Ministry as A Way of Life
By Tommy L. Davis, DDCS
Ministry has often been defined as a sort of occupation after Bible College in the contemporary sense. The English word “ministry” has evolved into an institutionalized activity in the religious setting. In its core meaning, the word “ministry” reflects the idea of service. Understood in this capacity, ministry becomes a life of service rather than authoritarian lordship. Christ had demonstrated this when he washed His disciples’ feet. The King of the universe humbled Himself and subjected Himself to His own creation setting an example for us to emulate. Christ made clear that whoever is the chiefest ought to be the perfect minister [servant]. (See Matt.20: 25-28; Jn.13:1-7; Phil. 2).
Jesus’ public ministry began with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every ministry begins with “power from on high.” Christ said. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel….”(Lk. 4:18). Before His Ascension into heaven, Christ told His followers to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). The quest for authority in the church without servanthood has lead to all manner of sanction within it, such as slavery, gender subordination, racism, etc. In this study, we shall explore the broad positions of service to God, the church, and the community we seek to evangelize.
One of the most debated issues in the visible church is who is called to ministry. Truth is, all Christians are called to the ministry. When power was unleashed at Pentecost, all believers present received power to be witnesses for Christ. While the Holy Spirit gives us power to be witnesses for Christ, the Holy Spirit also distributes particular tasks to operate within the framework of divine call.In his communique to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will”(1 Cor. 12:4-11).
It is significant to note that Paul relentlessly inserted the phrase “by the same Spirit”. When God calls us to a particular task, He gives us the power to perform it. If God did not call us to a certain task, we work in the flesh or by another spirit. When we are indwelled and empowered by Christ, we began to do in public what has already been ordained within us as a result of our relationship with Him.
The problem today is people choosing a certain ministry without being chosen for it. As Oswald Chambers explained: “The baptism of the Holy Ghost makes us witnesses to Jesus, not witnesses to what He can do, that is an elementary witness, but ‘witnesses unto Me.’ The spirit that comes in is not that of doing anything for Jesus, but of a perfect delight to Him.” (Paul’s Way In Christ, p.519). Chambers also stresses that many are devoted to creeds or a segment of evangelical truth, but know little about a devotion to Christ. Unfortunately, imposters have desired these gifts for personal reasons and have no desire to glorify Christ (as is the case of Simon the Sorcerer, Acts 8:5-25). As a result, they end up imitating these gifts for personal fame and gain. It is also noteworthy to comprehend that the Scriptures reveal that the Holy Spirit distributes such gifts dividing to every man severally as he will.
Without question, this is what calling is. When we receive salvation, we are given power for a precise vocation. For Paul exhorted the church at Ephesus that the Lord “gave some, apostles, and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”(4:11-12).
The Lord is building His church by perfecting His saints to add more to the church as we wait for the Coming of the Lord to receive our eternal inheritance. The mature Christian serves even in the capacity of leadership. It is easy to serve or lead for the wrong reasons. The shepherd, who is truly familiar with his sheep, knows that his animals are very dependent on his direction. Sheep would not survive long without a shepherd. They are unintelligent and rely on the shepherd for grazing, protection, watering, and shelter. A skilled shepherd also knows that sheep are prone to wander and unable to find its way to the fold even when it is within sight. Once sheep are familiar with its shepherd and establish a close connection, such sheep could be called by the distinctive voice of their leader. Other voices will virtually go unheard.
True ministry recognizes a need for authority and accountability. A servant would not be a servant without submitting to someone. We all are accountable to God but that attitude is expressed how we serve one another in the church and in the world.The shepherd’s job was demanding, solitary, and dangerous. Certain capabilities had to be present in order to protect the flock. Perhaps if the church in America were under heavy persecution, we would really see who are the called. There may be times where the shepherd or servant (in whatever capacity) will have to pay with their life. It is significant to note that the word “witnesses” in Acts 1:8 is a translation of the Greek word “martus” where we derive our English word “martyr.” All of the twelve disciples (except John) paid with their lives for the sake of the Gospel. All roads must lead to Calvary. Would we continue to serve or be God’s spokesperson even if it means Calvary?