might be thought of as a modern convention birthed by the church growth movement, but it’s so much more than that. Certainly, there are some who desire to use church consulting as a slick means for making money. So, I understand why you might be hesitant. If you’re like most pastors, you want to know if what you’re about to ask your church to do is biblical. I believe there is a biblical case to be made for the role of the church consultant in the life and ministry of the local church.
There are many examples of leaders of God’s people who engaged wise, experienced counselors to come alongside them and help them see things from a fresh and Godly perspective. Moses, when faced with tension in the way he was leading Israel, was blessed to have Jethro who wisely advised him in the best use of his time and efforts in the administration and leadership of Israel (Ex 18:1-27).
Examine the practice of the apostle Paul and it becomes clear that he used something akin to a church consultant as he planted and ministered to churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Paul routinely sent his comrades, men who were skilled teachers and leaders, to local churches that had questions in need of answer (Phil. 2:25; 1 Thess. 3:2) or had fallen into an unhealthy state (1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Cor. 12:17-18) and stood in need of more serious help. It appears these individuals did not permanently remain with the churches to which they were sent but ministered for a season; helping the churches move from various degrees of unhealthy to healthy positions (cp. 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Thess. 3:2). This is exactly what the church consultant seeks to do; come alongside a local church and help it move from where it is to a healthier ministry place. The church consultant works with churches that are experiencing a lack of health to varying degrees but does not do so as a permanent part of their leadership. He partners with the church to provide insight, equipping, tools, admonition, etc. so that he might help the church maximize its ministry health. It appears from his epistles that the consulting role played by men like Titus, Timothy, and others and was a normal part of Pauline practice.
Why would Paul use Titus, Timothy, and other men in such a way? It is because the idea of an itinerant partner who is skilled, trained, and able to help a local church in ways they may not be able to help themselves lies embedded in Paul’s theology. Ephesians 4:8, 11-15 outlines where the idea translated today into a church consultant may be rooted in Pauline ecclesiology.
The apostle Paul wrote that it was Jesus Christ himself who gave gifts to the Church (v. 8) and that these gifts were embodied in certain leadership roles within the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (v. 11). This is where the role of a church consultant has bearing, for the consultant fulfills the role of teacher within the local church context. Taken broadly, and not tied to the role of pastor, the role of teacher has application to the modern idea of a church consultant. Teacher is a broad term that may be applied to anyone within the church who is knowledgeable, skilled, and able to instruct the church on a variety of subjects; a recognized authority within the church. We find among the gifts given by the Spirit to the Body those who are shepherds, encouragers, leaders and administrators (Rom 8; 1 Cor 12; 1 Pe 4:10-11) who may also function in this broad role of teacher; those who can aid and instruct the church in areas the other church leaders may not be knowledgeable or skilled.
Like the other gifted individuals, the teacher was given by Christ for a reason; “to equip (prepare, make ready) his people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12a). The intended outcome of this work of preparing is the edification (building up) of Christ’s body, the church (4:12b). Paul eloquently declares that the building up of the church which results from its being prepared by, among others, the teachers is to continue until the entire church has arrived at that place where it is fully unified in the faith, comes into the full knowledge of God’s Son. In short, has become fully mature, that is, has attained “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:13). Put another way, equipping prepares the church for continued healthy growth and ministry. The church consultant is an indispensable part of that process. The church consultant brings to the table a knowledge base, skill set, and ability to qualify for the biblical role of teacher.
That Paul had church health in mind when composing Ephesians 4 is clear. Verses 14-15 go on to state, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph 4:11-15). There is no more apt declaration of church health than a church that is maturing, doctrinally solid, unable to be swayed by perversions of the truth, and loving. Paul used church consultants, after a fashion and allowed for them as skilled teachers in his ecclesiology. Church consultants are, therefore, not only biblically viable but necessary.
Put succinctly, the role of church consultant is integral and invaluable to the health and well-being of the local church. There is a biblical basis substantiating the consultant’s role as a skilled, knowledgeable, experienced teacher who is able to serve the local church. The consultant’s role is to become an asset to local church leadership in assessing ministry praxis and operational effectiveness while providing the tools to help the local church become or enhance its health so that it is better able to fulfill the missio dei given to it in Scripture. Thus, the church consultant is uniquely poised to humbly come alongside the pastors and leaders of the local church to provide fresh eyes so that they can fulfill their mission in the healthiest way possible.