Ministry - The Work of the Church
We sometimes say that the church is not a country club, but rather a place of service. The church is God’s program for today, and it’s the place in which ministry is supposed to take place. Ministering to the body of Christ is a responsibility that rests upon each believer. No Christian is excused from the responsibility of serving the body. Effective gospel ministry within a local church requires the participation of all members working together for the cause of Christ. Gospel ministry is a partnership where each part of the church body is functioning for the purpose of making and maturing disciples for the glory of God.
Paul describes this teamwork dynamic wonderfully in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 where he writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.”
Notice that Paul was the one who planted. Apollos watered. But it was God who gave the increase. We are responsible to use our gifts to plant the seed of the gospel and water the seed once it’s planted. Both parts of the equation are needed. Some people will plant. Others will water. But the increase cannot come from human effort. Only God can take the seeds we plant and use the water we sprinkle on the seeds to bring an increase. While it is God who works in the hearts of people, each person on the team is important. In order for the body of Christ to successfully minister to others, each person must faithfully fulfill his part of the process.
Effective gospel ministry requires pastors, leaders, and church members serving together in unity, solidarity, and teamwork. As believers, we are able to join together because of our common partnership in the gospel for the purpose of influencing others with the word of God. In order to have an effective ministry, our lives must first be in alignment with Scripture. In fact, Paul argues that making disciples is to be a way of life for faithful Christians (1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ).
God uses his word to grow us, so that we can assist others in their spiritual growth. As disciples, we are expected to set an example others can follow because it leads them toward Christlikeness. As we minister to others we must help others grow in three areas:
First, we are to help other believers grow in conviction. We are to teach people the Scriptures so that their understanding and obedience to God increases. God’s word isn’t just for memorization; it’s for transformation.
Secondly, this increasing knowledge of God’s word should lead to a change in our character. Christlikeness develops from obedience and skillful application of Scripture. God’s word isn’t just for memorization; it’s for application.
Finally, as we learn to skillfully apply God’s word to our lives we grow in competence. Once we are able to accurately understand and apply God’s word we are to actively use what we have learned to equip others for service. God’s word isn’t just for memorization; it’s for discipling.
One common objection to the teamwork approach to ministry is, “That’s the pastor’s job.” But we must keep the pastoral position and the purpose of the church body in its biblical context.
The pastor is not simply a professional clergyman who provides religious services for the congregation (e.g., preach sermons, administer the ordinances, and perform weddings and funerals). This limits the church’s growth to the gifts, abilities, and resources of the pastor. This approach will limit the church’s ability to grow.
Nor is the pastor a Chief Executive Officer who is responsible for managing an organization. While there are certainly business aspects to the church, it’s primarily a living organism through which ministry takes place.
The Bible presents the pastor as a part of the body of Christ who is called to shepherd the flock of God that has been entrusted to him (e.g., 1 Peter 5:1-5). The pastor is given the responsibility of training others toward spiritual maturity and competency so they can disciple other believers. The pastor ministers to others so they can minister to the body of Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul explains it this way, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Are you a faithful person who is receiving biblical instruction for the purpose of ministering to others? Are you faithfully using your gifts and abilities to minister to God’s people? All Christians are to be purposefully discipling others. I pray that you are being faithful to your call to plant and water the seeds of the gospel. As we faithfully serve Christ, we will see the fruit of our labors as God gives the increase.