Pastor's Blog

Last week I noted a simple truth from Ephesians 4.12 that forms the foundation of how we should think about “ministry” and “church”.

The pastor is not the minister.  The PEOPLE are the ministers.  YOU are a minister.  YOU are in the ministry.

Ministry is service.  When you minister, you serve others.  You do something to bless and benefit other people as they live life.

And you are gifted by God to do so.  Every Christian is.

That’s what Paul says in Ephesians 4.8:  “But grace (a favor, a gift) was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Many people think spiritual gifts are miraculous and appear suddenly and unexpectedly.  You become a Christian and *poof* -- you have this sudden magical skill, skill you never had before, that you don’t have to master – it’s just there now, full-blown -- skill that just flows out of you unbidden and enables you to bring blessing to other people without you even trying.

Maybe God does that sometimes.  But I’m more inclined to see God’s sovereign work of gifting as more providential than miraculous.

Most people say that God has given me the gift of teaching.  When I teach, people seem to be able to understand truth and want to respond to it.

It is a gift, but it wasn’t dropped on me suddenly when I converted.  God started putting the pieces of my personality in place when I was a child.  Everything in my life – the parents to whom I was born, the home where we lived, the environment around me, the people that taught me, the experiences I had in school with other kids, the friends I had, the enemies I made, the good things, the bad things – all of it molded me and pushed my life in a certain direction.  All of it is of use in the functioning of the gift for the blessing of others.

It’s not miracle.  It’s providence after providence after providence.

God made me good at certain things.  And he also made me want to become better at those things.  And I received insights along the way to improve my gifts.  I learn something almost every week that strengthens me (or alters my course in a more needful direction).

Do you think the Father in heaven, from whom all good gifts flow, only does this for pastors?  Or does He delight to give gifts to others in the same way?

What do you enjoy?  What has He made you to enjoy? 
What are you good at?  What has He made you good at?
How do you find yourself bringing blessing to other people?  What do others appreciate about you and your input?

Don’t think of these things merely as your strengths.  Think of them as gifts of God that are to be used and honed.

Stop looking for miracles and trust instead how Providence has molded you.

Over the centuries people have created a concept that doesn’t appear in the Bible.  It’s called “the ministry” – as in “He’s going into the ministry” – meaning, “He’s going to become a paid professional in religion – a pastor.”

But if you look closely at the New Testament epistles, pastors aren’t “the ministers”.  Pastors “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4.12).  The ministers are “the saints”.

“Saint” doesn’t mean “super-spiritual Christian”.  Paul used the word to refer to the everyday Christian.  Every Christian in every congregation is a saint – a holy one, set aside for God’s use.  You are a saint.  And if you are a saint, you have been called into “the ministry”.

The word “minister” just means “serve”.  When you minister to someone, you serve them.  You see a need in their life and try to meet it.  You show love, care, and attention toward another soul.

If you help children learn to read or coach their sports team, you are “ministering” to them.
If you cook a meal, or teach someone to cook, you minister to them.
If you listen to a person’s woes, if you weep with them or encourage them, you minister to them.
If you help a person learn to budget money or lose weight or teach them some other life skill, you minister to them.
Any time you serve another person, investing your time and energy to benefit their life, you minister.  When you do, you are “in the ministry”.

Everyone, including the atheist, approves of people being served for good.  But it usually isn’t the atheist funding such service or putting the time in to do the dirty work.  There are exceptions, but it’s religious people who usually do these things because belief in God is connected to a sense of love and service to others. Care of people tends to flow out of religious beliefs. 

If nature just takes its own course, we find we don’t care about our species.  We care about our offspring, about those related to us.  Religion in general (and Christianity in particular) stretches us beyond nature and gives us supernatural reasons to care about those that nature would allow us to overlook.  Christianity teaches us to see beyond nature.

The world busies us with natural life – putting food on the table and protecting and providing for our own.  “Church” and “worship” leads us to momentarily put aside the natural and refocus our lives around the One Who is beyond nature.  And we listen to teaching from God’s revelation that reminds us how to approach life beyond nature’s dictates

This is where the function of the pastor-teacher enters the picture.  He equips others with truth to invigorate their perspective and encourage their service to others.

This is the simple foundation upon which a church is built.  Theologians call it “philosophy of ministry”.  You don’t need to know Greek to get it.  It’s right there in the English sentences of Ephesians 4. 

Believe it – and start translating it into action.  In no time you’ll find a niche in which you really are “a minister”.

 

 

When dead orthodoxy stagnated the Church of England, God breathed life into it through John & Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, the founders of Methodism.

Whitefield was renowned as a preacher, but he was a terrible administrator.  John Wesley was an adequate preacher, but a much better administrator and organizer.  Whitefield’s branch of Methodism never quite got off the ground, and Methodism has been dominated by Wesleyan thinking.

I often feel a kinship with Whitefield.  People respond and seem to learn when I preach and teach.  But I am not a gifted organizer or administrator.  I have seen lives rescued, restored, and built up – but I feel I have done a poor job constructing an organization – an effectively functioning and coherent body of believers.  I am simply not gifted for that.  I am rejoicing that others have seen that and are taking up that work, and may God continue to bless our church in days to come through them!

My opening blog of the year (“Windshields and Mirrors”) was dedicated to that challenge – building for the future.  Where are we going?  Given the things taking place in our society it is even more pressing, I think.

As of June 2021, our church will have been in existence for 66 years; I will have been the pastor for 39 of those years.  The years before me were a rollercoaster in the church’s life; there were blessings but when I read the old minutes there seems to have been a good bit of infighting and inability to pay bills and struggles with a few bad eggs for pastors.  The pastor that immediately preceded me told me he was trying to shuttle people gently to other churches and quietly close the doors and lay the church to rest. 

God had other plans.

I have invested my life trying to clean up past messes, straighten out confusions, and lay a foundation in biblical truth for a better future.  My hope is that future generations will not abandon that foundational concept.  We must always be about understanding the revelation of truth in God’s Word and applying it to our lives in this ever-changing world. 

There are many other things to be done.  Ministry – serving – is a lot broader than just solid biblical teaching.  But ministry without solid biblical teaching at its core is just “social work” or “philanthropy” – and without Christ it will lose its direction.

The Wesley’s organized well, but much of Methodism has been blown off-course these days, away from an adherence to biblical truth.  The winds that seek to detach us from our moorings in the truth seem to blow fiercely and relentlessly.

Faithfulness to the truth requires great effort and constant attention.

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