Every-Member Ministry: Benefits For Members and Churches
Over the past several weeks we have been looking at every-member ministry. We have seen that it is the need of the hour in many local churches. We’ve learned that ministry is the responsibility of every church member. We’ve seen how each church member is biblically-equipped, Spirit-empowered, and emplaced in a local church, and so is able to do this work. And last week, we reviewed several easy ways to get started with this ministry, and looked more closely at three key areas of ministry in particular. This week, we’ll spend some time looking at some of the blessings of every-member ministry—both for us as individuals, and for our church as a whole.
You Will, Individually, Grow Stronger
Ministry is tough work. It’s emotionally draining. It’s intellectually daunting. It’s spiritually exhausting. When you are ministering on Christ’s behalf to others, you will regularly be pushed to the end of yourself. You will find that your own cleverness and your own resources are insufficient for the task.
And that, I believe, is by God’s design. Like an athlete’s muscles will only grow if they are stretched, tearing at a microscopic level only to heal with greater capacity, believers are “grown” through the challenges of ministry. You will grow in humility as you learn that you cannot do it by yourself or in your own strength. You will grow in prayerful dependence on God as you are driven to the Throne of Grace by your own lack and need. You will grow in your love for and apprehension of God's Word as you are driven to its riches for supply. You will grow in love for and cooperation with others as you all realize you cannot do the work by yourselves. And you will grow in skill and experience as you tackle new problems and are brought, by God’s grace, through trials.
And it’s not just the challenges and trials that grow the member doing ministry. Laboring alongside others provides many opportunities for “iron sharpening iron” (Prov. 27:17) Fellow church members will point out areas for improvement in your ministry, or confront areas of sin in your life. Others will cheer you on, celebrating what God does in and through you, rejoicing when you rejoice—and, when things go poorly, weeping with you when you weep (Rom. 12:15). And when they “step on your toes”—and they most certainly will!—you will have the opportunity to grow in grace as you forgive others as you have been forgiven (Matt. 18:21-35).
Your Church Will, Corporately, Grow Stronger
The realization that ministry is not the province of professional pastors forces entire congregations to take ownership of their responsibility from Christ to make disciples. Instead of most members presuming that “someone else will do it,” the mindset shifts to everyone thinking, “How can I help build up the church in this situation?” As a result, everyone has “skin in the game.” Over time, fewer members will be “burning out” with exhaustion as the burdens of ministry are shared more evenly. Knowing that the whole body does, to a degree, depend on each of its members, and that your contribution will be missed if it is absent (1 Cor. 12:14-26), not only reassures you that your work matters but “glues” you more firmly to the whole.
As each of you encounter new ways in which you need the help or advice or encouragement or exhortation of other members, your affection and love and regard for them will grow. An “esprit de corps” begins to form as a congregation “rides out” storms together, being knitted more closely together in love as they do so. This also means greater patience and longsuffering with others. Rather than finding fault, critiquing others for their shortcomings, you will be reminded by your own ministry that their efforts are hardly perfect either. Knowing the difficulties and challenges of your own ministry will deepen your empathy for others as you look at the work they are doing. Combined with the sheer fact that busy Christians have less time to complain or to dwell on problems, this empathy reduces the poisonous possibilities of gossip and complaining in the life of a church.
A Challenge To Us All
We sometimes ask this question in our church membership class: what would this church look like if everyone approached their commitment to the church the way you do? Let’s all ask ourselves that question this week, and ask for God’s wisdom to help us respond appropriately to that challenge.