Theology of Ministry - Lesson 5

Identity of a Minister

Humility is an important aspect of ministry. Ministry is a paradox of leading by serving. The essence of ministry is that we are participating with Christ, not merely being obedient or imitating him.

John  Johnson
Theology of Ministry
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Identity of a Minister

Identity of a Minister

I. Introduction and Review

II. Relationship to Others

A. People in scripture who had special calls

B. Ordination in the early church

C. What constitutes a call?

III. Nature of Ministry

A. Ministry is service

1. Implies submission

2. Implies humility

B. Ministry of Word (participation)

Class Resources
  • Theology is the clarification of convictions by which we engage in ministry.

  • During the Renaissance, some people began making a distinction between academic theology and practical theology.

  • The incarnation is the prism through which we view our entire missional task.

  • Christ embodied the OT offices of prophet, priest and king.

  • Ministry is a paradox of leading by serving.

  • We need to hear what God is saying through his word and proclaim it. A ministry of grace is characterized by a heart of forgiveness and reconciliation.

  • Ministry is participation in God’s work of transforming the community of faith until it is blameless at the coming of Christ.

  • There is no ministry without church and no church without ministry.

  • Our ministry is to be done in the context of community. We can't avoid institutions, but we can avoid institutionalism.

  • Each of us is called to God, then to serve the body with the gifts we receive from the Spirit. Some have a special call to leadership.

  • Character is what validates our ministry. We earn integrity by having a rigorous devotion to the truth.

  • Giftedness should reflect in your passion for ministry, what God is blessing in your life and what other people are affirming.

  • Our mission is to advance the kingdom of God, so we are in conflict with Satan trying to advance his kingdom. God has given us authority. We need to exercise it and stand against sin.

  • When people begin a new movement, it can create an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your theology and practice to determine if your ideas are biblical or based solely on tradition.
  • It’s important to have a theological basis for evaluating the effectiveness of your ministry.

  • Much of the daily work of ministry involves menial and mundane tasks. The glorious side of ministry overshadows the inglorious.

  • It’s important for your theology to inform your ministry and for your ministry to apply your theology.

Ministry is built upon sound biblical, theological and cultural foundations. Each generation of the Church must understand and build on these foundations, as well as discover relevant contemporary innovations and applications. This course intends to help you integrate an understanding of the Word and the world with the development of a personal philosophy of ministry.

At the end, it's a good exercise to write out you own theology of ministry that you could present to a board and/or articulate as situations in your ministry come up.


Ministry is not grounded in current trends or social sciences or self-actualization. We don't go to churches or conferences or [00:30] study trends to figure out ministry. What we're learning here is that God is the starting point. God invented ministry. Ministry is God actualized, if you will.

It is an act of God. It originates in Him and is shaped by His revelation, and so we don't introduce our ministry any more than Jesus introduced His ministry. We come as He came to do the Father's ministry. We got that clear? [01:00] That's a very important piece of what we're starting with.

Ray Anderson, who's written a book on theology of ministry from Fuller, puts it this way: "God's ministry becomes the dogma from which all insight and strategy of ministry issues and to which the church must return in every generation to test its own concept of ministry." Now, let me read that again cuz I want you to make sure you hear what he's saying.

"God's ministry [01:30] becomes the dogma—interesting word—becomes the dogma from which all insight and strategy of ministry issues and to which the church must return in every generation to test its own concept of ministry." So, as you get out there and do ministry, what I want to make sure you're hearing here is that—where do I start when I figure that out if I'm planning a church, [02:00] if I'm going into an established that's dead in the water?

Wherever God leads me, if I'm going to be in this counseling ministry, if I'm gonna lead this organization, I have to go back fundamentally to God's ministry to take my cues. Purvis puts it this way: "The ministry of God is the proper foundation for the practice of ministry." It's just, I know this is basic stuff, but I'm amazed how many people are doing ministry, and [02:30] they're bypassing it. They're not even asking that question.

"The ministry of God is the proper foundation for the practice of ministry." So, from origin, we then move to talk about identify and ask the question, so who is a minister anyway, and made a case that our essential identity is found in Christ, and He is the one who brought to expression the roots, which I suggested last time go back to the Old Testament. [03:00] He brought those to full expression.

So, He brings to expression what? The role of the prophet, priest, king and sage. All of those are kind of roots, you might say, that define the ministry of Christ—the person of Christ—and He brings all of them to ultimate expression in His ministry, and the key verse here, again, is John 20:21. As he, in departing from this earth, says—turns [03:30] and says to the disciples, and I believe in a certain sense turns and says to you and me in ministry, he says, "As the Father has sent me, I'm sending you."

So, in other words, our identity, therefore, is found in Christ. Christ's identity is found particularly when you go back to the Old Testament. One of the questions that comes up in this whole identity issue is [04:00] what is the relationship of our identity in ministry to others? We're still on identity, and I want to finish this up, and I want to raise this question—What I'm asking here in specific is does our identity necessitate a special call?

Okay, we understand what ministry is. We understand our identity. Is that a special call? Are we all called to this, or is it a special call given to some? Howard Chrysostom [04:27] [phonetic] by the way, answered that question. [04:30] Well, it's a special call that's given to some. I think all of us would say this, and everyone would agree with this statement.

All of us are called, in a broad sense, to Christ, and all of us, in a broad sense, are called to ministry. James White, in his book "Serious Times," has a chapter in which he talks about this, and he makes the point that all of us, in Christ, have two callings. We, first of all, receive our calling to Christ, [05:00] and secondly, we all receive this calling to ministry.

All of us, in Christ, are called to be vital channels of God's spirit. All of us are called to take our giftedness and advance His kingdom. All of us are called to be obedient to the general commands of scripture. There are some in particular, I should say, who, understanding this, therefore, would question the validity of a special call [05:30] that would maybe argue something like this—that we're all called to be believer priests.

We're all called to do ministry, and our calling cannot be compared to earlier callings and scripture, for, when we look back in scripture, we see those who were particularly called had maybe a calling that came via supernatural, audible revelations, [06:00] which are not the norm today, that, when we look back historically, scripturally, we see people who had this decisive calling, but God doesn't work that way, and actually, when you go back, God was raising Israel. God was raising the church, and so He called particular people to do particular ministries, and if one still holds to that today, it tends to lead to this hierarchy—this [06:30] priestly ministry over here for certain ones and we create this gap between clergy and laity.

That's one view about ministry. Another view is a more narrow approach that would make the case that some, in Christ, are given a particular call to lead particular ministry that, yes, we all have a general call to Jesus, and we all have a general call to ministry, but God calls [07:00] some in particular to particular ministry, and this is based on several things. Well, it's based, first of all, if you go back just back to the Old Testament model itself.

While God had a general call to Israel to be a light to the nations, to be a nations of priests—Exodus 19, Verse 6—while, in a sense, there was this general call out of this community, nonetheless, God called certain ones. [07:30] So, God calls Moses, and there's the burning bush, and there is Samuel, and Samuel keeps hearing this voice, and he keeps calling and Eli gets—keeps getting woke up and then realizes, no, you're receiving a call from God, or there's David, who receives this calling from God from Samuel, or there's Isaiah that receives this vision in Isaiah 6, where he says, "Send me," or there's Jeramiah, [08:00] who, even while he was in the womb, God says, "I called you, and here's the ministry I've called you to. Here's Jerusalem, and I've called you to prepare Israel to leave."

Now, people who would look at this Old Testament model, would also turn to the New Testament and see a similar thing at work—that the disciples are called. Jesus comes, and there they are. Jesus says, "Hey, I'm gonna [08:30] make you fishers of men. So, drop your nets and follow me," and they do, and then Mark, Chapter 3, Versus 15 through 17—he calls certain ones up to the mountainside, and he gives them a commission of ministry, and they become the foundation of the church—Ephesians 2, Verse 20—and we can look at this as it's modeled by Paul, who was called—Acts Chapter 9—and Paul refers, from [09:00] time to time, back to his call—Acts 26:19, Galatians 115, First Timothy 112, Second Timothy 19.

Here, Paul says—and, actually, if I go back to First Timothy 1:12, "I thank Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me because he considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer," [09:30] and so Paul, in both Chapters, to Timothy, refers back to his particular call from God, and you see, in Acts Chapter 6, some who were called in particular to a ministry of word and prayer, or you might turn to Ephesians 4:11, where it says, "And God has given gifted leaders." So, we see these Old Testament models, these New Testament models, and then we go to the early church, [10:00] and some, anyway, in the early church, went so far as to see the bishop as a successor to the apostle.

There was this ordination that began to take place to ensure an apostolic succession that maybe found its inspiration in, for example, number 27, Verse 23, where Moses selects his successor in Joshua and has him [10:30] set apart by a priestly act, and such names as Chrysostom as we saw or Gregory, who believed God ordained some, which sets then a minister apart to a high and holy calling—a calling that some defined in such huge terms that, as we mentioned, it sometimes scared people off, and people would run from their ordination, and we saw that last week with Gregory. [11:00] A couple times, when I've led an ordination service, I love to go back to the one story.

I think of a guy named Amonious [11:06] [phonetic] who I think I may have mentioned, who was so fearful or ordination of the call because of what it entailed and what it required that he took a pair of scissors and cut off his ear because he took literally that passage going back to the Old Testament priest that there should be no defect. I mean, people would go to extreme, [11:30] but in all of these, we see a call that tends to be decisive. Maybe sometimes, it comes over a period of time and comes with this conviction that God's ministers do not select their vocation.

It's selected by God. God calls them, and when I go back to read some older pastoral theologians, I read a guy like Jowett—J. H. Jowett—in his Yale lectures, who declared to the students [12:00] that one must have the assurance that the selection has been imperatively constrained by the eternal God. Unless you have it, you can't be in ministry. He went on to say, "One's personal experience of that call will not be normative, for the experience of God's call is as varied as there are people."

In other words, in a room right here, if we all talk about our call to ministry, it—probably all of us have a different story. "God's constraint may be as soft and [12:30] gentle as a glance"—that's how he describes it—"or it may seize us with a strong and invisible grip where necessity is laid upon us, where we realize we can do nothing else. Nonetheless," as he puts it, "the call of the Eternal must ring through the rooms of his soul as clearly as the sound of the morning-bell rings through the valleys of Switzerland, calling the pheasants to early prayer and praise. The candidate must move like a person in secret bonds."

[13:00] Was that your experience? Maybe for some it is, and there's the tension I find. Different people, when I, you know, probe a little bit about your calling to ministry, I will hear everything from, well, I don't notice [13:18] [phonetic] if I have any more special call than anyone else in [13:21] [phonetic] Christ. We're all called to ministry. Two—I believe that, like a third call, I was called to Christ. [13:30] I was called to ministry, but then God put his hand on me in a very confirming way and has called me to particular ministry.

I suspect in this room—I'm just guessing—that we are probably somewhere in all of that, from way over here to way over here to somewhere in the middle kind of saying, "I'm not sure. I'm not sure if I should be looking for something—anything different than what I already am—or maybe [14:00] I'm here in seminary preparing and God's gonna somewhere lay a call on my life. Now, there's some who would say a call is necessary, and the reason is is because, in those dark nights of the soul, it's your call that will get you through the night.

Without this sense of calling from God when you go through that dark night of the soul, you'll start to believe those voices that say, "Well, who are you to be doing ministry? I mean, who are you to be [14:30] anything that special," and you may say, "Well, maybe I'm not called to this thing," and I've read enough, particularly in pastoral ministry who would say, unless you have a strong sense of call in your life, don't go into ministry because it's the call that will get you through, and I think we'd build our argument perhaps on the apostle Paul, who—it was probably in the dark nights of his soul—it was going back to the road on the way to Damascus [15:00] that got him through. o, who's right? Who's right, class?

Audience Member: [15:06] [15:07] [inaudible]

[15:08] Well, I gotta ask. I'm asking you. [crosstalk] We're thinking theologically here. Yes, go—go ahead.

Audience Member: [15:16] I said I think God's right. He sees [15:17] [phonetic] everybody accordingly. I think the people [15:20] [inaudible] burning bush thing you'd [15:22] [phonetic] definitely freak out and [15:25] [inaudible] I think that if [15:28] [phonetic] he called [15:28] [phonetic] everybody according to [15:30] [inaudible]

[15:35] God will call us according to the way we will answer. Now, how many understand what that means?

Audience Member: [15:41] Because there is such a [15:42] [inaudible]

[15:46] Was Moses scared?

Audience Member: [15:49] I [15:49] [inaudible]

[15:51] Okay, so, how we react wouldn't necessarily define what God's call would be.

Audience Member: [15:55] Yes, [15:55] [inaudible]

[16:00] You see, I'm just raising the question because, as we develop a theology of ministry, and we're talking about identity right now, it's a fair question to ask. Should those who are ministers in ministry—it's hard to say even that, isn't it, because we're all in ministry, but are there those that are set apart for ministry who, by set apart for ministry, should, therefore, have a sense of call in their life. That's the question. Yup...

Audience Member: [16:30] One of the things I think about is [16:32] [inaudible] all [16:34] [inaudible] Christ and be confirmed by apostles and [16:38] [inaudible] church perform [16:38] [phonetic] this [16:40] [inaudible] set aside for special ministry [16:43] [inaudible] elders. They have a special rule [crosstalk] special ministry, and so, I see this idea of certain people being set apart for certain [16:53] [inaudible] but it also seems to occur a lot of times [16:56] [inaudible] and it seems like today sometimes [17:00] [inaudible] realistic [17:01] [phonetic] that [17:02] [inaudible] don't have much of that element [17:04] [inaudible] individual people have [17:09] [inaudible] but I—I wonder if it's missing a component [17:12] [inaudible] the body of [17:14] [inaudible] calling you [17:16] [inaudible] teaching [17:18] [inaudible]

[17:19] And we do have that aspect where there is a strong position that somewhere in that whole task, there should be a confirmation of the community of the call. [17:30] A community may not get [17:31] [phonetic] the call, but the community should somewhere verify that call and if there's not a sense of a community verifying the call, then one again could question the call. Paul...

Paul: [17:43] [inaudible] hearing you say [17:45] [inaudible] this—this always rides [17:49] [phonetic] on what that [17:50] [inaudible]

[17:51] Right. Well, I know. You're rai—you're raising a very good question because we say okay. Well, we go back to scripture, and [18:00] scripture is the evidence of God calling people all the way through from Genesis all the way to Revelation, but the model in almost all of those is maybe an audible voice. Should that be, therefore, the Litmus Test today, or we might say, well, no, God works in different ways, and it's more a sense of calling, but, again, what does that mean?

Indigestion can lead to a sense of something. It's hard to define. [18:30] I know, in talking to a number of people, they will tell me about their call, and when I probe—well, God's called me. I'll say, well, did he speak—I mean, were you like [18:37] [inaudible] you know, down by the rock and you heard—I mean—God just—and a lot of times, I think there'll be no—I would not be honest if I were to go that far, but there is something of God saying something to my spirit that has been confirmed by my passions and by my [19:00] congregation let's say.

Audience Member: [19:00] [inaudible]

[19:02] When I hear it generally put that way, it's the closest I think that—to make sense if you take this position. Yes—

Audience Member: [19:12] [inaudible] never really [19:15] [inaudible] that God was speaking and we don't have these records [19:18] [inaudible] and really [19:20] [inaudible] around on whether or not God was really calling him or not.

[19:23] Or called into a counseling ministry or called in—yeah—

Audience Member: [19:26] [inaudible] people avoid [19:30] getting involved when they should be because they'll say, "I wasn't called."

[19:37] The question is is the community the initiator or the conf—confirmer of the call? There are a lot who would say, well, the community acts as the confirmation but not the initiator.

Audience Member: [19:50] Some people, depending on [19:53] [inaudible] really need a special [19:57] [inaudible] figured [20:00] [phonetic] it's almost as though they have such a—a [20:03] [inaudible] they do just [20:06] [phonetic] wanted [20:05] [phonetic] run from ministry [20:07] [inaudible] special [20:11] [inaudible]

[20:13] Yes, there are some voices that would say it's vital and it's necessary for anyone because everyone will go through those dark nights. Everyone will be challenged from time to time, and everyone will be questioned, and it's that call that gets you through. [20:30] Let me read a couple more statements. This comes from Griffith Thomas to his students at Oxford. "The call and the consciousness of God are essential to a person at the outset of ministry. Unless one has it, one had better not start out. Unless one has an intense desire, a convergence of circumstances, a giftedness, a training and an affirmation of others, one should not pursue ministry."

Audience Member: [20:57] If that's [20:58] [inaudible] that he just said—[21:00] a strong desire, a giftedness, a training, an affirmation—

[21:05] Right, those all would go into [crosstalk] what a call is.

Audience Member: [21:07] [crosstalk] a whole [crosstalk] [21:09] [inaudible] that's much different, even from the onset of [21:13] [inaudible] which would seem to be, if you're not hearing voices from God, then get out.

[21:08] Right.

Audience Member: [21:20] Well, I'm just saying I can resonate with his description [21:23] [inaudible] some of our [21:23] [inaudible]

[21:24] But I think most of that part is what comes after the call n—nonetheless.

Audience Member: [21:30] Oh, okay. I thought that was the definition of a calling.

[21:34] That second part is what comes after the call that then act more as a confirmation. Let me read you Thomas Oden. He says, "The sacred ministry is not to be affirmed in such a way that the ministry of [21:47] [phonetic] the laity is neglected or denied but affirmed and enhanced.

On the other hand, the general ministry of the whole church is not to be asserted in such a way that [22:00] the ordained ministry is disenfranchised or diminished." Okay, now, I'll read again. Now, listen to the balance he's trying to make here. "The sacred ministry is not to be affirmed in such a way that the ministry of [22:14] the laity is neglected or denied.

So, let's say you take the position that if one sh—is going to go into ministry, in special ministry there should be a calling, but it should be done in such a way that [22:30] the general laity is not made to feel like, well, if they don't have a call, they shouldn't do anything. "On the other hand, the general ministry of the whole church is not to be asserted in such a way that the ordained ministry is disenfranchised or diminished," or here's Will Willimon who puts it this way: "Damage is done to the unique quality of the ministry vocation when it is co"—he uses the word conflated or combined with the vocation of all [23:00] Christians to follow Jesus.

Okay, did you catch that? "Damage is done to the unique quality of the ministry vocation when it is combined—with the vocation of all Christians to follow Jesus." I'm not gonna give you any clear answer because I'm not sure there is a clear answer. I've kinda lived in the tension of two things—that there's this call to all of us to do ministry, [23:30] and I think as I've gotten along the way in ministry, I've come more and more to be convinced that I believe there also is some sense—some calling—of ministry that we all need to have to do ministry that may be different from a general calling.

Where do I see it in the text? Probably where I see it more is like, for example, just preaching through Colossians, and I see in Colossians 3:16, where he says, "Let the word of Christ"—[24:00] how does he put is here? "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Yes, keep going.

Audience Member: [24:07] "In all wisdom; teaching and [crosstalk] admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

[24:08] Admonishing—yeah and in that verse, I see the whole body, in a certain sense, has a responsibility to come with a word with teaching admonition. It's not just one person. There is a community. We're all called, in a [24:30] certain sense, to be preachers.

Are you with me? We're all called to this ministry of word is what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 in a chapter in which he's writing to the body of Christ to be the body of Christ, but then, I'll most to chapter four. He says [24:49] [inaudible] "Say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you've received in the Lord that you may fulfill it.'"

Now, I don't want to read too much into that cuz I don't know who Archippus is, but it's like Paul is [25:00] singling out someone who's received a calling to do particular ministry, and he says, "Hey, tell this guy to get to the finish line. Fulfill the ministry that God has given it." He seems to make a distinction there while the—at the same time speaks to the community, and where I think maybe I've landed is a statement Oden makes in his book on pastoral theology when he s—he puts it this way. Now—now listen to what he says.

[25:30] "There remains a line as thin as a hair but as hard as a diamond between ordained ministry and a faithful lay person." "There remains a line as thin as a hair." What does he mean by thin as a hair? What's he saying? He almost can't see the distinction. "But [26:00] as hard as a diamond." What's he mean? It's there.

It's there and you can't erase it. You can't dissolve it. It's there just hard as a diamond between ordained ministry and a faithful lay person. Now, I don't know if you like that statement. That kind of resonates with me because it seems to say that ministry is something distinct and yet, not so distinct [26:30] that there is this clergy laity gap that tends to emerge when it goes off too far. Oden is just trying to preserve and protect us from in our calling to ministry of creating a gap between clergy and laity, but at the same time, he is also underscoring that there is a distinction that you're here training for [27:00] ministry, and there's something that maybe is uniquely happening that God has set you apart to do ministry.

That may not be formed in your minds right now, just like it wasn't in mine when I went to seminary. As I've shared, I had a sense of a calling, I believe, when a man invited me to consider going into ministry and I couldn't shake it, even though I was on a complete different career track, but when I came to seminary, I had this sense of [27:30] calling, and this is what I told people when people would say, "Well, why didn't you go to the Air Force Academy?" Because I believe I've been called by God to do ministry, but I didn't know what that was, and as I've shared with you, when I came to seminary, the last thing I wanted to be was a pastor.

I was with my dad this weekend, and we were driving to the coast and just having a long talk, and I was asking him about my grandfather who was a pastor, and I said, "You know, Dad, I love my grandfather, but I absolutely had no desire [28:00] to be like him," to which my Dad said, "Well, I didn't either," and my dad rebelled. My grandfather was a stern, old Baptist pastor, and my dad, when he was 16, ran away from home and wanted nothing to do with God or my grandfather for years, and then they, thankfully, kinda came back together at the end, but there was nothing in his life I—made me aspire to pastoral ministry, and yet, [28:30] I've done it for 23 years now, and I believe I am called to this task, but I can't explain it, except this sense from God that was gradual, and I guess that's the point I want to make.

Some of you may say, "Well, I don't have this decisive moment." Well, I think a lot of people don't have a decisive moment. It is a large moment, if that oxymoron makes any sense, to which you come and to [29:00] which I would say—and I'll close with this and we'll take a break—that you gotta have, if you're going to survive in ministry because you, like me, will all go through deep, deep moments of doubts in which you will say, "What in the world am I doing," and some of those will be just your own depression. Some of them will be very overt satanic attacks, and believe me, they will come, and the satanic attacks [29:30] will not so much move in the area of doubt.

It will be more of an accusatory kind of statement that will say, "You don't deserve to be in ministry. You don't belong in ministry. You have no place in ministry. You have nothing to say." In fact, for those in a preaching ministry, I will suggest that count on at least maybe once a month, you'll be right in the middle of preaching and have a strong, powerful sense from the darkness that [30:00] you have absolutely nothing to say, and you should sit down right now.

Those are the kind of things that play on you, go through you. So, thinking theologically about ministry, is there a place for call? Well, I certainly see examples in scripture, and I don't know as if that has measurably shifted, except maybe the auditory nature of it, if that makes any sense at all. [30:30] On that note of confusion, let's take a ten-minute break.

The ministry—it can be—it doesn't have to be a church. It can be a lot of different ministries out there, but I want you to think about one that has, at times, just captured your imagination, and—and you'd like to say, "I'd like to know what's the—what's the philosophy behind that? What's driving that?"

If they don't have one, then look for something else. [31:00] Don't try to create it, but sometime, if you want—I may have mentioned this—go on Google and just type "philosophy of ministry," and you'll get all kinds of philosophies that'll come up. At least it'll give you kind of a rough idea of what I'm looking for, like—what's his name—Southern California—that's got churches—cavalry [31:22] [phonetic] chapel—there's like ten—yeah, Chuck's Myth [31:26] [phonetic] He's got like a ten-page philosophy of ministry—[31:30] something like that that's kind of interesting, who's doing kind of unique ministry.

Willow Creek—I mean, those are obvious ones. Pick a ministry that fascinates you. I'm gonna try to encourage you to not double up so that if somebody picks one, I'm gonna encourage you to go a different direction, so we can hear different ones. Heather—

Heather: [31:51] [inaudible] turns out to be something that fascinates us, rather than something [31:54] [inaudible]

[31:57] The nature of the assignment is to [32:00] critique it, and I'm hoping that this course will enable you to do that—taking what we're learning and saying, "Okay, so how would I evaluate that ministry in light of what I'm learning about my own theology of ministry?" Let's shift gears and talk about the nature of ministry. In a theology of ministry, we're wrestling with various questions.

What's the relationship of theology to ministry, which we've talking about? What's [32:30] the origin—the essential model? Who am I as minister? Is there a calling I should expect? These are the kind of theology questions, and here is another one: What is the essence—the nature of ministry itself?

As we come to grips with these questions, they will shape our ministry practice—should anyway. So, I want to talk about the nature of ministry, and I'm gonna answer this with two parts. [33:00] Now, we're in ministry. We're talking about ministry, and you say, "I've given my life to ministry," and someone says, "Well, what is ministry," and you might say, "Well, an obvious place to start is with the nature of the term itself—ministry—which comes from Greek term we find—Diaconis.

We look at ministry, and we say ministry, therefore, is—first of all, is service. That's the very nature of the term, and [33:30] it's seen in the model of Christ because his ministry, you could say, was defined in its essence as service. He came to serve. Came to serve who? "He came, not to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many"—Mark 10:45—right—but he came to serve what—serve who?

Audience Member: [33:56] Primary motivation was to serve God.

[33:59] Yes, he came [34:00] to serve the Father. So, that's the essence of the service, and he passes that mandate onto us as future ministers—John 13—where he begins to teach the disciples about service. So, ministry in its essence is service modeled by Jesus, and that service is serving who again? Serving the father, [34:30] right? So, when someone asks you, "So, what—what is this thing called ministry? Well, it's—it's service.

Well, who are you serving? I'm serving the Father. It is a service that is defined by the very nature of the term Diaconis—Diaconia I should say—a word that was used in—in New Testament culture to describe the menial and the mundane. It's important to understand that.

So, what God does is he [35:00] lifts this terms called ministry and says, "This is what I'm calling you to." and he takes a Greek term that was originally used to describe those who waited on tables, and we're not talking about people working at the Chard [35:13] [phonetic] House—headwaiters making some pretty good bucks. In this culture, people who waited on tables were—were the slaves, and so this is the nature of the term, but over time, was employed [35:30] as the central term to describe the chief activity of the church.

I realize that we're probably going, "Well, this isn't anything profound," and it isn't, except for—that every now and then, in some of our painful moments of ministry, we're gonna have to be reminded of this. I am what? I am a minister, which means I am—I am a servant because sometimes, it will the menial and the mundane [36:00] that we will do, and you will find yourself, as at times I've found myself, helping a divorced person move in the middle of a really bad situation thinking, "What am I doing," but realizing this is part of this task.

Paul tells Timothy, "Fulfill your Diaconia," as he said to Archippus, Second Timothy [36:30] 4, Verse 5. It's what we're called to equip the saints to do. God gives gifted people to equip saints to do what he calls the Airgone [36:46] [phonetic] of Diaconia—the work—the energy—the work of ministry. God gives gifted people—you, me—this work of [37:00] equipping saints for what purpose? [37:03] [inaudible] servants.

Well, that's what the church is all about. We're training—we're equipping people to this great work called ministry or service. So, as I think I've got there in a quote from Oden, he says, "Diaconia is an essential layer of every theory, every grade or proper definition of ministry. No ministry can properly abandon the role of Diaconia."

Now, what does that imply? [37:30] It implies a couple things that I've got listed there. The first one is submission. Diaconis, a minister, is one who by choice and position has come under the authority of a master. That's the nature of this thing. In other words, our goal is not to achieve our personal goals and ambitions.

When we go into [38:00] ministry, we have signed up to be under the submission of a master, taking whatever piece God gives us and submitting to God and to that work as an artist submits to his or her materials and does what he or she does with the materials that have been given to him or her, and that's what ministry is about. We submit to this task, [38:30] and sometimes that's hard.

Sometimes we say, "God, what am I here for? Why did you put me here?" "Because I'm the master and you are the servant, and I'm teaching you service." So, as I tell people sometimes, my ten years in my first church, I screamed and cried often, went on long walks every vacation, would go for long walks [39:00] in the wood—woods and go, "Why? Why, God?" "Because I'm teaching you something about Diaconia—ministry." It's about service, and still, I mean, that's not some—a lesson anyone learns in this life.

We are in ministry to be useful for God in such a way that his glory is enhanced, right? We're in ministry simply to be [39:30] useful for God in such a way that his glory is enhanced—increased. I like how Eugene Peterson puts it. "The task is not to get God to do something we think needs to be done but to become aware of what [40:00] God is doing and get in line with it." "The task is not to get God to do something we think needs to be done but to become aware of what God is doing and get in step with it and take delight in it."

So, Paul, Colossians 1:25 through 28—"Of this church, I was made a"—what—"a servant—a Diaconis—a minister according to the stewardship of God he bestowed on me for your benefit that I might fully carry out the ministry of the word, and so [40:30] we proclaim him in admonishing every person, teaching every person with all wisdom that we may present every person complete in Christ." Paul says, "Here's my task. This is my calling. This is what I do. It comes from God. I'm simply the servant carrying out, fulfilling the Father's will."

So, ministry is about submission. Secondly, ministry's about humility. Ministry is not about rank, as Jesus often had to tell the disciples. So, Jesus, [41:00] by the way, every time you keep speaking about the cross and, you know, things are not gonna look good, just kinda curious, like, where we at here right now. Okay, like, who's gonna be in charge of who? I mean, I—I'd just like to know that. This thing is all culminating. It means the world's coming to an end, and you're gonna set up your kingdom. I'd just like to know, like, am I gonna be the minister of defense or secretary of state? Just would really—if you don't mind, just like to kinda have a heads up so I can start preparing.

[41:30] Jesus would get this question often cuz they didn't get it—that ministry is not about rank or position. A minister's goal is not to enlarge his or her spheres of influence. Do you think we need to hear this today? A minister's goal is not to enlarge his or her spheres of influence but to magnify Christ's influence.

The very nature—the very essence of ministry [42:00] going back to the very essence of the term itself repudiates any notion of self-exultation or self-centeredness. Paul would go back to the metaphors at times to underscore this. I'm just a, you know—I'm just a broken clay pot. I'm just—that's all I am.

In all of this, what we're underscoring is that ministry is not about dominance. It's not about control. It's not about power wielding, [42:30] coercion. It's not about using position to appear busy or important cuz we like that, don't we? I mean, sometimes people come up to me and go, "I—I know you're really busy." Actually, I'm thinking a lot of times that's right. I am busy. I got a real fools [42:52] [phonetic] calendar, you know, and that's not what a minister is.

[43:00] "It's not about appearing busy or important. It's about service, and the key words start with humility. Ministry is paradoxically a leadership role, yet serves by patiently facilitating the nurture and growth of the soul." So, I've given you a quote there by Torrance you can read in which he—his conclusion is, "The church needs a massive recovery of [43:30] authentic Diaconia if it's to hold forth the image of Christ before mankind and is to minister the mercy of God to the needs of men and the root of their evil and in the real sting of their misery."

Okay, so we understand, first of all, what ministry is in its essence. It's what? It's service. It's the essential nature so that if you start to move away from service or servanthood in your ministry, then just realize you're moving away [44:00] from ministry. You're starting to do something else. It's not ministry. It's—whatever it is, it's something else. The adversary will temp us to self-importance, to all kinds of things. Here's the second thing. Ministry is participation. First of all, let me go back. Any question on service?

Audience Member: [44:26] You said that it's not about [44:28] [inaudible]

[44:30] Mm hm, yeah, I think it's attention, but as long as you're keeping clear in your own mind and clear, hopefully, in those that you're leading, who this is about, what this is about—this is about Christ. It's about his ministry. It's not about me and my reputation. It think that's where, you know, it gets confused.

Let's talk about thin participation. [45:00] When we talk about participation, we're talking about participation with Christ. The essence of ministry is that we're doing something in this union with Christ. Now, listen carefully to what I'm gonna say here. We are in union with Christ, right? When we come to Christ, we enter into this union—this mystical union.

Paul uses the phrase "in Christ"—I forget—like, [45:30] 184 times or something like that because he was profoundly moved by this union we all share and in Christ—a union that is joined through the work of the Holy Spirit. Here's what you need to understand—we all need to understand. In this union, we are, therefore, in ministry, not nearly imitating Christ.

Make sure you write this down. We are not merely imitating Christ, [46:00] and we are not merely being obedient to our calling. The essence of ministry is that we are participating with him. It is a union joined through the work of the spirit in which we are not merely imitating Jesus. When we do ministry, we're not just saying, "Well, I'm trying to follow and do what Jesus did," nor is it, [46:30] "I'm just trying to be faithful to what God's called me to do.

It's something far deeper than that. The very essence of ministry is I'm participating with Christ because I'm in this—this union that goes way beyond my ability to understand that when I enter into ministry, so to speak, I'm entering into a union into Christ's ministry. This is not my ministry. I'm in union with him, participating with him.

A few [47:00] passages of scripture that underscore this Act 17:28—"For in Him we live, and we move, and we exist," or another passage is Galatians 2:20—"I've been crucified with Christ. It's no longer I who live, but Christ lives with me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith and the son of God who loved me and delivered himself up from me," or Colossians 3:3—"For you [47:30] have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God," which I've shared before this verse. It goes way beyond anything I can understand.

Somehow, in this union with Christ, when I enter into a relationship with Christ, I enter into a union in which, as he died, I died. As he was buried, I was buried. As he rose from the grave, I rose from the grave. As he is in heaven, I'm already in heaven. [48:00] That's union. There's sort of an already and not yet. It's already happened, and yet, it's not yet happened. There's a tension, and so, therefore, what Christ is doing, I'm doing.

I'm in union with him. When I came into ministry, I, so to speak, signed up with him in this union to do ministry, and so, therefore, it would have some implications, like making sure that I'm [48:30] in step with what he's doing. You see what I'm trying to get at? Ministry is not our ministry, and it's not just something we're trying to emulate or be obedient to. It's actually his ministry that I'm in union with, and I'm doing it with him.

In a certain sense, for example, Christ is pastoring Village Baptist Church. I just happen to be in union with him, and so I'm there with him doing it. I don't understand that, [49:00] except I have to understand that in a certain sense because if I really understand that, then what does that—what's the implication? I mean, go ahead. There's no right or wrong answer, but what's the implication if that's true? Ministry is participation in this union. What would that suggest?

Audience Member: [49:20] [inaudible]

[49:24] Yes, right. What else?

Audience Member: [49:28] [inaudible] regardless [49:31] [inaudible]

[49:33] Yes but get in step with what he's doing, yeah.

Audience Member: [49:36] [inaudible] that he must be in union with Christ [49:39] [phonetic]

[49:40] Yes, one of the certain im—implications is waking up each day in ministry and saying, "I gotta figure out what He's doing," right? What is He doing? I might—I gotta make sure I'm in step with that—I'm in this union with Him. So, ministry, in its very essence, [50:00] is a participation so that in this union, his father is our father. His ministry is our ministry. So, for example, what does scripture tell us about Christ's present ministry? What is doing right now?

Audience Member: [50:15] [inaudible]

[50:16] He's doing this work of intersession Hebrews—what—7 tells us, which suggests that, if we're in union with him, then we too are intercessors. If we're not praying over our ministry in [50:30] profound ways, we're probably—not probably—we're out of step. We're not engaged in what He's doing. He is speaking.

Is He still speaking today? I think He's speaking all the time. The very nature of God is revelatory. I mean, part of the essence of—of Him is that He is word. Jesus comes as simply living word. Scripture is written word. It's all [51:00] word, right? If we're in union with Him, our ministry is largely revelatory. It's the very nature of ministry so that something of a thus say it the Lord should be flowing out of us.

His ministry is prophetic, therefore, our ministry is prophetic. His ministry priestly, therefore, our ministry is priestly and sagely and kingly, and without this union, if there is not this union, [51:30] then ministry is cast adrift to become something else. It becomes something else of our own invention.

So, when somebody comes along and says, "Say, hey, so what kind of—what ministry you guys doing these days," well, actually, that's not a very good question, is it? The question is what? What is God up to, and I get these from Purvis from h—from another book he's written that's helped me to think this through. [52:00] Let me just start with the first one, and then, I think this is all we're gonna have time for with our five minutes left or so.

Ministry is a participation is what? It's a participation in word. Christ ministry was, in essence, a ministry of word, and so, in our union, our ministry, in essence, is a—is a ministry of word. There should be something of thus say it the Lord [52:30] that kind of flows out of us. If we call this thing ministry, if we believe we're in ministry, which means we're in this union participating with his ministry, something of God's word should be flowing out of us.

People should not be so enamored with us, our teachings but just that they are hearing God through us, and we do this why? Because his word ultimately interprets and heals [53:00] the human condition. I mean, we want to be this. It's not like, oh, okay, this is a burden. No, if left to us, our own words, we're not gonna do much.

We want our ministry to be his word because His word is what interprets what gets down to the kernel, to real issue, to the motives, to the heart, and then, it's His word that is, alone, able to heal the heart. You all believe that, don't you? I just wondered how many of my colleagues really today [53:30] believe that because it's so rare to find real ministry from the pulpit.

It's really word center, or maybe sometimes, even in a counseling office or in a lot of things, it is the word that travels into territory where psychology and every other discipline cannot go, into the mystery of the human condition, and our essential task as ministers is to move the [54:00] conversation into the ground of the word of God. For example, I've got a—a woman who comes to me recently and she says, "Now, I just want you to know that I've really given my life to Christ, and I really want to follow him, but I want to get out of my marriage," and because she feels nothing anymore for him and sh—and he feels nothing anymore for her and it's just a dead end, it's going nowhere.

I know a lot can be said and it—and—and—and there's a lot of things that need to [54:30] be explored, but ultimately, in all of that, my ministry involves ministering word. Okay, so, ultimately, what does God say about this? No matter how difficult it may be to hear, it can't be grounded on one's feelings, for that would be to cast people back upon themselves when they need to cast themselves on Jesus, who comes as the living word of God. [55:00] Ministry, in its essence, is participation with Christ in this ministry of word whereby He is speaking and we become the physical voice.

We are the instrument of word. Now, don't misunderstand me. It's not like, well, so, really essential counseling is just, you know—is just quote a lot of versus of scripture. [55:30] That's all you need. It's certainly a lot more involved than that, but ultimately, there has to be word in this exchange.

Just as in the pulpit, there ultimately has to be word, not our word but God's free and gracious address coming forth an authority and power and grace. One writer put it this way—"It is a word entirely of its own order, and it's never in our [56:00] power to speak it. It is a word which, in its own power and majesty, stands against all other words. It is the antithesis of human capacity. There is not a word lying latently with a person to be drawn out."

I mean, that's the conviction you come to. It's not, you know—people just need to hear really deep inside of me what my most profound thought is. What they really need is they need to hear God, [56:30] and I just need to make sure that I'm the instrument to—to let it speak.

Okay, so, let me sum up. Ministry is, in its essence—it is, first of all, what? It is service. Secondly, in its very essence, it is what? It is participation. Participation—it's speaking about what?

Audience Member: [56:55] [inaudible]

[56:56] About union—union with Christ—[57:00] a participation that begins with participation in word—I hope we're all realizing this is theo—this is the theology of ministry that's gotta guide our ministry. We'll figure out methodology, but if we don't start here, we're gonna get it all messed up. Okay, have a great week.