Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Model for Ministry

As Christians go about doing the work of the ministry, what kind of characteristics mark the life of a believer as that is lived out? While there's no shortage of articles that offer help in evangelism, church growth, discipleship, etc, and certainly they are helpful and edifying,we can look to a passage in Acts that very simply lays out some basic characteristics that should be present in our lives as we do ministry. Paul begins by laying the foundation of his ministry lived out before the Ephesians, namely "serving the Lord". I think we would all say that the desire to serve the Lord is high on our list of priorities in our walk with Him. The apostle Paul puts forth in Acts 20:17-21 in his farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, four characteristics that should mark our lives as we minister in Christ.
Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time—  serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews—  and that I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching it to you in public and from house to house.  I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:17-21 HCSB)
Humility - Some say that if you recognize that you have it, that you don't have it anymore. I don't believe that to be an entirely accurate statement for the believer. If you possess you humility, you have to understand it to be a fruit of the Spirit and therefore it is God's grace working out in your life. Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians 15: 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me. Paul here acknowledged the hard work in his life, but at the same time acknowledged that it was not of himself, but God's grace. We, like Christ must esteem others above ourselves. This also involves submitting ourselves to the headship of Christ in our lives, knowing that we are enslaved to Him. It is a process of growth in our Christian walk,  that ultimately everything in our lives is run through the filter of Scripture and a life of submission to Christ as our master.

Tears - Ministry is painful. Ask any pastor. It can be emotionally painful, spiritually painful, as well as sometimes physically painful. With the pain of ministry comes tears. Tears for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, tears for the lost, tears for false doctrine being taught around us. Paul was certainly no stranger to tears.  He proclaimed many times the anguish in his heart and tears for these very things. We must allow God to grow us so that we have more tears, yes, I said it, we need more tears. We need to have more and more tears for the lost that are passing on to eternal damnation. We need to have more tears for the brother or sister in Christ whose life is being torn apart by sin. We need to have more tears for those who are falling prey to false teachers. May God break our hearts with compassion....we need more tears.

Trials - Paul was certainly no stranger to trials. The very people that he longed to reach most - his Jewish brethren are the ones who persecuted and hated him the most. From stonings to death threats, Paul knew what it was like to minister under trials. Paul still did it. We can certainly expect trials in our lives as well. Paul stated in 2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. As we rightly proclaim the gospel in this dark world, so should we expect Satanic opposition to our proclamation of the good news. So how do we minister in the adversity of trials in our life? James has the key to this....JOY. A solid established joy in Christ that absolutely nothing can extinguish. James 1: 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Our trials are not meaningless. Through them God is producing something in us that is glorious beyond our comprehension in this life. We must pursue a Biblical understanding of trials so that we may work through our trials in a way that gives glory to God.

A bold proclamation of the gospel - Paul was never one to back down from a bold proclamation of the gospel. So we should not either. Paul was dedicated to a teaching of the Word, publicly and privately with absolutely no compromise - "I did not shrink back" He held the gospel message in the Scriptures with highest regard and certainly understood the profitable nature that the Word holds for the believer. We must stand before the world as ambassadors for Christ, and boldly proclaim the gospel. The gospel that Paul testified about: "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus"

May we all model our personal ministry after such a godly man!