Since the "business" of Christian ministry is transforming peoples lives so that they are conformed to the image of Christ...

  Ministry In The Church Today Is Often No More Than The Latest Trick Or Technique From A New Book Or Conference.

  Much Of The Ministry In American Churches Revolves Around Planning Programs And Assumes That Relationships Will Naturally Follow Those Programs, Rather Than The Biblical Model Of Putting Relationships First.

  Equipping The Saints In Order To Perform The Work Of the Ministry Is Often Talked About But Rarely Performed According To Biblical Pattern.

  Many Churches Have Not Envisioned Each Person As Being The Key To Attracting, Transforming And Keeping The Lost.

  The Concept Of Ministry In The Church Is Often No More Than A Conglomerate Of Impersonal Programs.

  Equipping The Saints Is Much More Than Just Herding People Into A Room And Talking At Them.

  The "Pulpit" Is One Device That Has Helped To Perpetuate The Anti-Biblical Doctrine Of A Clergy And Laity Distinction.

  The Practice Of Equating Book Learning With Equipping And Training Has Greatly Contributed To The Lack Of Real Power In The Church Of Jesus. ..

The Average Church-Going Christian In America Unconsciously Thinks That The Very Act Of Faithfully Attending Church Services Is Their Ministry; It is Not.

  Our Lord Never Meant For Preaching To Be The Primary Way That The Saints Are Equipped For Service; In Fact, Preaching As We Know It In A Christian Assembly May Not Have Even Existed In The Very Early Church.

  Deliverance Ministry In The Church Is One Of The Most Controversial, Yet Vital Issues Facing The Church Today. We Cannot Bring The Body Of Christ To Maturity Without Dislodging Demonic Strongholds Out Of Each New Christian.

Before we cover various propositions to restore NT ministry, it would be well to define what ministry is. Our English word “ministry” comes from the Latin ministerium. It simply means servant. The NT Greek word diakonia is used in numerous places to describe serving and ministering to others. The important point here is that the root this word, like the Latin term, is to “serve” or “wait upon” another. Some examples are found in 1 Corinthians 16:15; Ephesians 4:12; I Peter 4:11.

Unfortunately, our modern usage of the term ministry is usually equated with teaching or preaching. In contrast, I Peter 4:11 makes a distinction between speaking and ministering gifts. While the act of speaking may also be considered ministering, evidently the Holy Spirit had some difference between the two in mind.

According to 1 Corinthians 12-14 as well as Romans 12:6-8, ministry has more to do with giving to another something we have received from the Lord. The apostle Peter strikes to the core of ministry when he writes, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Peter 4:10). The word for “serving” in this verse is the same as the one for ministering used elsewhere. So then, the root of ministry, or serving, is obtaining something from the Lord and appropriating it on behalf of another Christian.

Even though we tend to focus on the external actions of ministry, there is a deeper, less obvious side. In 2 Corinthians 3:1-18, Paul reminds us that we are servants (ministers) of a new covenant. He contrasts this new covenant with the old one by describing their difference. Principally, the old covenant represented a “ministry of death”[1], largely due to the fact that it was impossible for anyone to perfectly keep the law, and therefore would be worthy of death. The new covenant, on the other hand, is described as a “ministry of the Spirit,” largely since it imparts life. So, at the root of ministry, life, God’s life, is the issue.

We are primarily in the business of imparting life where it is absent or dim, and facilitating life transformation when it has become wrecked.

In keeping with the new covenant theme of life, Paul describes NT ministers as ones who are “servants of new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” [2] Whatever else ministry is or is not, it is a work of imparting life, the eternal life of the Spirit of God. No matter what else our ministry does, if it does not have the fruit of life, then our ministry has failed. Dale Rumble, in his book about servant-leaders, puts it this way,

“When the Lord calls a person to a specific ministry, it is not primarily to get something done, for He could have created robots if that was all He had in mind. Neither is the purpose of the ministry to interpret Christ to others. Very simply, ministry is to impart His life, His nature and a knowledge of His ways to others. That precious deposit of Himself within us cannot be imparted to others by simply passing on information, however correct it may be. What we have to offer others will be more readily received if it is first demonstrated in our lives; then, instead of preaching “down to them,” we present it in an attitude of one who is serving.”[3]

For more study, here are a number of references to ministering and serving:

·        Acts 6:2 – An example of practical ministry (service)

·        2 Corinthians 5:18 – The ministry of reconciliation  

·        2 Timothy 4:5 – The duties of Timothy’s ministry  

·        Galatians 5:13 – Serving one another through love  

·        Ephesians 6:7 – Serving with a whole heart  

·        Colossians 4:17 – Taking heed to the ministry we are given  

·        1 Timothy 4:6 – Being a good minister of Christ  

·        Hebrews 8:6 – The ministry of Jesus  

·        I Peter 5:2 – Leaders not being fond of receiving money for their service

 Ministry in the NT was not focused on a group of paid specialists. It was expected that those whom had received more grace in a particular gifting, would impart to others. This way all the saints could supply their part for the overall proper functioning of the Body (Ephesians 4:11ff). 

In stark contrast to the Biblical examples of service, ministry in institutional churches today often consists of no more than a series of impersonal programs led by a few individuals. One gets the impression from modern church activity that the underlying motivation is to feed the institutional church “machine” and keep the big wheel of church turning. We must recognize the good that has emerged from an inferior system of program-based ministry, but press on to greater levels of NT ministry. Put simply, ministry has to be from the heart. It also must be focused on everyone serving, rather than on a small, elite group of superstars. Perhaps the term “nameless and faceless” servants would be a good description of people who minister in the Church.

 What We Can Do!

Encourage the development of the ministry of life! Praise the more mature brethren in your gathering whom open up their lives for full disclosure. This allows newer Christians to see them under all of life’s situations. Discourage the practice of the aloof leader, who cannot be good friends with non-leaders. Shy away from the “showboat” attitude which promotes a single man or woman and their ministry. Encourage ministry that reflects Paul’s words to Timothy, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”[4]


Footnotes:

[1] 2 Corinthians 3:7. 

[2] 2 Corinthians 3:6. 

[3] Rumble, Dale. The Diakonate – Servant-Leaders, (Shippensburg, Pa.: Destiny Image Publishers, 1990), Pg. 4. 

[4] 1 Timothy 1:5

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