Building up believers and the New Testament church


The Purpose of Ministry

The word of God is committed to the church

The church is designed to reveal the wisdom of God throughout the ages. Everything God is doing is being done in the church. All that is worked by the Holy Spirit in individuals--salvation, the fullness of the Spirit, the appropriating of the cross, sanctification, justification, and so on--is for one purpose: to bring us all into relationship in the one body of Christ.

In the church, ministries are given to bring us to the unity of the faith, functioning as a body, with each member moving according to the ability God gives. To move in God, each must be spiritually equipped, and that equipment comes from the ability of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the ministers in any local gathering. Ministry is the work of God in the midst of His children for the perfecting (maturing) of the saints. It is for one purpose: the supply of Christ to the body. Ministers are to move in their ministry by the Spirit until we all are experiencing the fullness of what God wants for us.

I believe we must look at ministry God's way, to see God's results. Ministry is given by the Lord himself, it works out in various ways, and it has been given for various purposes. Ministry is not something we can work up. It is not seeing something intellectually and moving in that. If you feel you have a ministry, but it is not given by God, it will not bring God's results. God has placed us in the body as it has pleased Him. He has given each of us His ability to function. It is only the ability God gives to the minister that will fulfill His will and desire to have the body function as one. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us..." (John 17:21) This is in God's heart; this is God's nature. It is a mystery, but when we begin to taste of this mystery, the reality becomes life to us and we begin to see more of how God is working right now. It also has a bearing as we start to affect others and submit one to another.

The word of God has been committed unto the church. A minister is called by God to take that word and impart it to the church. "The word" or "the revelation" is Christ himself. Ministers serve Christ to others, and ministry must be "alive" by the Spirit to accomplish what God says it will do. God is not just interested in preaching; He is interested in meeting needs in our assembly. When needs are met, it brings each one to a place of strength, able to move with singleness of purpose and able to minister in turn to others.

"...Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation..." (Romans 12:7-8) As we meet together, any one of us can have something to give to the assembly without having a ministry of the word. If we are alive unto the Lord, desiring to please Him, and seeing what He is doing, it adds to our assembly life and to our oneness. But the word of God in our assembly life is the most important thing. We meet to hear God! If God is speaking in our midst, you won't want to miss a meeting. You'll be eager for ministry, listening for God to speak to you! This brings us to a place of worship, adoration, and praise. It is only when this is lacking that we sit back and try to "think it out." We don't need a program when the Holy Spirit is moving! We just need to give Him His place, and we need to function.

Some may think that worship is most important, or something else perhaps, but the fact is, we assemble together to be fed. If the word of God is not flowing to and through different vessels, we will lack. Worship, songs, and praise have no meaning unless the word of God is living among us and we have made a place for it. Worship is born out of that living word in our midst, and so are many other functions. Therefore, ministry of the word is extremely important.

God's ministry working through men should do three things:

  • Dominate the assembly
  • Master the individual, and the assembly as a whole
  • Unify the body

We need ministers who are led by the Spirit of God, anointed, functioning together, and sensitive to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to accomplish His work through ministers to bring the body to the place of functioning. Ministers must learn how to function with the gift God has given them, but not dominate as individuals. It is God who must dominate. It is what is coming through the minister, not the minister himself, that should dominate. So ministers must decrease, "get out of the way," not draw attention to themselves. We will delve more deeply into this in later chapters.

As ministry functions together and holds up the revelation by the Spirit so that it dominates every member, the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ will put such a demand upon people that they must obey, or get out. Maybe we don't like to hear the expression "get out," but Jesus puts a demand (of love) on us. When the rich young ruler turned and walked away, the demand was too much for him. I think we often talk about authority, but there is not enough authority ministered. The authority of God's ministry brings a demand of Christ upon each member.

The goal (fruits) of ministry

What should the church of Jesus Christ be revealing to the world? What goal should ministers be moving toward? What should be seen in the expression of ministry? Consider the following brief points, many of which will be explored in more detail.

First, the lordship of Christ should be prevalent. When I look at the members of the body, I should see that Christ is in control. This may be working out in different measures, so we shouldn't condemn, or set measures that God has not set. The word of God lays out the requirements, and each of us must move with faith to measure up to what God is saying. We should see God's authority in the midst of His church. Not only is each one attached to the Head, but we recognize the power and the authority of God, and we give Him reverence.

Love, the very nature of God, should be manifest. Also, we should see oneness in some measure. If we're not seeing oneness, the ministry in the midst is not fulfilling what God wants it to do. Believers should be being brought to a oneness of faith.

If we are gathering together in faith, the order of our assembly life must encourage a constant flow of spiritual life. If Christ is in the midst, and the lordship and the authority of God are evident, we will start to have fellowship and sense the oneness of God--an agreement with what God is saying. The spirit of each believer, and the hunger that is in our hearts if we are growing, make a spiritual demand for the constant flow of spiritual life.

We should see growth, or maturing. This could mean different things. For example, outreach proceeds from healthy growth. As we start to mature in any measure, we will want to reach out to the world and fulfill all that God has commanded. We can't just focus on perfecting a small group of people. If we only look at that aspect of ministry, we will dry up and die. Ministry does focus on the local church, but also encourages reaching out and reproducing. God is not only perfecting, but reaching out. We need that vision to reach those who have not heard the gospel, and to disciple. We need a full-rounded ministry. This is what we must ask God to give us.

We will also show forth the Lord's death until He comes. The cross continues to work. If the ministry is coming forth in the life of God, by the Spirit of God, and in the timing of God, we will sense that His death has worked and is continuing to work. There also will be an expression of holiness.

We're not judges of one another, but these should be the fruits of ministry in the midst. If ministry is not doing this, we are missing what God has said it should do, and we're missing the purpose of God. In this case, we need to stop and get a new direction!

Ministry is lacking in the day in which we live. If we see that we are not measuring up to what God has for us, we need to fall upon our knees and pray. Seek the Lord! Pray that God will give us laborers, that He will raise up brethren in the midst of His church to bring forth His word for the maturing of the saints. We need to look back to the word of God and see what God has for us, and then be obedient to His plan.

Revelation in the church

How important it is to have a revelation! I've been in the midst of people who knew doctrine, knew the "letter of the word," were well-educated, had fullness of knowledge--but there was no revelation. They had nothing that God had spoken to them directly. They had salvation, but everything else was book knowledge. They knew what others had said, but they had no revelation of their own. Revelation is of vital importance for spiritual life.

Each member (not just the ministers) must have the ability to see spiritually. But having an individual revelation doesn't mean the members function separately. What God is doing is corporate. Above all, He is making us one. I believe that any revelation coming to any individual which does not make him a functioning part of the body of Christ is not from the Holy Spirit. What God reveals brings each one into a vital relationship with the body of Christ.

If there is no revelation in our midst, there can be no building. If there is no revelation in our hearts, no understanding of what God is doing in Christ, there can be no revelation added to it. I believe that revelation begets revelation. I can tell you from my own experience: when I start to see something, what I see causes me to see other things. If I don't see at least a measure in the beginning, there are many hundreds of things I cannot see at all.

There are different kinds of ministry in addition to the ministry of the word. For example, a brother may give a word of exhortation that is very beneficial. It may "unlock a door" for someone who is moving in the life of God and the revelation. Now more revelation can come. You may receive revelation by many avenues if your heart is open and your mind is centered in God. Even the words of a song can open a further revelation to you, adding onto what God is doing. All of this continues to enhance your ability to minister life to others. The more you partake of God, the more there can be a flow of God through you.

The overall expression of any gathering usually lags to some degree behind the revelation that comes forth. It takes time for people to see what God is ministering through the messengers He has chosen. As we move, God shows us more, and we move in that. The demands of God's love continue to come. So ministry is a vital area, not only in the assembly, but in each individual life, for each of us to function together and to find purpose in God.

In Ezekiel 43:10-12, God speaks to Ezekiel regarding the temple and the outworking of all the different ordinances: "Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house."

These verses speak about the old covenant, but we can still see that there was a form of the house of God, the temple, just as there is in the body of Christ, the church. We are being built together by the Spirit for a habitation of God. I am struck with the importance of seeing. This is what ministry does: it shows the body of Christ the revelation of what God wants to do, so that the vision may start to possess us. For us to attain what God wants will depend on whether we are fitting together. As we see how far short we fall, we lay aside every weight and press on to fulfill the demands that God is placing upon us. We do not do it because we are forced. Every movement in the life of the body of Christ is because we desire to take a step. The demands are love, and we respond in the life He gives us. Ministers in our midst are showing us "the form of the house" so that we may "keep the whole form thereof."

Revelation must be worked out in life, in each one who ministers and in those to whom we minister. It will take some time, and we need to accept this, see the purpose, and begin to labor. We are more than conquerors! This is a very positive thing. When God ties us together, we can labor, hold on, embrace each other, impart to others, and receive from each other. In all the pitfalls, trials, and testings, we will pull toward that one mark, striving with purpose. We must realize this will not happen overnight, but also that we must continue to press on, apply ourselves, consecrate, and give ourselves. We will see what it means that "Jesus sanctified himself" (John 17:19). When we begin to see this in a fuller measure, there will be more giving, and more impartation of life, revelation, and light.

Ministry is an impartation of life

Look at II Timothy 2:1,2: "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." God has laid out a very simple plan. The impartation of the life of God came from Jesus to Paul, from Paul to Timothy, from Timothy to faithful men, and from faithful men to others. It has always been so. This is what God had in His heart, the plan by which He will bring forth His purpose. Each one is connected individually to Christ, but the one who ministers has a responsibility to the one receiving ministry, and the one receiving has a responsibility to the one to whom he gives it in turn. There is an impartation through each one. This is not accomplished quickly. As life was imparted from Jesus to Paul, from Paul to Timothy, and so on, each of these instances took time--much time together.

I believe this can take place in the body of Christ. This is not only for an apostle or for one under the authority of the apostle. If God has given you something rich, do you want to hold it to yourself, or do you want to impart it to others? I believe we want to impart it to others. We want to share! Because of the life we have in Christ, we want to share! We want others to see the same thing we are seeing. And if it is so rich, we want to continue sharing. It is the same when we receive from another: we want to see what they're seeing. We're not holding back, saying, "Well, I don't see it that way." We want to see what they are seeing. As we do, I believe that our lives will be enriched.

If there were no impartation of life and revelation through ministry, ministry would have no meaning. We would all look to the Lord and everyone would receive directly from Him. It is true that the anointing of the Spirit of God teaches all men (individually). But there is still an impartation of life through ministry. Jesus himself said, "My words are spirit and they are life." As ministers and as brethren, our words also must become spirit and life. We have a responsibility to the Lord to give forth the light that He has given us. It cannot just be knowledge; it must be the light that God has actually imparted to us. If our words are anointed by the Spirit of God and we have the revelation of Jesus Christ, the impartation of words does not stop at the brain--it goes to the spirit. It imparts life to the hearer.

For the word to give life, it must be not only imparted but also received. Jesus spoke words of life, but they were not always received. The impartation is not complete until the words are received. But there should always be an impartation of life through ministry. Otherwise, how will it bring us into the unity of the faith? The truth is given to set us free. Our word becomes life because it is living in us, and God anoints it and anoints the ones receiving it. There may be other terminology we can use to express this, but still it is an impartation of the life of God, and the vessel must be dead to self in order for God's life to flow life through him to others.

Note that Paul said, "...these entrust to faithful men." There is a rich truth here that only God can speak to us. Not only must ministers desire to impart the revelation to others; there is also a need for faithfulness in the brothers it is being imparted to. This precious revelation should be entrusted "to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." We look for this ability in a man--one who can take the precious revelation and not hinder it, but enhance it. One brother may impart a revelation, but God may give another brother the ability and anointing to take a small truth and see it in a much fuller way, then impart it in a way that adds more to the understanding of the first brother. Our initial understanding is built up and expanded by the ability, anointing, and grace that is working in another brother's heart.

The plan of God has not changed. Even though we may live in a lukewarm time, God's plan has not changed, and if we are to see God's results, we must labor with what God has given us. We're not looking at numbers of people as evidence of "results." Jesus didn't look at numbers. We're looking at faithful brethren. As ministers and as brethren, we want to impart what God has given. The one purpose of coming together is to impart. I am convinced that there must be a continual sharing and continued fellowship in the revelation of God as we move on day by day. As we look at the scriptures and God opens them up more to us, we will see how important it is to impart life to one another.

Ministry brings oneness

What is God's purpose for the body of Christ? What is God doing, and what does He want to do? What is actually happening? Ephesians 4:9-13 says, "(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he 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: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

Here we see that one of the prime purposes of ministry is to bring the body of Christ into oneness: the oneness of the faith and the personal knowledge of the Son of God. Everything God is doing is to bring us into this unity, and if a ministry is not doing this, either the minister is not hearing God, or he is grabbing truth in his own mind and using it for himself. A spiritual understanding of God's purpose is needed, to direct and urge us toward the goal. All ministry urges us toward God's goal in some way.

Ministry is given to bring life and understanding. All that Christ is to the minister is expressed in words that are made effective by the Spirit, not by the letter. Ministry brings revelation and feeds the people. It must be single-eyed, for as the scriptures say, "If the eye be single, the whole body is full of light" (Matthew 6:22). If what the ministers have does not possess them so much that they are moving together with one goal in view, they will never get the body moving in the same goal. But if the ministry is single-eyed in vision and direction, not because the ministers have gotten together and "agreed," but because they have had fellowship in what they all see (what God has given them), and it is unified, then the body will be "full of light."

The revelation has to be so big that it demands all of our attention, and we must believe it can happen. If we don't believe it can happen, we will never move in that direction. We'll just say, "It's a good theory." You may have heard people say, "We just cannot come to a place of oneness," and they never do. They don't believe it can be done and they are not interested in even working at it. But God said He will make us one, and He will use ministry to do it. Believing that this is God's plan and that it is possible, the ministers will be "obsessed" by the revelation, it will first start to work in them to make them one...and now there's no end! It will only come to completeness when Jesus comes, but we're still looking for a oneness of faith while we're here. But we never come to the end of what we're moving in, because we're constantly knowing the Lord, who is infinite. This is the climax, I think, of all spiritual ministry: an actual experiencing of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does Paul mean by the "oneness of faith" in Ephesians 4:13? We can say we come to a oneness in the faith that brings salvation, but I think that just scratches the surface of what Paul meant. He is bringing us into the fullness of all that Christ is. The oneness is in Christ. In all areas that have any meaning in our salvation, we will be brought to oneness.

God will bring us to a unity in what we think--and we could even say, in our doctrine. I believe "doctrine" is only something to explain what we're experiencing in Christ. If we use this definition, then I believe we will come to a oneness of experience. When our experience is heavenly, our minds (our understanding) will be heavenly. To come to oneness means completeness: a place of maturity in Christ Jesus. Oneness of faith is also oneness of relationship.

All true spiritual ministry in its end result brings us to oneness: where we are one and we are expressing the lordship of Christ. Sometimes truth divides, but normally we're looking for ministry to bring us into unity, oneness, and singleness of mind and judgment. To be a strong testimony and witness of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have a strong, unified ministry. Now, we don't get that by just talking about it! We must come on our knees, roll up our sleeves, come back to the plan of God and start to work at it. We must have spiritual discernment and recognize the authority of God in the midst--the authority and flow of the Spirit of God through the brethren. Then we must submit to and obey that authority, to see God's end results.

We must also have a message that is not distorted. It must be in the "center" of truth, not on one side or the other. Truth is Christ. It is possible to go to the right or the left of that truth and minister in areas that sound like the truth, but are not in the center. That is why so many today are splitting apart in ministry, leading away from the central truth. All true ministry must be working toward the center, pulling toward the center, to bring forth the lasting results that are the proof of any ministry. As ministers and as brethren who have a responsibility in the body of Christ, we must be concerned with those lasting results.

All of these areas go against the society we live in, so it is difficult. There won't be many who commit to this, but if we can be faithful even in a small group, if we can start to move together, begin to see something, and to strengthen one another, God can multiply His word and use each of us to impart it to others. But if we do not take this seriously and give it the utmost priority, we will not labor at it. I believe ministry is a labor.

Ministry brings light and imparts vision

The burden lies on those who first see the vision. The responsibility of the minister is to bring light, building in the revelation, so that light is imparted to each member--so they may begin to see what God wants us to see. If ministry is together in purpose, even though ministers may labor in different areas, ministry will bring the same light and we will start to see together.

If I don't see something clearly, I should want to see it, or know that it does not fit into what God is doing. The church is firstly a "seeing organism." It must have spiritual eyes to see. It's not just one or two members seeing, or just prophets and teachers seeing in the revelation, but the church as a whole is a "seeing organism." Every member must be seeing. This is God's design. Ministry has no meaning unless the church recognizes that God is speaking, and what the Spirit is saying. The church life is dominated by what it sees. If our aim and our vision is single, we will move in a single path, and we will be dominated by the vision. We will be utterly abandoned to it--to see it come into manifestation, not in our own strength, but because we declare the word, and the word of God has power.

Reading the book of Jonah, I noticed that Jonah went to a heathen city, not a Jewish city. He went with a message of God's salvation. The message wasn't what he thought--which is why we see the balking. But he went, and the heathen nation repented! We must be more convinced of what God is saying and revealing to us, than of what we think, so that we also can be changed by the message. Then we will not rebel and run from what God wants to do, but have the same confidence the Lord Jesus had. He said, "I will build My church on what My Father reveals to the heart of man." (See Matthew 16:16-18.) We need to have this confidence rather than the spirit of Jonah, who didn't want the rest of the world to see. We need to be convinced of what God is saying, and then move in that direction, abandoned to it--not sulking because God isn't doing what we think He ought to do. That was how Jonah ended up sitting under a gourd, pouting! We cannot do this.

We are made one by the vision, by beholding it. We are made one by what we are seeing. We see the revelation: what God is doing. We're not confused, wondering what God is doing. We may not understand at every moment what He is doing in every heart, but when ministry comes forth, we can tell where it fits into the rest. We don't have any doubts about what God is doing and what He wants to do.

Ministers cannot labor on another man's vision. If you're not called, if you don't have a vision to minister, you cannot minister by just following what somebody else has brought. You cannot minister on another man's revelation or ability, trying to copy him or just bringing certain facts together because you agree with him, yet not seeing the vision yourself. You must see clearly yourself in order to bring ministry that will feed the body.

Fellowship in the revelation is very important, and it should be growing sweeter and sweeter. The revealing of Jesus Christ in your heart and through His word should not grow old. We should be growing in the Lord, and we should strive to grow into full stature together. God has called us to be mindful of what He is doing continually, not just when we are partaking of ministry or when ministry is coming forth from us.

Ministry gives a place to move

All ministry is designed to bring believers into the plan of God, into His purpose, and then enable them to go on and find true fulfillment in it. We aren't just looking at concepts; we will actually be a part of what God is doing--functional members of His body!

According to Paul, "...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but [want] to have their ears tickled..." (II Timothy 4:3, NAS) Ministry is difficult! To minister over a period of time, pulling together with others, seeing the truth and seeing it built in lives, not by self-effort but by God's ability, so that the relationships of individual believers and the fellowship of the corporate body are growing, takes work! It takes labor in prayer, working together, and fellowship together in the revelation. The time will come, and it is already upon us, when people will not endure sound doctrine. So we need to labor in it!

People generally are not looking for something to motivate them into action. We tend to prefer something that sounds good, which we can sit and listen to. But everything that God ministers puts a demand upon us to obey. Over a period of time, a true ministry will motivate us to obey the demands of love put before us. All ministry motivates us to take another step in God.

If people only want their ears tickled, they will accumulate, as the scripture says, teachers in accordance with their own desires. "I don't want any demands put upon me..." " I don't want anybody to criticize me..." This is the situation in many places today. I'm not criticizing, because these people need help. But we need to be mindful of this tendency, and move with love, understanding, and truth. Without compromising the truth, we should move with love, longsuffering, and instruction.

Ministers are not trying to be the head of the body. We're moving together under the anointing of God's Holy Spirit, that Christ Jesus might be everything. Our ministry must give a place for people to move in faith. We have to minister faith: words of faith that bring light. The hearers need to be able to step out on those words that the Holy Spirit makes alive in us and in them. Jesus said to Peter, "Come," and in His command was the ability to step out on the water--and that is exactly how the word must come. If we really minister in the anointing of the Spirit, people will step out of where they are, on the word. The word of God gives them a place to move.

If we do not bring people to this place of moving, we have not yet ministered. We ourselves cannot move them, but the word and the anointing will move them. If there is no obedience to the word, something is wrong, either in their lives or in us. Our responsibility is not to judge them, but to judge ourselves to see if we are right, and then let God take care of them. We may discern what the problem is, but not in order to judge.

Of course there are times when God's authority will move to accomplish certain things by counseling. Sometimes judgment must be brought when members rebel against what God is doing. But that will be done according to the grace of God that moves in brothers who are able to do it. At times, there is a "negative" aspect of ministry. Sometimes we need encouragement to "lay aside" and to "put on." We may need to point out problems, but when we point them out, we must leave a place to move--a step to take. A demand is left with the hearers--a place where the Holy Spirit can zero in. When people go away, they've been smitten by the Holy Spirit!

Making disciples

Let's look at Jesus with His twelve disciples. He spent a lot of time with them. He was not just interested in communicating the message--He was going to make the men the message. Sometimes we think the message is more important than the man, but the man and the message must be one. If they're not, we have no ministry. If the message and the vessel are not one, there is no life coming forth from the words. We can take this lightly, or we can let it come to our hearts and begin to "study to show ourselves unto God, workmen rightly dividing the word of truth." We can look to the Lord and really allow God to build in us. God is interested in the vessel!

Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. We see the wonderful miracles He performed, and the Spirit on Him, setting the captives free. But He had one thing in mind when He chose those twelve. He chose them to be a witness. They walked with Him all through His ministry. He worked with them; He imparted all that He had. He let them see the power of God in action. They were right there with Him at all times. He was sharing, instructing, giving them understanding, and imparting to them the life that the Spirit of God would later bring into full manifestation to spread the gospel.

I think we realize that God is interested in the vessel of the believer, and even more so with ministers. In Matthew 13 and 28, the command of Jesus was to "go and make disciples." We are not just to preach the gospel, although that is a part of it. The overall purpose of God was to make disciples. That takes time spent together. If we are not together, sharing and having fellowship in the revelation of God, we are not in the plan God has laid out, and we cannot be partakers of what God has ordained, nor able then to commit it unto other faithful brethren.

A person may hear the gospel and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, but that is not enough. It never has been enough, because before Jesus left this earth, His command was to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). That commission is no less for us. God's way is discipleship. There is no other way. If we don't see this and make it our aim, we might say, "All you have to do is get through the door of salvation." But God has put a responsibility on ministry to make disciples.

What is a disciple? If we can't first become disciples of Christ ourselves, let's not think of making other disciples. God wants to get us ready. He will do this through ministry, through fellowship in that ministry, asking questions, looking for the truth, and having fellowship together in whatever measure we see. God will bring us to the place of being disciples, not just believers.

A disciple, in its simplest definition, is a follower of Christ. Our attitude of heart makes us disciples. If we are followers of Christ, we want to go on. A disciple is a learner; we are all learners. Now we are being conformed to His image. We could define a disciple as one that is a partaker of the Lord, manifesting the life of God, to be the message, not just a carrier of the message. We cannot just carry the message; we must be the message before we can actually impart the message.

How do we make disciples? Men have devised systems for discipleship, some of which bypass and try to simplify the pattern of God, but it cannot be simplified. To make disciples, we must do it God's way. We cannot just spend six hours per week in meetings and think we are making disciples.

The commission Jesus gave was to the disciples He had made over the past three years. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus did not call His disciples and say, "You go your way. I'm going to fulfill my ministry here, and then I will leave you a commission." The disciples of Jesus were with Him night and day. They saw Him work. He was more interested in them than in all the other things He was doing. He intended to leave them as a testimony, and that took time. He imparted truth to them--revelation to their hearts. They had to be established, and even after the establishing of truth, He said, "When the Comforter is come, He will bring all things to your remembrance" (John 14:26). God did the work through Jesus Christ in these disciples as they were with Him day by day, night after night. Their experience was not in a teaching class, but in actual fellowship.

Whom will we disciple? We will make a disciple out of every brother and sister, and then of others as the gospel is preached. We do not just make a little circle of disciples and then have the disciples bring the message to others. Once we have learned what discipleship is, our disciples will bring others into the fellowship and then they will make disciples also. Whether we are brethren or ministers, each one will bring others to the Lord and be faithful in causing them to grow unto full stature. Discipleship is growing up into Christ, unto full stature. (See Ephesians 4.)

I believe discipleship means full commitment. When we commit ourselves, we have only begun to move toward the fulfillment of what God wants to do in us. There is a constant work. So as we have heard, as we have been diligent in what God has spoken to us, and allowed it to work out in our lives, now our responsibility is to commit that same message to faithful brothers--not just to anybody, but to faithful brothers, so that they also may take the same message under the same anointing and impart the same life to those that hear.

In making disciples, we must be selective. We must be directed by the Spirit of God, and we must recognize those that are willing to move on. Then there must be a concentrated effort (by God through us) to do what God wants to do in the vessels we are ministering to, and ministering with. You see a concentrated ministry of Jesus in His disciples, and there must be a concentrated ministry and fellowship in the ministry together. We must see a reproduction of the life of God in others. We cannot do just what we please. We must be constantly mindful of others, mindful of what God is doing, and doing all things unto edification. So many things are working together. We cannot come haphazardly and think that we will build. If we build, it is because our lives have been disciplined under the authority of God and we are sensitive to the Spirit of God.

We must make disciples. If we are not making disciples, what are we making? Whatever God has made us to be, we must make others to be. As ministers, we must have seen something that caused us to be changed. Now our ministry, combined with all the ministry God has put in our midst, must want to see that same life come forth in others. If we see something together, we must move in that direction together. We are to make disciples. We don't know how long we will be here. If the Lord tarries, others must be raised up, and we must work in the plan of God.

We cannot "hurry up" the process. Programs will not speed it up. We need to nourish, cherish, water, pray over the oneness we do have, and then move on to more, asking God to build us together in a fuller measure. If there is any division, or lack of oneness, not looking at the same plan, we are pulling apart. We need to be submitting to one another and moving together. This is the only way to really minister and feed the flock.

To become disciples of the Lord together, we will have to spend time together. We must fellowship in the revelation, to see together, buffet one another, look to the Lord for more hunger in our hearts, and move together. As we are available, and as we come before the Lord for His word to be built in us, there will be more oneness. And as this oneness starts to develop, we will start to reach out and touch others, because a full ministry will produce a full working of the church. A ministry of the word will not allow us to just sit here and try to perfect one another. We will be perfected, we will grow in grace in Him, but the full ministry will do what God wants it to do by reaching out to others and making disciples--by taking the message out. But you cannot do that unless the message is first built in you, unless you have been discipled and disciplined, unless you recognize authority, unless you have submitted and obeyed. Unless the minister has allowed God to work in him the fullness of all that the cross means, the message has no meaning, and there can be no "flowing out" in ministry.

The real test of any ministry is not what happens tomorrow, but what is still continuing ten years from now. What happens when the minister leaves the scene will depend upon what kind of ministry he had--whether it was a ministry of life, in the revelation of the Lord. We need to examine ourselves, see what God is doing, and know whether what we see is worth giving ourselves to. If it is worth doing, then we need to put our whole hearts into it, and move with that purpose which God alone can give us.