Every-Member Ministry Part 3: You Can Do It!
So far, we’ve seen that every-member ministry the “need of the hour” in many churches, and that ministry is not the sole responsibility of pastors but rather the calling of every member of the local church. In this week’s article, we’re going to see that this need and this responsibility also come with the ability to serve. In other words: yes, you can do it!
Last week we looked at the special ministry of pastors in equipping the saints so that they can be ministers of Jesus Christ. This equipping ministry, we saw, is “Word work.” Pastors use the Word of God to preach (2 Tim. 4:2), teach and read (1 Tim. 4:13), and exhort and rebuke (Tit. 2:15). That “Word work” by pastors is illustrated in Acts 6, where the apostles as the pastors of the first church viewed their essential ministry as not merely saying things to their people, but also as an equally important “verbal” ministry of praying to God (“we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word”— Acts 6:4). Yes, even prayer is “Word work,” for it is specifically prayer “according to his will” that is heard (1 John 5:14), and that will is made known to us in Scripture.
How does the New Testament describe the result of this ministry? Look closely again at First Thessalonians 5:14—“we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” First, note again that he’s addressing “you, brothers.” That is, everyone, and not just the pastors. Second, note what he’s telling so-called “ordinary Christians” to do: “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak.” As we pointed out last week, that could be called counseling ministry, and regular church members are expected to do it! As Pastor Ryan Fullerton points out, not only does Paul expect the Thessalonians to be effective in each situation—that is, they really can “encourage” and “admonish” and “help”—but Paul also expects them to be able to discern which is which and act accordingly. In Ryan’s words, “you don’t want to encourage the idle or admonish the weak!” The result of this “Word-work” by pastors equipping saints for ministry by the Word, then, is that every Christian should be able to assess spiritual need and provide encouragement, help, or admonishment as those situations require. Or to put it differently, ministry is something you not only need to do and are supposed to do; ministry is something you’re able to do!
You Can Do It--Because You're Equipped For Ministry
The obvious question that arises, then, is: is equipping by the Word enough? Don’t we have to add other qualifications or tools to do ministry effectively? Paul didn’t think so. Even though he was a trained Jewish rabbi, it was not his training that he viewed as enough to equip him. Instead, look how he encouraged a young man who never had Paul’s rabbinic training in the Torah: “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17). See, it was being “acquitted with the sacred writings,” and not a particular kind of schooling or training, that made Timothy “complete, equipped for every good work.” Indeed, Paul even warns Timothy to guard against distractions from that Word when he tells him “continue in what you have learned”—Christians will always be tempted to “discontinue in what you have learned,” looking for their effectiveness to worldly wisdom instead.
And so if you are in a Bible-preaching local church, you are being equipped. God has given us his Word, which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). This Word, God has promised, “shall not return to me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). If you are becoming more and more “acquainted with the sacred writings,” then you are being “equipped for every good work”—completely equipped, not just for some good works, but every one!
You Can Do It--Because You're Empowered For Ministry
And that’s not all. God is a God who gives generously. God is a “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” kind of God (cf. Luke 6:38), “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exo. 34:6). The Word alone would be enough to equip us, but God also gives us his Holy Spirit, the one who inspired that Word (2 Pet. 1:21). The omnipotent, omniscient, unchanging Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God, indwells every believer in Christ (2 Cor. 1:22), constantly accompanying us so that we are never alone. And the Spirit gives to each “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), “varieties of gifts” such as gifts of teaching, faith, helping, administrating, exhortation, giving, mercy, evangelism, and others.
God in his abundant generosity not only gives his living and active Word to equip us, but also his living and active Spirit to empower us, for the work of ministry. The Word is our equipment, and the Spirit gives the power by which we serve.
You Can Do It--Because You're Emplaced For Ministry
All of these gifts—the sacred writings, the manifestations of the Spirit—all these God-given gifts, note, are not for one’s own benefit. They are given not for the gifted person himself or herself, but rather “for the common good” (12:7). The New Testament always describes the ministry of the Word and the gifts of the Spirit in the context of the local church. That’s why even a Christian possessing the Word of God is not able to say to another believer, “I have no need of you” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:21). Like a football player who refuses to show up on the field is useless even though he has all his equipment and training, the Word is useless in you, and your spiritual gifts are wasted in you, unless you are part of a local church where you can exercise your Spirit-given gifts according to the Word of God to “strive to excel in building up the church.” God’s will is that those he saves are not “lone ranger Christians,” but instead are associated with other redeemed sinners for worship, work, and fellowship. Jesus Christ’s Bride is not the individual believer, but the Church (Eph. 5:32). Indeed, “love for the brothers” is evidence that one has “passed out of death into life” and the absence of that love evidence that one “abides in death” (1 John 5:21).
In other words, God in his boundless generosity not only equips us for ministry by his Word, and not only empowers us for ministry by his Spirit, but he also emplaces us for ministry in the local church. Next week, God willing, we will close this series with some practical applications by which you can begin doing the “work of ministry.”