The Heart of Ministry

I remember not too long ago I was reading in the book of II Corinthians, and I came to the part in chapter four where Paul said, “…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.” After reading these words, I thought to myself, “Now there’s the heart of ministry.”

There is much talk today concerning the validity of the pastoral ministry model and the need to employ the five-fold ministry paradigm found in Ephesians 4, but I don’t think the answer is quite that simple. I think we have lost the true heart of ministry all together. We’ve made ministry all about the minister. Ephesians 4 tells us that ministers are given to the body of Christ for the equipping of the saints, and the building up of the body of Christ.  Our churches abound with self proclaimed super-prophets, apostolic rulers, and double portion Davidic worship leaders who have made it all about them. We don’t need superstars; we need servants.

The body of Christ needs ministers who are experiencing the fellowship of his sufferings, manifesting the dying of Jesus in their bodies, those who are willing to become of no reputation, and give themselves for the life of body of Christ. Ministers are not called to be movie star, super-hero, peddlers of the gospel, but slaves of their Master Jesus who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. The true heart of ministry says, “I will gladly be poured out and used up that I might help my brother’s and sisters mature in Christ.” The prophet, apostle, evangelist, pastor, and teacher are called to build ministers not ministries.

I Corinthians 4:9-13 puts it like this,  “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”  Let me ask you, does that sound like any ministers you know? Perhaps the body of Christ would experience more of the power of Christ’s resurrection if its ministers would participate in the fellowship of His sufferings.

I’ll sum it up by simply saying that if you want to see the heart of ministry, just look at the cross.

Who,me? (Equipped for Ministry)

When you think of ministry what comes to mind? For so many of us, when we think of ministry we think of Billy Graham, pastors we have seen on TV, or perhaps our local pastor, but; did you know that if you are a Christian, you are called to ministry? “Who, me?” Yeah, you! Those who occupy the pews more often than not have the idea that it’s the “professional” minister who is called to do ministry, the big named evangelist who is called to reach the masses; it’s the anointed worship leader who will do the work of ministry.   So many sit comfortably in their pews under the misconception that all they are called to is to love the Lord, come to church regularly and “be fed.”

You hear people say, “I’m just not getting fed.” Why not? You have the same Holy Spirit, the same Jesus. Yes, the “five-fold office gifts” (please, let’s not argue over semantics) are to feed and teach to some degree, but; you the believer are to abide in Christ, sit at His feet and hear His voice. John tells his hearers in his first epistle that the “anointing” you have received teaches you. You know, when all we do is continually eat we can become obese and doctors tell us that obesity is a primary cause of all kinds of diseases. Maybe that’s why we have so much sickness in the church, because all we’re doing is gorging ourselves and not doing ministry- I’d better stop.

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 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!

My friend there are people who will listen to you that will never listen to Billy Graham. There are people who need to hear what God has done in your life. There are people who may never, ever be touched by the love of Jesus if they don’t hear about it from you. Let me leave you with this: “…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests,a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”