More than any protestant Church or Christian institution the Catholic Church understood the importance of serving humanity as a vital part of their Christian faith. According to the Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership, “The church is a servant community in which those who hunger are to be filled; the ignorant are to be taught; the homeless to receive shelter; the sick cared for; the distressed consoled; the oppressed set free.”
One of their highly regarded daughters, Mother Teresa who knew what it was to serve the destitute had this to say, “Being happy with [God] now means: Loving as he loves, Helping as he helps, Giving as he gives, Serving as he serves, Rescuing as he rescues, Being with him 24 hours, Touching him in his distressing disguise.
What has motivated the Catholic Church, and Mother Teresa to serve humanity? I am sure that their motivation comes from studying the servant hood of Christ in the scriptures. For the past few weeks we have been on a journey to discover key elements that were involved in the growth of the early Church so that we can apply those principles in our Church. So far we have looked into three elements, they are: 1. Worship (Adoration) 2. Connect (Fellowship) 3. Go (Evangelism). Today we will look into another important element which is Serve (Ministry). We will see how Christ modeled servanthood, and how the early Church practiced it, hopefully by the end of our time we may understand what it is to serve as Christ Served. Acts 2:42-47. The early Church in the Book of Acts Chapter 2 was founded by the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers from all walks of life and backgrounds were devoted to worship, prayer and fellowship.
They impacted their community through a life style of evangelism. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to any one as he had need. It was a community well connected to God and to one another as a result the LORD kept adding to the Church daily those who were getting saved.
What do we see happening here? Without anyone orchestrating and legislating we see a beautiful ministry of sharing & caring in operation. If you’ve been long around in Christian circles you may heave heard the word called ministry. What is biblical ministry and how do you understand it? Who is our model for ministry? What are some of the pitfalls we must avoid while aspiring for or doing ministry?
I. THE BIBLICAL BASE FOR MINISTRY
Let’s take in Paul’s holistic view of life and ministry in his letter to the Colossian Christians in Col. 3:12-24 Paul lays out requirements for biblical ministry such as, holiness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He emphasizes right relationships in marriage, family and in the Church that are foundations for Christian ministry.
Every relationship presents an opportunity for service. In fact if you are married and have a family your family is your foremost field of ministry. As Charity begins at home biblical ministry must begin at home. Later Paul writing to Timothy stresses certain requirements for elders. One of the criteria for ministry there is that they must manage their own family well, they must see that their children obey them with proper respect, because if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s Church?( I Timothy 3:1-5)
Ministry is a distinctive Biblical idea which comes from a Greek word “doulos” this was the term used for a bond slave, one who was offered his freedom but who voluntarily surrendered that freedom in order to remain a servant.
This idea typified Jesus’ purpose as described by Paul in Phil 2:6-7, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant(bond slave) being made in human likeness.” If we call ourselves the followers of Christ then we are called to follow his example. In reality all believers are “ministers’ therefore all believers are expected to serve without any exception.
Is Ministry only confined to the Church? When a Christian is wholeheartedly committed to the Lord, all of his or her life and work can be ministry. In
We often hear people saying I am called to serve God full time. Has God called some to serve Him fulltime and others part time? No, I believe that God’s call for all of us to serve him is full time in the field of influence he has placed us. However it is good to seek God, how you can specifically contribute your gifts to the building up of his Kingdom. We thank God for a number of people in our Church who are involved in some form of ministry and others may be aspiring for ministry in our Church or elsewhere.
Over the two decades of ministry I’ve learned valuable lessons, some with much pain and heartache. I would like to warn those who are already in ministry and those who are aspiring to be in the ministry against three major pit falls.
1. CELEBRITY SYNDROME
On the contrary biblical ministry is not all that rosy, it is messy at times; it is about sweat, tears and perseverance. It is not always done in public but in private. It is not about boldly proclaiming in front of the TV camera but it is humbly taking care of the lonely, hurting, and helping those who are in need. Jesus modeled a ministry of compassion. He equated service to God with service to others. Remember the parable of the King separating the goat and the sheep at the end time in Matthew 25:31-46? The essence of this parable is that when we minister to others who are in need we actually minister to Christ. And when we fail to do so we sin against God.
In our text in Acts 2 we read how the early Church was involved in the ministry of compassion and of service. They had everything in common, they voluntarily sold their possessions and goods, and they gave to any one. I am not suggesting that you should sell all you property and bring it to Church, but I am suggesting , that you be on the look out of those brothers and sisters who might be in need. Be watchful of the deceptive celebrity syndrome. The second, ministry pitfall is domineering leadership.
2. DOMINEERING LEADERSHIP
In the western world leadership has been over rated to an extent that everybody wants to be a leader but no one wants to follow. Sadly, speaking this kind of striving for top positions of leadership is also seen in the Church. If everyone in our church wants to lead who is going to follow? This Church can be pulled in a hundred different directions and will soon disintegrate and die. Several years ago when I was as a missionary with YWAM I used to think that if I were given the chance to lead the organization I would a much better job, until I myself became the director have I realized how hard leadership is. If we are given a chance we all want to be leaders. There is nothing wrong with that idea but are you willing to pay the cost that comes along with it?
One of the main biblical criteria for leadership is not competence but character. Biblical leadership is not about domineering and controlling instead it is about humility and servanthood. Jesus taught a lesson to all his disciples who were scuffling for the top position of leadership. He called them aside and said, “You know that the rules of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among your must be your servant and whoever wants t be first must be your slave, Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve…(Matt 20: 25-26).If you want to be a great leader, you must graduate from the school of servanthood. The 3rd ministry pitfall is one man show.
3. ONE MAN SHOW
Living in a highly individualistic society we struggle with individualism more than we realize. We would like to do things on our own rather than doing it with others. Over the past fifty years or so this type of attitude and expectation has permeated Christian ministry. The one man show model expects that the pastor and his wife to do every thing. It is a super pastor or a super pastor’s wife model. Ministry should never be a one man show. It has never worked in the past and will never work in the future. If you are expecting Wilma and me to do everything you may be disappointed because we consciously avoid this model of the “one man show” We believe in the priesthood of all believers. We realize as many others that to grow a church takes more than one person. We need everyone, wholeheartedly and intentionally to do their part in building the Church.
Jesus modeled this concept of ministering in teams. Remember he sent disciples two by two, when he fed five thousand he did not do it all by himself. He had the disciples who were very active in doing the ministry with him. If Christ worked in teams how can we think that we can do it on our own and we don’t need any body’s help?
My job as a Pastor is well defined, it is not to do all the ministry by myself but to equip you for the works of service so that our Church the body of Christ may be built up (Eph 4:11-12). That is the reason why in our Church we do not encourage independent ministries; there is no room here for one man or woman show. Ministry in the Church involves all of us. I do realize that it is not always easy to work with others; however we must strive to work together.
When we work together in teams and in unity God will bless our Church. If our goal is to see this Church grow; we must understand and operate by the biblical principles of ministry. We must make every effort to avoid the pitfalls of, the celebrity syndrome, domineering leadership and the one man show in ministry. Above all we must keep Jesus as our model and learn to serve as Christ Served. Amen.