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Building up believers and the New Testament church

God's Wisdom Revealed

Ministry in the Church

Ministers are called by God and entrusted with a precious gift.

Ministry is an important part of God's working in the local church. If God has designed ministry to bring the church to a oneness of the faith, those whom God has called must build with that as their goal. They must see God's overall plan--what the church is and what God's purpose is for the church. It is only by spiritual revelation that anyone can know what God is building and how they can build in what God is building. If the vision they have is defective, they are disqualified for ministry. The church has been hindered in different areas because men were not qualified to minister--and the qualifications of a minister are not from man but from God.

These qualifications touch two areas: the character of the one called, and the vision he has from God. Man has a responsibility to God for his moral conduct and for the witness his life gives forth. These can only match up to God's Word when he has seen God's standards and has God's grace and ability working in him to bring him up to those standards. The vision must be given by the Lord, and gives the brother his ability to minister, as well as what he ought to minister.

Vision is never separate from the Word. It comes by "rightly dividing" the Word (2 Timothy 2:15), which can only be as the Spirit teaches us and leads us into all truth. There is also an aspect of becoming the message as well as ministering the message. If what the minister has seen does not affect him, how can he expect that same message to affect others? God's message will affect because it is life, and those who hear it must obey or refuse it. So the minister must be very careful how the message is seen in him and how it is delivered through him.

Everyone called and given a gift must be one who has been dealt with by God and knows the value of the mystery. The value of something determines the way we look at it. In fact, it affects our whole manner of life. If the revelation is of great value, it demands all our care in sharing it with others. The minister must be exacting in his delivery of the gift the Lord has entrusted him with for the church, because he is not just preaching another sermon, but has been entrusted with the Word that is able to save and build up the hearers so they might grow up into the fullness of Christ. He cannot add to it, nor does he want to take away from it in any way, whether by his life or by the manner in which he shares it with others.

As ministers, we know that all who hear the message will not see the great value at once, but we who know the value need to act accordingly. This is part of the ministry--the value we place on what God has given us, and how much of our time is given to what God is saying. What value do we place on it in our daily walk? These things affect the ones we are ministering to. The whole man must be involved if the ministry is not to be hindered. The mind, emotions and desires must be brought to a oneness in goal if the minister is going to be a channel for life to flow to others. If one of these areas has not been disciplined by God, it disqualifies the minister from building in God.

As ministers, we may try to prepare and discipline ourselves, but nothing can take the place of the discipline of the Holy Spirit. It is God's dealing in our lives that brings forth real ministry of His life. It is the One who trains us that makes the difference in ministry. The best of man's ways and methods can never prepare a person for ministry. Natural knowledge about spiritual facts can never produce a ministry of life.

Ministry begins with a revelation from God, and without this there can be no ministry. Then, to be able to minister, the Spirit, as we have said, is going to build in the minister all that the revelation means. With the outworking of the revelation in the minister's life comes knowledge which is necessary for the proper serving of the Word in life. The minister must be sensitive to the Spirit as He reveals and prepares the heart and mind so that the revelation might be ministered to the hearers. The minister must also be under the Spirit's direction for the timing and organization of the Word so that it might be understood by the ones hearing the Word ministered. The minister can never allow himself to become sloppy in his delivery or presentation if he holds the revelation in its proper worth.

Not only must the minister be able to discern and know the voice of God; he must speak as an oracle of God. Those who hear must hear God, not just the word of man. If we hear only man, we have not heard God, and then we have missed the purpose of ministry. If we hear only man, we will follow man; if we hear God through man we will follow God. Everything God is saying points to Jesus, because He is speaking to us in His Son. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). The Spirit is speaking not of Himself but of Christ. If we recognize God's authority and submit to Him, we will be changed into the image of Christ. But when we submit to man, his teaching, and his soulish authority, we are changed into the likeness of man and move under the power of the soul rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. The inspiration of the Spirit makes the difference m ministry, not how much we know about Christ. Without that inspiration the hearers hear only man and not God.

A minister must be one who is under the control of the Spirit. He can't do and say what he wants to. He is only a vessel for God's purpose to be spoken to others. We might say that he has been entrusted with the destiny of souls. The question is whether he will be faithful in being directed by the Spirit. The Spirit is the only one who can bring us to God's purpose. So, how the minister fulfills his ministry has a great effect on those who are under his ministry. If he is not controlled by the Spirit, the voice of God will not come through him to bring light to those who hear. He cannot trust in his own thoughts or ability, so God must bring him to that place of utter dependence on the Spirit.

The making of a minister, whether it be a prophet or teacher, is much more than just giving someone the revelation. The revelation in some men's hands has caused great damage to the body of Christ because they had not been dealt with by God. They were not exacting in passing on what God had revealed. They went on to add and take away, wherever their minds took them. In all of this they were unfaithful in being a channel for the revelation or Christ to others.

When one becomes unfaithful and is not disciplined by God, he uses the knowledge he has to pervert the plan of God. He has no fear of God, and in most cases goes on to establish something separate from the body of Christ, even though he may call it the church. We have too many self-appointed ministers going from place to place teaching and ministering that which causes local gatherings of believers to look to them, rather than to Christ, the head.

There are only a few today that have a godly care for the church and its members. The minister cannot have self-interest, pride in his ministry, or any goal other than God's if he is going to have a true care for God's church--one that will not control its expression and direction. The goal of God must be the controlling passion of the minister. With this passion, he must be under the control of the Spirit, or he will find himself over-protecting and controlling because of the care he has for the church. The Lord does express His control through men whom He controls, as they become vessels for the flow of His life and authority. But many sincere men have hindered the working of God by feeling they have been called to protect the honor of God and His Word. We need to remember that the Word of God is established forever (Psalm 119:89). If we set ourselves up to "protect" God's Word in some special area of teaching, the devil has already caused us to leave our resting place in Christ.