Every-Member Ministry: Getting Started
We’ve seen that the need of the hour is for every-member ministry in the local church. We’ve reviewed how the work of ministry is the responsibility of every church member and not merely that of the paid staff pastors. And last week, we saw how every Christian should be able to do this work because he or she is equipped by the Word, empowered by the Spirit, and emplaced in the local church.
That all may sound plausible, but how does theory translate to practice? You may be wondering, “How do I apply this? Where do I start?” That’s what I hope to explain in this final article.
The first way we minister to one another is simply by being in church on Sunday! Hebrews calls us to “stir up one another to love and good works” by “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:24-25). At Calvary Grace we’ve often stressed that just being present is a ministry in itself. Just by being with us on Sunday morning, week after week, you’re telling others that you believe the same things and are willing to be identified with others. As Pastor Clint often puts it, “It reminds us that we’re not crazy!”
Second, be deliberate about where you sit! Don’t just take the same seat week after week. Instead, look around and ask yourself a few questions: is there anyone new or that I don’t recognize? Is there anyone I haven’t spoken with in several months? Is there anyone sitting alone? Is there a single mom or dad with several young kids, or someone with a physical disability, who could use an extra set of hands?
Third, sing loud! Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be “addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). Are you doing this? This, brothers and sisters, is ministry. I’ll be blunt: if you’re only mouthing the words or singing very softly so others can’t hear, you’re not obeying Paul’s instructions. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing very well--I know I can’t! And as I sometimes tell people (and I’m not actually joking), if the person next to you isn’t a good singer and it’s distracting you, just sing louder! There are few things that lift the soul and stoke the affections quite like being in a church where everyone is singing their heart out, and if everyone is doing that, no one’s going to notice if you can carry a tune or not.
Fourth, listen attentively. When the Word of God is read and preached on Sundays, God is speaking. And that has tremendous implications for how we hear. Paul commended the Thessalonians: “we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thes. 2:13). Again, the purpose of this ministry of the Word is to equip and train you. No soldier on the battlefield, knowing that they were about to leave on a mission, would fail to give anything less than his fullest attention to his orders, knowing that he needs to know where friendly and enemy troops are, what his objective is, what to do if something goes wrong, and so on. We need to have that same attitude during the preaching. So listen closely. Open your Bible and follow along. Take notes.
Fifth, talk to people after the service! Imagine what would happen if we all, every one of us, resolved to have two meaningful conversations after every service: first, with someone you don’t know or recognize; and second, with another member. The apostle Peter commands us to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). What if that new person is a visitor who’s never actually had the Gospel explained to them before? Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”(Rom. 12:15) and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). How can we know to rejoice or weep or pick up a burden if we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives? Let us all, each one of us, resolve to have those two conversations every week.
Sixth, seek out ways to serve. Sunday morning services don’t happen by accident, and the ministries of local churches don’t run on dreams and fairy dust! Paul exhorts us to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12), and one very practical way to do so is to volunteer. So: read the bulletin, and look for needs you can fill. Listen to the announcements; they aren’t a prelude or a break from the worship service, but are actually a part of it, because announcements are a way to organize the people of God for ministry to God. (So don’t ignore or be talking during the announcement time!) Pay attention to who is passing out bulletins, checking in the kids, working in the nursery, sitting behind the sound board. Talk to them and ask how things are going. If you keep seeing the same person all the time, that ministry probably needs help! Be active in searching out needs and “holes” in ministry that you can fill.
Outside of the Sunday service, there’s many other ways to be doing the work of ministry. Start by memorizing the Word. The Psalmist sets us an example by saying, “I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). If God equips us for ministry, making us ready for every good work, by our being “acquainted with the sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:14-15), then get acquainted! Start memorizing the Word. And if you don’t know where to start, here's an idea. Every week at Calvary Grace Church, we have a catechism question and answer, with an associated Bible memory passage. We print the catechism in the church bulletin, and send a reminder email to the congregation each week. The questions, answers, and Bible memory passages can be found at the New City Catechism website. Why not start there? One passage, and one question and answer, every week for 52 weeks, will give you a solid foundation for ministry.
Second, pray for one another. Take the church directory (or the “People” tab on CCB!) and pray for a different member or family each day. If Paul could “give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Thes. 1:2), we should do the same. Not only does God use prayer to meet the needs of others, but it builds unity. It’s awfully difficult to be bitter at or maintain resentment about someone if you are humbly praying for God to bless them all the time!
Third, take responsibility for the spiritual health of other church members by gathering with them one-to-one for Bible reading, or prayer, or sermon application. Find someone in your church of the same gender and agree to meet together for a season. As you read through a passage, or pray, or talk about the sermon, you’ll not only build each other up, but you’ll find things to exhort and encourage and admonish each other about. After all, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). We at Calvary Grace have developed a number of resources to get you started in this ministry, which you can read and download or print for free from www.gatheringone2one.com. And besides this peer-to-peer ministry, look for someone who is less spiritually mature than you, and also for someone who is more mature—so that you can both mentor someone else and be mentored yourself, just as Paul exhorted Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Fourth, participate in church decisionmaking and discipline. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov. 15:22) So when the elders ask for the congregation’s input on new members, or a budget, or potential elders or deacons, make sure you respond and give your feedback. And when the elders bring a matter of unrepentant sin to the church, the whole point is that, God willing, the offender will “listen to the church” (Matt. 18:17). Don’t miss what the text is saying—the role of the congregation is active, to tell the offender to repent. That means the person should be surrounded by concerned fellow members, their email inbox and voicemail filled with messages pleading for them to turn. It may not be the most pleasant task, but it is your ministry as a church member.
Fifth, hang out with fellow church members! The church is a household (1 Tim. 3:15), and those other members are your brothers and sisters. You need to be in one another’s lives, getting to know each other’s kids, seeing what’s on our bookshelves, learning everyone’s hobbies and interests. Not only does this strengthen the bonds of affection and fellowship, but it surrounds us with others who are filled with the Spirit and seeking to apply God’s Word in their own lives. And it is in contexts like this that we often discover opportunities to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).
Sixth, support your leaders. Paul’s command to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:2) also means praying for overseers in the church. And Hebrews reminds Christians to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17). And this duty is not merely one of prayer or cooperation, but is a call to practical service: “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches” (Gal. 6:6). Talk to your pastors—or text them or send them an email—or talk to their wives, and ask how they are doing. Find out their needs or challenges and help them out.
Seventh, give financially. Not only is it true that “God loves a cheerful giver,” but giving is, itself, a ministry: “for the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Cor. 9:12). Not only does this mean there is no place for class prejudice or envy of the rich in the church—for God has granted that some have more means to minister in this way—but it also means that even what we do “to bring home the bacon” is ministry. It is an honorable thing for a Christian to be “doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28). So give generously, and if you don’t yet have the means but have the ability, seek out employment to develop the means to give generously.
All these ideas are just an introduction to every-member ministry. God has doubtless placed many more opportunities in your path. But just imagine what your church would look like if every member was deliberately and diligently seeking to do all of these things. Remember: ministry is your job. So go do it! Go knowing you are equipped, empowered, and emplaced for ministry and with the hope that, one day, our Master will tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”