Community and the Work of Ministry

Ephesians 4:7-16 helps us find an answer to the question: Whom does God want to do the work of ministry? There are two answers that are commonly given: one answer claims that God desires to do His work through a special class of people called clergy or ministers, who minister to the rest of God’s people who passively receive this ministry. The other answer says that God desires that all baptized Christians do the work of ministry.

I believe that verse 12 helps to settle this question for us. In v. 11, Paul lists different kinds of leaders in the church, and then tells us in v.12 that the job of those leaders is to equip the saints for two purposes: the work of ministry, and building up the body. A bunch of contextual clues surrounding the passage confirm this: look at v. 7: to whom does God give grace? To each one of us. Look also at v. 13 – God gives leaders so that we all can reach unity and maturity in the faith. God doesn’t want a few mature leaders, and a bunch of immature saints. He wants us all mature. Also, look at verse 16: the basic message is that when each part of the body is working properly, the whole body helps the body grow. It doesn’t say that the leaders help the body grow, but that the whole body helps the body grow. And so we see that this passage reveals God’s intent to have the saints do the work of ministry, and not just the pastors and other leaders.

What this means for you is that you are not incidental to God’s plan for His kingdom. You are not insignificant or unimportant. This should be a great encouragement to you – God has something He wants you to do! He values your participation in His work, whether you are a pastor or a deacon or a mother or a child! But this truth should also challenge us: it is easy to think that since God has given these leaders, they should be the ones doing the work: if you see a ministry in the Bible or another church that isn’t happening at your church, your mind is quick to ask the question: why aren’t the elders doing this? Why isn’t the church taking care of this? What this passage causes us to realize is that you are the church. You are the church. The reason why the church isn’t doing something is often because you aren’t doing something! You need to repent of excusing yourself from ministry by assuming that the leaders or someone else should do it, and own up to your responsibility as a Christian to do the work of ministry. The fundamental lesson from this passage is that God intends the work of ministry to be done by a maturing Christian community of saints.

Posted on Wednesday, October 02, 2013 by CJ Bowen