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The Ministry Divide

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

As a layperson, I tend to think of ministry as something some people do while others do not. Or perhaps ministry is something some people do full-time while others do part-time.

Since the dawn of the church age, and certainly since the Reformation, the global church has continued to struggle with the divide between clergy and layman. Full-time ministry often becomes a goal that many seek as a next step in spiritual growth, leaving some outside of the ministry with feelings of guilt for not giving Christ their all and some within the ministry with feelings of frustration in not finding the satisfaction they thought they would find.

But ministry is not meant to create a divide within the body, and we need our pastors to continue to teach us that we are all priests, ministers, and ambassadors for Jesus.

You may be a pastor, or a writer, or a mom, or in business, or a carpenter, or a student, or any number of occupations. But I invite you to consider why you do what you do and whether you consider what you do, and everything you do, as a ministry or not.

I would love to say that I write books and articles and blog posts purely as a ministry. I would love to say that because I desire for this to be my heart’s deepest desire.  What I can honestly say, however, is that I write in order to:

  • Be affirmed
  • Express a gift
  • Force myself to think more deeply about daily life
  • Prove I have something worth saying, or prove I am valuable because of what I do
  • Attempt to know more of God
  • Share ways in which the gospel touches our daily lives
  • Satisfy my ego
  • Proclaim Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings
  • Feel important or impactful

You will notice a mix of pride-filled motives and grace-filled motives in this list. My confession to God is that I am not ready to full submit my writing to Him and His purposes alone, and my prayer is that He will help me remove my own selfish motives and replace them with His motives instead.

With that being said, writing, or pastoring, or _____ as a ministry is a worthy pursuit. We probably shouldn’t go much further in this before understanding what the Scriptures have to say about ministry in general. What follow are a few examples from God’s word:

  • The apostles viewed their primary ministry as ministers of the word (Acts 6:4)
  • Paul considers us as ambassadors for Christ, or ministers with a message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 20)
  • God gave gifts to His people in order to equip them for the work of ministry, for building up His church (Ephesians 4:11-12)
  • Paul assumed Timothy had a ministry which needed to be “fulfilled” (2 Timothy 4:5)
  • Jesus obtained a ministry of His own which he appeared once for all at the end of the ages as a sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 8:6, 9:26)

So what can we say about ministry, and how does this impact our own ministries in turn?

  1. Ministry is others-oriented. The apostles ministered the word to others, the saints are equipped for ministry to others, and Christ’s ministry saves sinners. Our ministry must continually be self-denying and others-focused.
  2. Ministry comes with a gift. God is the giver of gifts to His people in order that they may use them to build up His church.  Finding our ministry means discovering and using these gifts in order to build up the body in love and grow in maturity in Christ.
  3. Ministry is a call. Timothy had a ministry which he needed to fulfill.  God had prepared good works for Timothy to walk in, and He has done the same for us as well. Being an effective minister means asking God to lead us into these good works.
  4. Ministry requires prioritization. We may be able to minister in many ways, but we should follow the example of the apostles and consider before God where our gifts may bear the most fruit.
  5. Ministry is sacrificial. Ministry means giving, and giving means sacrificing. Jesus gave of Himself to obtain His ministry of mediation, and we must give of ourselves in order to obtain the fruit of our own ministries. We don’t minister to gain; we minister to give.
  6. Ministry exists to glorify God. Jesus’ ministry on the earth, on the cross, and in the Father’s presence exists in order to bring glory to Himself and to the Father (John 17:1-5). As all things exist for Him (Colossians 1:16), and since we are to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), let us embrace the sacrificial, others-oriented ministries of our gifts in order to magnify the glory of our God.

May our churches learn to see that we are all ministers and priests, that the divide between clergy and laymen was forever shattered at the cross, and that we all have a ministry that must be fulfilled for the body of Christ to attain to full unity of faith so that we may “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.”

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