The Teaching of Scripture on Ministry
Every believer bears the responsibility before God to be found faithful:
Fulfilling the Call
A certain element of personal responsibility is involved in the fulfullment of the ministry of every believer. Ministry is not something we can expect to just fall out of the sky. It is born from within. God will hold each of us accountable for that which has been placed within us (Matthew 18:23; 25:19, 29; Luke 16:2; Romans 14:12; Hebrews 13:17), to nurture it, that it mature and bring forth fruit. (Matthew 13:8)
"Wherefore I put thee in remembrance thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." (2 Timothy 1:6) "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee ..." (1 Timothy 4:14) "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it." (Colossians 4:17) "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." (2 Timothy 4:5)
One Body, Many Members
The New Testament picture is that of a living, active organism: a body consisting of many parts. Though they vary in function and individual purpose, each has its place, and together they provide for the nourishment and well-being of all. "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee ..." (1 Corinthians 12:21) No one has it all. For "if they were all one member, where were the body?" (1 Corinthians 12:19) The key to real group vitality is individual involvement.
Even the word "believer" as used in the original writings is not a noun but a participle: "one who is believing." This implies the necessity of an active and continual participation on the part of every individual. Each one has a place (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19), and none is less important. (1 Corinthians 12:22, 23)
True, spiritual ministry is by divine approval and selection. (1 Samuel 16:6-13) It is God-ordained. One must not of himself choose the area of ministry for which he feels he is "most suited" or qualified but must be appointed by God. This is true of any ministry, on any level: John 15:16; Acts 13:2; 1 Corinthians 12:18, 28; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 4:11.
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers ... As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed ..." (Acts 13:1-4)
Scripture never says we are to seek ministry. We are exhorted and encouraged, however, to seek Jesus. Ministry will follow. "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2), we are brought into such oneness with Him that ministry becomes no longer our goal or objective but simply a natural (spiritual) byproduct of our life in Him. (Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:24)
Ministry to the Lord
Our first responsibility is always to the Lord. "The Lord said unto Moses, Come up to Me into the mount, and be there; and I will give thee ... that thou mayest teach them." Exodus 24:12) As we do our part in ministering to the Lord, He will prepare us and send us out. But unless we know Him in a living relationship we will never be able to minister His life to others in the power of effective outreach.
God is concerned not so much with our doing (Mark 6:30, 31) but with our becoming. Acts 1:8, often misquoted as "Ye shall witness," actually says, "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me ..." At another time, Jesus said, "Come ... I will make you to become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17) Our part is to respond to his call ("come") and yield to His Spirit. But He himself will build his church. (Matthew 16:18) He will fit us for the task.
The Servant's Heart
Many have a distracted view of what it is to "be in the ministry," or to be "a minister" of the gospel. Ministry is not an end in itself (many make it their goal). The purpose of all ministry is to prepare individuals to minister to the needs of the body, that God might be glorified. (Ephesians 4:11-13) The word as used in the New Testament simply means "servant" or "helper." (Romans 16:1, 2) It is not a title of rank or position, but someone who undergirds and lifts another. True ministry is marked by a spirit of humility and compassion, not an overbearing desire for position and authority.
The world's connotation of "ministry" is quite the opposite of how Scripture describes it Matthew 6:5-8; Luke 18:10-13; John 13:3-16) The gifts are not given to individuals for the sake of self-gratification or the perpetuating of the ministry of any individual but for the benefit of the body of Christ. (1 Peter 4:10) Paul said he was first a servant, and only then an apostle. (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1; cp. 2 Peter 1:1) He did not use his position or authority as a means of attaining some higher, more prestigious goal. Paul was an apostle because he was first a servant!
No Place for Pride
Pride, self-assertion, and the desire for position were the cause of Satan's fall. "For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend ... I will exalt my throne ... I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation ... I will ascend ... I will ..." (Isaiah 14:13, 14; cp. Ezekiel 28:2-6, 13-17) In a day when everyone loves the limelight and people use (misuse) the ministry to satisfy their self-interests, it is important that we recall what Jesus had to say about the desire for position among men: "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever of you will be chiefest, shall be servant of all." (Mark 10:42-44)
God "hates" it when men "lord it over" one another within his body. (Revelation 2:6 Note: The word "Nicolaitans" means "conquerors of the laity.") Respecting the persons of men (Romans 2:11; Jude 16) is a sign of spiritual carnality (1 Corinthians 1:12, 13; 3:3-6). James calls it "sin" (James 2:1-9), for such leader-worship causes jealousy, pride, and divisions within the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:12-15)
'As long as we allow our hearts to be governed
by the interests
and opinions of man ... we will fall far short of His best for our lives.'
Looking to Man
Man has a natural tendency to want to look to another instead of to the Lord. When the Israelites asked for a king (1 Samuel 8:4, 5, 18; cp. 12:12), it was because they were rebelling against God (ch. 8:7) and wanted to be "like all the nations." (ch. 8:5) Jesus told us that it shall not be so among us. Yet Scripture warns that there shall be some who will take advantage of this weakness and tendency in man to follow after man, using it for personal advancement. "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. Therefore watch ..." (Acts 20:30, 31) This does not refer to intruding cults, but men from within the body seeking to gain their own following.
Jesus said, "I receive not honor from men." (John 5:41) He fled from publicity and position (John 5:13; 6:15), for He knew who He was (Philippians 2:6-9). Those who seek "the praise of men" (John 12:43; cp 5:44) and make popularity their aim often fall into corruption by compromising the Word of God to please the people. Jesus' concern was to do "always those things that please (the Father)." (John 8:29) Scripture calls him "a man approved of God." (Acts 2:22)
As long as we allow our hearts to be governed by the interests and opinions of man, seeking their acceptance and approval (Ephesians 6:6, 7; Colossians 3:22, 23; 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6), we will fall far short of his best for our lives. If we truly desire to be like him in every aspect of our spiritual being, we must keep in mind that the Lord of glory was Himself "despised and rejected of men." (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 8:34; Mark 8:31; 1 Peter 2:4) And a "servant is not greater than his lord." (John 15:20) "Therefore let no man glory in men," Paul said (1 Corinthians 3:21). In fact, Jesus said to beware when "all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:22, 26)
One's motive in ministry is wrong when the desire for popularity, prestige or position overshadows the cross of Calvary -- for it is then that he begins to compromise the truth for the sake of convenience and personal profit. (1 Thessalonians 2:4) The danger is that then his spiritual condition has begun to affect not only his own heart and relationship with God, but he also becomes eternally responsible before the Lord in his place of leadership (Jeremiah 23:22; Ezekiel 33:6-9; James 3:1-5) for altering the unchangeable word of God.
God hates a mixture (Jeremiah 15:19; 23:28), for it teems with deeds of compromise and dilutes the purity of the truth. Much of what today mistakenly passes for spirituality and the anointing is in reality nothing more than stage display and soulish entertainment. This mixture can be seen both in contemporary Christian songwriting (the beat of the world drowning out the heartbeat of God) and in the presentation of the preaching of the gospel (quoting poetry, humor, and the New York Times: all of which "naturally" appeal to the soul of man but cannot feed his spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:4-7)
Christainity was never intended to blend in with the world (John 15:19) but to expose its ways by holding up a higher standard of life in God. (John 17:14-17) The word "holy" means, literally, "separated." And the Greek word for "church," ecclesia, means "those who have been called out," or, "the called-out ones." We have been called out of this world and separated unto him. (Romans 1;1; 2 Corinthians 6:17) Jesus prayed that, though we must remain in this world, we should not be of it. (John 17:14-16) Christianity has no place compromising its ways with the systems of man. "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)
"Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned (burnt on one side and raw on the other). Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not." (Hosea 7:8, 9)
To the church of the Laodiceans, Jesus said: "I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot ... I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire... As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." (Revelation 3:15-19)
Fire purifies what is genuine and destroys what is not. (Psalms 12:6; Malachi 3:2, 3) So "if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." (1 Corinthians 3:12, 13)
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Diane S. Dew
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