April 6, 2009

Who are the ministers? (Or, Why do you go to church?)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:11-15

A common perception in churches today is that the pastors and church staff do the work of ministry, with the "lay person" in the congregation being the recipient. While it is certainly true that the pastors, teachers, and church staff are engaging in a vital and necessary work, they are not the only (or even the main) ministers as far as the New Testament is concerned. Their job is to equip the saints (that is you, Christian), for the work of the ministry. 

Through preaching, teaching, exhortation, bible study, etc, these pastors and leaders should be seeking to prepare you to engage in the primary ministry of bringing every aspect of your life under the reign of King Jesus. By growing in the knowledge of the Jesus Christ and the truth of the gospel, you will be equipped to recognize and combat sin in every area of your own life, and to stand against injustice and immorality in the the world around you. By knowing the truth, you will be able to engage and counter false ideas that abound in the workplace, at social gatherings, and everywhere else in the world. Rather than unwittingly being lead astray, you will stand as a beacon of truth. By growing in your understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of believers, your love for the children of God will grow to new heights and you will be equipped to minister with love to fellow believers, and to go out together ministering with love to unbelievers. The Church is not built up and ministered to by the pastoral staff, it is a self-building and self-ministering body, having been equipped to do so by those pastors, teachers, etc. 

So while it is the job of the pastors and teachers is to do the equipping, it is the job of the "lay person" to come to be equipped, for they too are ministers of Christ. Do not go to a church to passively receive a message that can somehow cheer you up or improve your life. Go seeking to be trained and equipped for the work of the ministry.

In his book Being the Body, Chuck Colson lists eight examples of areas in which churches should seek to equip their saints:

1. To know and defend their faith and to apply it in the world 
2. To lead exemplary lives in the marketplace 
3. To build strong marriages and families 
4. To "train up children in the way they should go" 
5. To fulfill their various vocations to the glory of God  
6. To be good stewards of financial resources 
7. To identify their own evangelistic gifts and use them effectively in the marketplace 
8. To give specialized training which enables people to reach out to those in particular types of physical and spiritual need

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