For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
This is the seminal New Testament teaching on the church and the Christian ministry. Indeed it defines the church as the Christian ministry, and Christian ministry as what takes place in the church.
Not that there aren't a plethora of New Testament witnesses to the order and function of the churches. There surely are. However in Romans 12 is found a controlling passage in that everything else written in the NT is either an amplification of or is consistent with the teaching of Paul in Romans 12.
Do our churches function this way? Why, not at all! The churches do not function even remotely like this, nor have they for at least seventeen hundred years! (No, it is not God's fault any more than Israel's failure* was God's fault.)
The churches throughout Christendom function according to the "one-man pastorate" model. (As churches grow they add "pastors.") Not only is this the reigning tradition, it is held sacred. Critics of the system are ostracized. These critics are said to be "rebellious against God-ordained authority." Would that the churches actually had God-ordained authority, I Pet.5:1-4!
The way the churches function is analogous to the emperor who wore no clothes. Most in the churches commend the emperor for his fashion sense.
If a one-man pastorate is the Biblical teaching, then Romans 12:3-8 is meaningless. And if one passage in Scripture is meaningless it calls into question every other passage in Scripture. The churches have made a mockery of Romans 12:3-8.
Critics will say my teaching is "proof-texting" Romans 12:3-8. "Proof-texting" is the easiest charge to make when one disagrees with another's interpretation of a Scripture passage. However proof-texting lifts a passage out of its context in order to make it mean something out of character with the body of New Testament teachings. It is like tearing a passage out of the New Testament and making it mean something contrary to the recurrent NT themes. For example, it is proof-texting–as well as anathema–to teach that James 2 teaches salvation by works. That is contrary to the entire New Testament.
By contrast, Romans 12:3-8 is a controlling passage. Far from redefining the rest of the New Testament, it requires the rest of the New Testament teachings concerning the church to be understood in light of it. The same may also be said of I Corinthians 12 and 14, the former describing the individual members of the body of Christ as possessors–each and every one of them–of unique spiritual gifts; the latter passage describing the exercise of these gifts in the church, meaning not "in the building" but in the assembly of the saints on the Lord's day.
We say again, the emperor is missing his apparel. Come, Lord Jesus.
*Israel's failure is emphatically not "replacement theology" in any way, shape, or form. Rather, the failure of man in every age or dispensation is characteristic of that particular period, even as the visible, professing church is mostly unsaved today. God still has plans for the remnant of Israel even as He does for the true church of Jesus Christ, i.e., the church comprised of all believers on Christ, or the wheat as opposed to the tares.