Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

We live in a day and age where our perceptions and long-standing, comfortable conclusions are being challenged by the hour. We all have a world-view, and tucked within that worldview are our religious viewpoints. Life would be so much easier if the perceptions, worldviews and conclusions that we proudly hold so dear were left unchallenged and never proven wrong. It rattles what sense of security we may still be holding on to for dear life to discover that what we have always relied on as “tried and true” is actually a house of cards built on shifting sand. Who among us can honestly declare that the strong winds of adversity are not blowing?

When God arises to “terribly shake the earth,” (Isaiah 2:19, 21) He will shake all that can be shaken, not only throughout the systems of the entire world, but within the Church as well. Who can doubt that this shaking has not begun—a shaking against worldviews, perceptions and religious ideologies? “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17? This shaking is going to be so strong, so fierce that only the truth will remain. God is no longer going to wink at our silly excuses for not walking in obedience to His Word. He will no longer tolerate our flimsy, self-serving religious practices that are all about outward show while our hearts remain cold, worldly and far from Him. God is about to shake to the core our high opinions of ourselves so that perhaps true repentance and conversion can take place before it is too late. Moreover, one of the faulty perceptions of Christians that He is going to shake is the unbiblical notion that what is known as “the ministry” is somehow an entity in and of itself. This “entity” is either set up on a pedestal, whereupon the clergy perches in idolatrous fashion in order to be worshipped and admired by all the “poor, dumb” sheep, or hotly pursued by novices with religious zeal who lack knowledge.

The majority of Christians have unquestioningly embraced the belief, or mindset, that “the ministry” is reserved for a select few who are somehow more spiritual, more intelligent, more educated, or more favored by God than the average believer is. Unfortunately, this has created a two-fold weakening of the efficacy of the Body of Christ because, 1) the majority of people settle for a nominal Christian life instead of fulfilling their mission on earth as children and servants of God, or 2) people strive to gain credentials, acceptance and praise of man to be validated as “ministers” in “the ministry.” Thus, nominal believers fail to be the salt and the light of the world on the one hand, and on the other hand, many of the “professional clergy” are in “the ministry” for the wrong reasons. The shaking that is coming upon the entire world, including the Church, is going to level the playing field, exposing those who truly know and serve their God, and those who are merely playing religious games.

The question is what is “the ministry” anyway? Is it a profession of elite overseers, who somehow stand between the people and God as mediators, and to whom money is due? Sadly, this is what millions of people believe and seek after rather than coming to God themselves through Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. James wrote, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” James 2:9. Nevertheless, multitudes of people refuse to take responsibility for their own spiritual condition, but prefer to relegate the well-being of their souls to mere humans with “titles”. The fact remains, no one but God can forgive sins, iniquities and transgressions. No priest, pope, prophet or person has the power to forgive sins and guarantee eternal life to anyone.

Concerning “the ministry,” the definition of it is service. It is being a servant to God for His glory. How do we serve God? We serve God by being obedient to Jesus’ commandments. What are His commandments? In a nutshell, His commandments can be summed up this way: Love and serve others in practical ways as He loved and served His disciples, and to love others as we love ourselves. James wrote, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” James 1:27. (By the way, “widows” also means single women.) If there is any group of people who are shunned, ignored and disregarded in the Church, it is single women. However, this attitude is nothing new. You can read about it in Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-13). The best place to begin serving Jesus is at His feet.

Jesus’ many illustrations through His example, along with His parables and teachings leave no room whatsoever for doubt or debate concerning ministry that is acceptable to God. This acceptable ministry (service) is not directed to a select group who desire to “go into the ministry,” but to every born-again believer regardless of his or her station in life, locality, or situation. We are not saved to sit, but to shine. We are not saved to live for self, but to be the salt.  Here is a good quote from A. W. Tozer concerning service, motives for service and the Judgment seat of Christ: “Any serious-minded Christian may at some time find himself wondering whether the service he is giving to God is the best it could be. He may even have times of doubting, and fear that his toil is fruitless and his life empty. . . .

“The church has marked out certain work and approved it as service acceptable to God, and for the most part the church has been right. But it should be kept in mind that it is not the kind or quantity of work that makes it true service—it is the quality.

“Before the judgment seat of Christ, very little will be heard of numbers or size; moral quality is about all that will matter then. . . .

“In Christian service motive is everything, for it is motive that gives to every moral act its final quality.”

       The other day I listened to a local conservative radio talk show host discuss the missionaries who went to Haiti from Idaho after the terrible earthquake. Their intent was to help children in that devastated country. However, their work was cut short by the Haitian authorities who accused them of kidnapping, and all ten of them were jailed. After some time, nine were released, but the leader was detained for an additional three months. What caught my attention was when the talk show host lamented that, “Most Christians don’t have an opportunity to serve God…” This is false, and reveals the mindset most Christians have about ministry, or service to God. They think that unless a person goes overseas as a missionary, builds churches in some poor country, or stands behind a pulpit that they cannot serve God. If you have this mindset, let me ask you a question: Where do you find that teaching in the Bible?

Have you considered the fact that not just those in “the ministry” but your life, your service and your works will be tried by fire? 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Therefore, the foundation for our service (ministry) must be Jesus Christ. That is our starting point. It is from this foundation that all our works must flow. This means that we are to be faithful to whatever He puts in front of us, however seemingly small or insignificant, doing everything as unto Him, not for show, self-aggrandizement, or to “make points with God.”

  1. W. Tozer put it well when he wrote, “Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done. In God’s sight my giving is measured not by how much I have given but by how much I could have given and how much I had left after I made my gift. The needs of the world and my total ability to minister to those needs decide the worth of my service.

“Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all. No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice. . . .

“In the work of the church the amount one man must do to accomplish a given task is determined by how much or how little the rest of the company is willing to do. It is a rare church whose members all put their shoulder to the wheel. The typical church is composed of the few whose shoulders are bruised by their faithful labors and the many who are unwilling to raise a blister in the service of God and their fellow men. There may be a bit of wry humor in all this, but it is quite certain that there will be no laughter when each of us gives account to God of the deeds done in the body.”

We need to get back to the basics of true ministry, which means it is time to shed all of our preconceived notions, fabricated doctrines, church indoctrinations, phony falsehoods, and the complicated, overwhelming intellectual religious structures erected in our minds. It means becoming Christ-centered and Spirit-filled instead of being man-centered and self-filled. It means serving God for His glory, and not for our glory. Getting back to basics means returning to the one true source of all that exists, visible and invisible—Jesus Christ. Let us, therefore, meditate on His humble definitions of true ministry, beginning with Matthew 10:41, 42, which says, “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” No kindness, no service, is too small in the eyes of God.

Imagine that you are an unseen witness to those who come and stand before Jesus on that great Day of Judgment of the saved. You see one notable church member proudly present to Him all the “great works” they have done. The person proudly declares, “Lord, my family went without so I could help build a new gymnasium for the church. I even ignored the miserable plight of my faithful employee, who was lucky to have a job at all, so I could give lavishly to my church. After all, it was the biggest, richest church in town.”

Another stands before the Lord and brags, “I went to church every time the doors were open. I even dashed off to Haiti to save the children, but ignored their laws, got myself into a real pickle, caused trouble, caused suffering and loss for my friends and family, but You know, Lord, I did it all for You. Never mind that I owed money to people at home: I sacrificed them in their financial plight so I could save the Haitian children. I know You understand how important it was for me to do that.”

You stand amazed as another soul confidently approaches the Judge. “Lord, Lord, have I not prophesied in Your name? And, in Your name have cast out devils? And in Your name done many wonderful works?”

Surely, you think to yourself, you have nothing so grand to present to the Lord. His gaze turns to you, and you know that your entire life lies bare and naked before Him. You know that not a single day’s thoughts, words or deeds of your earthly life have slipped away, unnoticed and forgotten by Him. Now it is your turn to appear before the Lord of Glory, to give an account of the life He has given you. “Lord,” you hang your head, your voice a bare whisper. “Lord, you know I didn’t have the means to do the things that were heavy upon my heart to do for You.” Tears begin to flow from your downcast eyes. The burden of lost multitudes going into a Christless eternity, never hearing the Gospel, multitudes who never owned a Bible, was too great of a burden to bear. You stammer, “You know that all I could do was try to use what gifts and talents I had to lift the burdens of others around me. Some days it was only smiling at a stranger. Other times it was just passing out tracts. Sometimes it was silently praying for a homeless person that I drove past, or even a stray dog. On occasion, it was lifting the burdens of the sick, sharing food, or giving what I could for orphans and missionaries. I did offer the Gospel to others, and tried to disciple them, but only a few desired to be truly converted, pay the price and live for You.”

To which scenario can you most relate? If you were to stand before Jesus today, what would you present to Him that would be acceptable in light of eternity? Would it be your church attendance, or giving of your substance, however great, that was not truly sacrificial and according to God’s will? Would you offer Him all your good intentions that amounted to nothing because you continued to live for yourself? What, oh what, dear reader do you have to offer to the Lord of glory that will stand the test of fire? If you are not sure, then allow the mighty shaking of God to have His way with your miserable soul so that you will fall on your face and get real with Him before it is too late.

God has called every believer to be a minister of the Gospel, not just the “special elite.” There is no such thing as the “special elite” in the kingdom of God. We are all to let our “light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:16. As the days in which we live grow darker, our lights should be burning brighter. Our ministry responsibilities are the same today as it was for the believers in the Colossian church to whom Paul wrote, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:10. Notice that walking “worthy of the Lord” so as to please Him is not about being super religious or going to church, but involves “being fruitful in every good work” coupled with “increasing in the knowledge of God.” This excludes the post-modern church’s obsession with humanism without the knowledge of God. All the good works in the world without the Gospel of Jesus Christ have no eternal value. Humanism is man’s work for man’s benefit for man’s glory, and as such, it should have no part in the Body of Christ. Our works should always bring glory to God, not to ourselves or any other person. That is why we are told, “…whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” Colossians 3:17.

Contrary to what the radio host said about not many Christians having the “opportunity to serve God,” opportunities to serve God abound all around us. The problem is, if our vision is impaired because we are always looking to the major needs of people far away, “over there” somewhere, we will miss the opportunities to serve God that are right under our nose. Let us face it; we often ignore opportunities to serve God in small ways because it does not amount to much in our book. We tend to think that the everyday, ordinary small things are insignificant to God. The truth is those things are insignificant to us, not God, because we do not get much credit for them. There are also those times when the opportunity to serve God presents itself, but it is inconvenient, costly, and unpleasant. What then? “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” James 4:17. This is the sin of omission, and as Tozer pointed out, we will be judged for such.

Jesus summed up the essence of the Christian life and service to God when He said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” Matthew 7:12. May God give us a renewed heart to obey, with love, hope, faith and courage until that day when He returns, bringing His reward with Him.