Who are the ministers of Jesus Christ?
Most Christians would answer this question by pointing to the ordained leaders of their churches. The pastors, evangelists and missionaries, who conduct worship services, pray, preach, visit the sick, oversee the church’s ministries, and so forth. These are the people that most consider to be in “the ministry.” However, such thinking is not supported in Scripture.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-12)
The entire context of Ephesians 4:1-16 deals with the nature and function of the church. The verses exhort us to the unity which exists in the church because of the Holy Spirit. The church is a spiritual reality. We read of Christ’s role in distributing gifts and ministry functions in order to equip the saints and so fulfill the church’s purpose. Saints are not super spiritual Christians. All who have put their trust in Christ as Savior and Lord are saints.
Jesus Christ has gifted his church, so that all members may minister. The giver of the gifted persons is Christ. Because Jesus Christ is the giver of the spiritual gifts and spiritual functions, there is no place for human pride, as if the gifts were self-generated or in some way earned. By the same token, there is no place for envy since Christ has gifted all in innumerable and different ways. It would be selfish and arrogant to believe that Jesus Christ only gifted one person within a congregation of believers.
According to Ephesians 4, the leaders of the church are to prepare the saints for ministry. The ministers are the believers, who have been drafted into God’s ministry, and who are to be equipped for their ministry by the leaders. When we say that only pastors, evangelists and missionaries have gone into “the ministry or are ministers” we run the risk of obscuring the fact that all Christians are ministers … including you.
The call of a pastor, evangelist or missionary is no more noble or spiritual, than the calling any one of you has been given. As a servant of Jesus Christ, if you allow your activities of daily living to be formed and measured by that commitment to serve, if you consecrate all your gifts and skills and resources to serve, then your calling is equivalent to any pastoral calling.
Pastors, evangelists and missionaries, those who many would believe, or have been taught, are only those who have been called into those offices. Such thinking fosters a tendency to place them on a pedestal; elevating them above those in sitting the pews, and it happens when believers fail to study the Scriptures; not realizing their own gifts as given by God.
Even our culture tries to put pastors on a pedestal as models of all that is good, as guardians of moral order and sources of social stability. And congregants add to this elevation in status, because they want pastors, evangelists and missionaries to be experts. They want them the way the Israelites wanted a king, to lead in battles and to make the church victorious in every conflict. Such a desire leads to a propensity for pastors, evangelists and missionaries to believe they alone are the cornerstones of the church, as if they were the pinnacle of a hierarchy and they alone are entrusted with the Word of God and the souls of men and women.
The church is a living witness, composed of many parts that functions, or should function, differently than the prevailing culture. The church, the body of believers, is entrusted with reconciling a lost world to Jesus Christ. It is every believer’s work to proclaim the Gospel, whether it is at your place of employment, on social media, during leisure activities or in the place where you gather to worship.
Do some come to know Jesus Christ inside your place of worship? Most certainly! Who invited that lost person to attend the service? It has been my experience that it most often tends to be a member of the congregation. Is your place of worship the only place where people are getting saved? Honestly, it should not be. Personally, I have witnessed more persons coming to Jesus outside of the church building.
So that asks the question, “What is the work of pastors, evangelists and missionaries?” Is it to set some attendance record, or to see giving shoot up or to launch an exciting new program that makes the community more aware of the church’s presence? No, their goal should be to serve in a way that is true to God’s character and in accordance with the Scriptures.
Basically, it is to help believers to stay in the race. When believers stay grounded, they go on to fulfill the commission of New Covenant believers as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
Pastors, evangelists and missionaries must be keenly aware of powerful forces at work, both subtle and obvious, that attempt to seduce them into becoming powerful and important based on the world’s vision of success; a formula for fame and popularity. Many who began the fulfillment of their calling have deviated from the path that Jesus walked, being led astray by self-importance; thinking themselves to be wise, they became fools.
Congregants, never forget that your calling to be God’s minister, is not fundamentally different from their calling to be God’s minister. The difference is in the context. Your context is to minister God’s presence and care, and to minister God’s gospel in your activities of daily living. Their context is to lead the congregation in such a way that they become and remain ministers of God to the world around us.