Back in January I published a series on ministry, and it still weighs so heavy on my heart. I believe we have such a misconception as to what true ministry is and exactly who is called to do it. I decided to condense the previous posts into this one, and I pray it speaks to your heart.
We find that in Ephesians 4 the bible tells us that Jesus gave gifts to the church: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers for the equipping of the saints (that’s you if you are in Christ) for the work of the ministry (your Bible may say work of service or something similar). So really, the job of the “vocational minister” is to equip the saints to do ministry. We need to move away from this “clergy/laity mentality” and understand that all who are in Christ are called to do the work of ministry. Ministry is something all believers are to do.
Okay, so what does it mean to be equipped? Well if you study the word translated equip you find that the word refers to that which has been restored to its original condition, is being made fit or being made complete. The root word was used as a medical term used for setting bones! Secular Greek also used it to refer to the furnishing a house. Paul’s use in the context of the Body, the Church, pictures the complete furnishing of the believer so that he/she might be made ready to fulfill their purpose in the body of Christ where they have been placed by God’s Spirit. This equipping denotes the “net-mending” process the fishermen would utilize, equipping the net to catch the fish. The Greek word denotes not so much an adding something that is lacking, but rather a straightening out. We have handed all ministry over to the “professionals” when in reality, it is the job of the “professional” to equip the saints to do ministry themselves!
But, what is true ministry? True, ministry may be manifested in many different forms. I have to be real careful when I try defining what real ministry is or is not. (Didn’t Jesus talk about giving someone water in his name?) What is it that Jesus is calling you to do? How does authentic ministry really look? We have a lot of mistaken ideas about ministry. Can I tell you that doing good deeds in and of itself is not ministry? (I Corinthians 13:3) We must not mistake doing good things for ministry. Does not the world have programs to feed the poor and clothe the naked? Can I tell you that prophesying, casting out demons and things like that can be accomplished and it still not be true ministry? (Matthew 7:21-23)
There’s a story in the Bible that most of us have heard about which provides wonderful insight into how true ministry works, i.e., the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Let me break it down for you like this:
I. The Lord knows what he wants to accomplish through you. John 6:6 says that Jesus knew what He was going to do that day he fed the 5,000. He had asked Phillip how they would feed the people, but, He already knew what He was going to do. Jesus may bring you into a situation where you cannot possibly meet the need in and of yourself. Like the disciples you look out and say, “Lord, we need to send these folks away so they can get something to eat…” and He replies, “No, you feed them.” You look around and it seems impossible. The need is too great, but He knows what he’s going to do.
You may say, “Lord these people knew they were gonna need food, they should have brought some. I don’t have anything to give them.” But, He knows what he’s gonna do. You see, part of equipping Phillip,and the rest of the disciples (and you and me) was to deliberately put them (us) in a situation in which they (we) are insufficient within ourselves to minister. BUT HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO!!
This feeding of the 5,000 would glorify Jesus and show the crowd who he was. That’s what you are called to do, show those he brings to you who he is. You may not be called to stand behind a pulpit, travel on a missions trip, write books, or make cds; but you most definitely are called to show others who Jesus is. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that “you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand for you to walk in.” The first thing I want you to see about ministry is that the Lord is in control and He already knows what He wants to do through you. And oh yeah, don’t be surprised if it seems impossible.
II. The “face” of ministry. What do the ministers look like? The Body of Christ works together, no one part is greater than the other. As we have discussed, Jesus had brought them all into a situation in which He already knew what He was going to do; but, his disciples didn’t. They saw the great need and figured the best thing to do was send everybody away to fend for themselves. Keep in mind that Jesus is the ultimate shepherd/pastor, so, can’t you see that He was “equipping” (like your ministers are supposed to do)?) them? The disciples had nothing to offer, but it was one of the disciples (Andrew) who brought the little boy whom Jesus would use to the forefront.
In ministry, Jesus may use you to be a coordinator. You may not be the one who directly meets the need, but you may be one who the Spirit of God uses to coordinate. Like the disciples, you may think you have nothing to give, but, God has a plan. How many people have not been ministered to because God’s plan didn’t look how we thought it should? Andrew (another disciple), who was a coordinator in this instance, becomes aware of the boy who had the loaves and fish, but still doubts that such a little bit could accomplish anything. How many times have you felt like sharing, giving, or saying something, but, felt like it wouldn’t amount to anything?
III. The Little boy and his lunch. When Andrew became aware of the boy and his lunch, despite his doubts; he told the Lord. And Jesus said, “Bring it to me.” Now let me ask you, do you think that the little boy was really the only one who had sense enough to bring food or was he the only one who was willing to surrender his? We don’t know for sure, but it made me think how that sometimes we are so concerned with my growth, my relationship with the Lord (which is good), but we forget that its not all about us. In the Old Testament, when the land was being allotted, and the 2 ½ tribes opted to stay on the east side of the Jordan; they still had to send their warriors to help their brothers obtain their inheritance. Are you so focused on you and yours that you have forgotten that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who need you to minister to them, much less a world that is dying and going to hell?
Anyhow, back to the little boy; we don’t know who he was, his name, or anything. He’s the kid with the food. We see in this that true ministry is not intended to make us celebrities. We 21st century Western Christians may have said, “I can’t believe Jesus didn’t even mention my name. They should at least name a grassy slope after me. I’m keeping my stuff they should’ve known better. This little bit wouldn’t do any good.” Jesus took the boy’s lunch, gave thanks, then broke the loaves and had the food distributed among the people. We may hand the Lord something that looks good, appears to be whole and worthy of use, but, he must first break it so he can use it to feed people. So often, we are impressed with our “loaf of bread” and we don’t want Jesus to break it. “Jesus, you’ve messed up my loaf!” My gifts were so pretty. What was wrong with it the way it was? You could’ve just passed it around whole like a never ending loaf of bread.” Can I go further? It is we ourselves who must be broken. In the 1st century that word serve we talked about earlier was considered offensive and degrading by the Greeks. To the Greeks the development of ones own personality was the highest aim. To serve another was menial and common. (Sounds like us huh?) We must come to the understanding that service is not something that a lesser person does to someone greater; no, it is the lifestyle of a disciple. You are called to minister. You are called to serve. That pride and selfishness which is prevalent among us must be broken so that what God has given us may be used to bring others to Christ. Our American “I’m supposed to be a celebrity” mentality has to be broken. I once heard of a sign that hung over a kitchen sink which read “Ministry performed here three times a day.”
Conclusion: True ministry points to and flows from Jesus. Jesus used a little boy to give the disciples something to distribute among the people. It all came from Jesus’ hand; that’s how true ministry works. Maybe you’re the little boy, nameless and faceless, or maybe you’re like the disciples, seen and used to distribute the food. It doesn’t matter; it’s all from Jesus and for His glory. Will you come and give yourself and what you have to Him. Will accept your role whether it be known or unknown? Will you come and surrender yourselves and your gifts? Will you allow Him to break you and your “loaf,” and distribute it as he sees fit? True ministry is not a result of some high-profile, superstar preacher, but rather; it is an equipped, surrendered Body of Christ that works of ministry are to be performed that the Lord will use to meet the needs of those around them. I’ll close with one final thought: Pastor, your people are not to be a burden, nor a distraction which hinders you from fulfilling the vision God has placed within you. No, they are the very ones who will accomplish the task. Equip the saints. As they work, shop, go to school, etc…; they will transform the community in which they live one heart at a time.