Every Member A Minister

There is no greater fulfillment in life than serving in the Master’s kingdom. Each person has a part to play. For centuries the church has been divided into two groups, clergy and layman. Now God has begun to take down that wall of separation.  The healthiest churches around the world are those in which all members are encouraged to become active in their gifts.

Who are the Ministers?

In the early church every member was considered a minister. Peter tells us that the people are a royal priesthood.[1] Paul said that each one has a ministry function. Therefore, every member is a minister.

It is common to refer to members in the church as layman. This is an Old Testament term used to refer to those who cannot participate in the holy things of God.[2]  When members are seen as non-ministers; then only the hired professionals are perceived as capable of doing ministry. Thus, the separation between clergy and layman is made. We must guard against this traditional means of separating leaders and members. In rejecting an artificial division between clergy and laity, we are not saying there should not be great respect given to elders who labor in the Word. The Bible plainly teaches that we are to submit to those who are in authority over us,[3] and to esteem them highly in love for the sake of the work.[4] However, these leaders should be more appropriately seen as coaches and the members as players who have been trained and equipped for participation.

In the Gospels we read that Jesus chose fishermen and ordinary individuals to be the foundational apostles for His church. In the Book of Acts we see people like Philip, Barnabas, and Stephen who were regular people equipped in the local church and did mighty works of ministry. Therefore, the local church should be the training center where ordinary people are developed to serve under the elders as ministers of the Gospel.

New Testament ministry includes, winning people to Christ, developing them in ministry, and releasing them to responsibilities and oversight for others.  That should be our goal in the church today; members growing in their gifts and fully functioning in the local church as followers of Christ.

What Is Ministry?

The word ministry is translated from the word serve or servant. The Greek word diakonia (dee-ak-on-ee’-ah) means to attend (as a servant) or to aid in Christian service. The Greek word diakonos (dee-ak’-on-os) is from where we get the word deacon. To minister is to serve in and through one’s spiritual gift.

As you take on responsibilities, you learn to identify your gift and look for opportunities that fit your area. A willingness to serve regardless of the area, however, is paramount to developing one in ministry. It is in these tasks that one develops. There are many ministry tasks[5] in the church that may or may not be within a person’s particular gifting or calling but they are important, nevertheless, to developing faithfulness in the disciple.

Unfortunately, many Christians see ministry as a glamorous and public presentation. They often talk about the future as though one day they will be in ministry. These Christians are looking more for position than they are biblical ministry. They fail to discern the Body of Christ and the value of every member as a minister. They may see the daily care of young disciples as an interruption to their own agenda, thus missing true ministry.

Ministry in the church is primarily winning the lost, assimilating new Christians into the life of the Church, discipling them into maturity, and mobilizing them into service. Unless one is mentoring others or supporting those that are, then he has not entered New Testament ministry. Ministry is about people. People matter to God.  Christ’s church is made up of people, and those who submerge themselves in and among the people of God will be the ministers in the Church.

Developing In Ministry

Ministry comes out of being. You cannot take others where you have not been. You cannot impart to others what you do not have, and you cannot truly teach what you have not experienced. Ministry flows out of maturity. Maturity grows out of experiences and properly relating to God and His Word in these life situations.  It is during difficult circumstances when one matures the most. A disciple must recognize the learning process and gather wisdom from every setback. Then he will always mature.

There are some practical steps you can take to develop in ministry.

1)   Acknowledge and accept your placement – Many people are always looking toward the future for ministry while failing to recognize the place in which they reside. Accept where God has placed you in the local church to develop. Also acknowledge and accept your spiritual gifts as God has given them to you.  Bloom where you are planted.

2)   Submit to the vision of where you are planted – Apply yourself to support the vision of the church where you are planted. Lay down your personal agenda and become consumed with developing under someone else. Accept ministry tasks when the leaders ask you. Go through the foundation classes and training to become involved in your church. Pray for the leadership and support them with your whole heart.

3)   Commit to the spiritual formations[6] in your life – Allow adverse situations to develop and grow you. Learn through these times. Apply yourself to character developing and the development of your inner-life in Christ. Learn the power of God’s presence through prayer and fasting. Learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and establish a regular time in the Word of God.

4)   Ask for help with ministry skills – Be willing to be mentored. Don’t expect anyone to give you all his time, but determine what you can receive from those around you. Write out where you see they can help you and ask for that help. Seek input from others on how you can develop and improve your people skills, communication skills, and leadership skills. Apply your self to reading and studying in the areas in which you need development the most. Develop further in your gifts.

5)   Seek fruit that will remain – At the end of your life, what will matter the most are the people in whom you have invested your life. Determine now that you will disciple others into what you are learning. Your own ministry development is in direct proportion to the people whom you have helped in their ministry. When you help enough people reach their potential, your leadership influence will have grown exponentially. The true test of a mature disciple is when those he has discipled are making disciples.  That is fruit that will remain.

[1] 1 Peter 2:9

[2] Layman – others besides the priest.  New American Standard Translation, Numbers 1:51; 16:40; Exodus 29:33; Leviticus 22:13

[3] Hebrews 13:7, 17

[4] 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17

[5] J. Robert Clinton defines as ministry task as an assignment from God, which primarily tests a person’s faithfulness and obedience but often also allows use of ministry gifts in the context of a task, which has closure, accountability, and evaluation.

[6] J. Robert Clinton’s book Leadership Perspectives defines spiritual formation as the development of the inner-life of a person of God so that, the person experiences more of the life of Christ, reflects more Christi-like characteristics in personality and in everyday relationships, and increasingly knows the power and presence of Christ in ministry.

About the Author:

Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.

Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.

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