It’s Biblical Series:
by Michael Roberts, D. Min.
Who are the ministers of the church? Some people have a tendency to use the word minister to mean the clergy, the pastors. Biblically, however, this understanding does not even begin to exhaust the true nature of ministry. The scriptures make it clear that all of God’s children are called into ministry and given special gifts and abilities for ministry. The clergy have a very important role in the ministry of the church, but they are not the only ministers. The church is a body of people in ministry together.
The Apostle Paul says:
“For as in one body, we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. We all have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans12:4f).
In a similar vein, Paul says,
“Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:4f).
In another passage from Paul, we read:
“I Paul beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called…grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11f).
Several things are evident from these passages. First, it is clear that God does not want “cookie cutter Christians,” where we all look the same and act the same way. For the grand and glorious mission of the church to be fulfilled, it takes all of us participating in God’s work. This makes the ministry of the church as rich and as varied as the number of people participating.
Secondly, the image of the body reminds us that we work together. All parts are interconnected. The health and work of one part affects the health and work of the others, just like in a human body. If one part is weak, the whole suffers.Thirdly, there are a variety of gifts and abilities. In the words surrounding the three passages above, we see many possibilities for ministry. Paul talks about prophecy (speaking for God), pastoring (serving as a shepherd or guide for a group), teaching, exhorting (giving words of encouragement), giving, compassion, knowledge, wisdom, faith sharing, healing, discernment, helping, administering, serving, and mission work, to name a few. Throughout the Bible, we find many other ways to be in ministry—through music, writing, arts, prayer, and more. Everyone is called to help fulfill the grand and glorious mission of the church. It takes us all!
Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13f). He does not urge us to be salt and light. He doesn’t tell us what we should be. Rather, he says that this is who we are. In Jesus’ day salt was a precious commodity. It was valued much like we value gold today. In fact, many people were even paid with salt. The legacy of this is still with us, for our word “salary” comes from a Latin word that literally means salt money. With this image Jesus is saying that we are valuable. Like salt, we are essential for life. As salt brings life and zest to food, so we have the power to bring life and joy to the world. We can also serve as a preservative and a healing agent, like salt. The image of light is similar. We have the power to reveal the things of God. Surrounding both of these passages, however, is a warning. Salt that is not used has little worth. Light that is hidden, serves no purpose. We read in the scripture, “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another…so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 4: l0f).
God gives every one of us a role to play in the work of ministry. God gives different gifts and abilities at different times for different circumstances. We are called to desire and develop the spiritual gifts so that we might be ready to employ them in ministry (I Corinthians 14:1). Every day we have the opportunity to be in ministry. Each one of us is gifted. Each one of us is called. Each one of us is blessed to be a blessing. What is your ministry at this particular time in your life?