Read Deuteronomy 1:9-13
It was a tremendous burden for Moses to lead the nation by himself. He could not accomplish the task single-handedly. Like nations, as organizations and churches grow, the become increasingly complex. Conflicting needs and quarrels arise. No longer can one leader make all the decisions. Like Moses, you may have a natural tendency to try to do all the work alone. You may be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Moses made a wise decision to share the leadership with others. Rather than trying to handle larger responsibilities alone look for ways of sharing the load so that others may exercise their God-given gifts and abilities.
Why is Moses eager to share leadership?
Who has been like a Moses to you, reminding you of God’s faithfulness (past and future)?
Is it time for you to move on in your spiritual journey? Where to? With whom? What for? What is your next step? What has prepared you so far for this?
What “shared ministry” model do you you see here that might apply to your group ministry?
For what counsel might your peers look to you? In turn, where do you find justice?
Jesus was given the title of servant both as one who serves, others (Lk 22:26) or, more significantly, as a suffering servant (is 53) who gave his life as a ransom for many. Then he was given the title Son of Man (used almost 70 times in the New Testament) as a sign of His earthly ministry of service, and humiliation. Then he was called Prophet preaching, the reign of God and calling forth the presence of God in people.
“The Laity: Called and Gifted.” It says things like this:
“One of the chief characteristics of all men and women today is their growing sense of being adult members of the church… laymen and women feel themselves called to exercise the same mature independence and particular self-direction which characterize them in other areas of life. Because lay women and men do experience intimacy, support, acceptance and availability in family life they seek the same in their Christian communities…”
And one lay minister put it:
“We are called by God to speak his Word within the church our rehearsal stage for speaking his Word in the world… The laity by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plans of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and all the secular professions and occupations. I see lay ministry, I see the lay minister, particularly the professional minister, as the primary symbol and leader for the lay person in discerning his own apostolate beyond his immediate environment, to the needs of the world that are crying for him or her.”
If we want to get down to the very roots, ministry is grounded in the basic needs of all human beings. The simple fact is that we are all born with needs and therefore depend on others to fulfill them. Sometimes this is looked upon as a regretful, embarrassing, and sad human deficiency. On the contrary, to have needs is a positive thing. Having needs is full of value for it is fundamental to our humanity to know that we are finite, that we are never self-fulfilled but are fulfilled in and with others. The glory of humanity is fulfilled in God. It’s a restatement of Augustine’s observation that our hearts were made for God and are quite restless until they rest in Him.
The truth is then, that no human being just exists; rather we exist in relationship from the moment of birth. Our needs are a necessary correlative to human completion. And ministry is our code word for reacting to those needs with a sense, that we, in the very act of ministering, are God’s instruments.
Give the community some handle on its ministers, some way of ongoing testing, some means of verifying and discerning competency, some ways of legitimately terminating the obstructionist.
Community determine the ministries and not the other way. By focusing on the local community we are realizing priorities and indicating that such communities will not so much receive ministers as spawn them.
A strong sense of identity, of belonging to the same community of being responsible for one another, and of always being under the judgment of the gospel, made the first Christian gatherings ideal: There is no question they promoted many ministries and celebrated a variety of gifts. By giving close scrutiny to our local congregations by renewing the life of the church, by seeing ourselves “planted where we are,” we have a better chance to overcome the tensions that arise as people, cleric and lay, come together in the name of the Lord.
Our second building block is the concept of the servant-leader. “A disciple implies that one is a pilgrim, is still trying to comprehend, still learning. To be a disciple in a whole community of disciples implies mutual concern and mutual ministry in the name of the master who binds all together with his Spirit. In this model, the genuine leader is the one who is the best disciple. The best disciple is the one who best imitates Jesus who acted as servant and washed the feet of all.”
As Robert Greenleaf expresses it in his remarkable book, Servant Leadership:
“A new moral principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving of one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader. Those who choose to follow this principle will not casually accept the authority of existing institutions. Rather they will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants. To the extent that this principle prevails in the future, the only truly viable institutions will be those that are pre-dominantly servant-let.”
The notion of the servant-leader is probably the only solid ground on which to build ministry, the only way that clergy and laity are going to come to terms. It must be his understanding that power in the church is intimately related to servanthood, that power in the church is intimately related to servanthood, that powerlessness from the cross is still the most powerful invitation to obedience. Henri Nouvens reflection is helpful.
“… real ministers, real servants, are powerless. They can not even decide how to be servants. If training and formation are valuable, it is not because they offer us some power, but because they lead us to powerless availability. To be a minister is to be without power… Ministers do not even have the power of knowledge. Their years of study only lead them to the humble awareness of the inscrutable mystery, of God and to the ever-deepening realization that in Good’s presence they can only stutter, or better, be silent…”
From the beginning, the community of the local church evokes the ministries that will best serve its needs. The ministers who respond do so as servants of the community. The leader is leader because he or she qualities as most faithful servant. So far so good. But another factor is needed if we are to resolve the tensions within ministry. Another building block is required – formation. God will is not enough. There must be some back-grounding, some training, some formation. There must be some schooling to acquire the necessary skills to minister. Their must be formation.
This, in turn, is a way of saying that the essential and critical foundation of all formation is spirituality. A profound sense of service of washing of the feet is the only way to keep ourselves humble, and, literally and figuratively “in touch” with all the people.
Spirituality concentrates on the WHY: why we are doing ministry, why we are motivated, and why we were chosen. Alfred Hughes says:
“As we explore the possibilities of the present movement in church history, it becomes clearer that the sound of spiritual maturation of potential church ministries is extremely central. The role of the church is not just to multiply service to others. It is further the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ… This understanding of church ministry means that those who enter it must have grown in sufficient depth in faith and moral living to be able to help others do the same. They must be moving into greater communion with God, a deeper conversion of heart, a more expansive charity and a more mature love for the church… It is spiritual maturity that draws others do maturity in their lives. It is holiness that attracts others to a holy way of life.”
Lay ministry is, as we have indicated so often mission orientated, based on the Lord’s impulse to “baptize all nations,” to be a living sign, to be a saint. This is the real call to ministry: to open our lives so that they may be used, like Christ’s to heal the world’s pain and suffering. To this extent, ministry is never really something we do, but rather the response to those gifts each of us has been given.
The fundamental formation about which we are speaking is a spiritual formation. We need guidance in getting in touch with the depth of our own lives to discover what God is already doing there. We learn to listen, to respond, to meditate, to see our own lives in interconnectedness with all of creation to be familiar with the great spiritual masters, to pray and to find resurrection through the cross. It is only when ministers; ordained and non-ordained, tap into the gospel roots together that there is any possibility of working out the perplexing relationships between them that exist now. It is only when ministers, ordained and non-ordained, tap into the gospel roots together that Christian servant-hood, ministry and community are possible.
One doesn’t become a minister to become a minister, that is to do the ministerial state. One becomes a minister to DO ministry, that is, to fulfill the function of a minister.
One must be authentic Christian before one can effectively do Christian ministry. The more authentically Christian one is, the more effective one’s ministry.
Yves Congar O. P., perhaps this century’s greatest ecclesiologist, speaks of various levels of ministry. He suggests that there are three levels. The first is general ministry, rooted in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and expressed in various occasional, spontaneous, and passing services-for example, parents catechizing their children, a married couple giving advice to others who might be having difficulty in marriage, individuals visiting the sick and imprisoned or leading Bible study groups. The second is publicly recognized ministries more directly related to the needs and habitual activities of the church. And the third level is ordained ministries.
Father Thomas F. O’Meara, offers a readily discoverable definition in his book, Theology of Ministry, Christian ministry “is the public activity of a follower of Jesus Christ flowing from the Spirit’s charism and an individual personality on behalf of a Christian community to witness to serve and realize the kingdom of God.”
Ministry, according to Father O’Meara, has six characteristics: (1) doing something; (2) for the kingdom; (3) in public; (4) on behalf of a Christian community (5) which is an activity with its own limits and identify within a diversity of ministerial actions.
General/universal ministry is any service (which is the root meaning of the word ministry) rendered to another person or group of people who happen to be in need of that service. The call to ministry in this first sense is ministry that has nothing instrinsically to do with religion. Example of this ministry include taking care of a single parents children, shopping for an elderly neighbor or contributing to a fund for starving people.
General/specific ministry is any special service rendered by people specifically called to serve others in the so-called helping professions and other service occupations such as nursing, social work and legal aid. Their ministry is rooted not only in their humanity but also in a particular competence that is publicly certified or validated in one way or another such as by licensing.
Christian/universal ministry is any general service rendered to others in Christ and because in our church. Accordingly every member of the Church is called to ministry in this sense. And in fact, when Christians perform the services in general/universal ministry, their actions are Christian/universal if performed out of explicitly Christian motives.
Christian/specific ministry is any general service rendered to others in Christ and because of Christ in the name of the Church and for the sake of helping the Church fulfill its mission. The call to ministry in this fourth and most specific sense is rooted in some form or act of designation by the Church itself. Thus it is sometimes called designated at ministry. Relatively few members of the Church are called to ministry in this sense.
Of course, what ultimately grounds each of these four levels of ministry is the gracious action of the Holy Spirit. Each of us, Christian or not, ordained or not , is empowered by God, the author and source of all life and of all gifts to do good for others, that is, to render unselfish service to our neighbors. The empowering charism-bestowing God we call the Holy Spirit.
And every level of ministry in turn is oriented to the same reality-namely, the coming Kingdom of God, a kingdom not only of holiness and grace, but of justice, love, and peace.
The Kingdom of God is as broad and as overarching as the will of God is broad and overarching. In God, of course, everything is one. God is not separate from the will of God. if the Kingdom of God is the will of God in force, then the Kingdom of God is God. More precisely the Kingdom of God is God insofar as God is redemptively present and active in the human heart, in the midst of a group of people, in community, in institutions and movements, in the world at large, in nature, in the cosmos.
The Kingdom of God is a past, present, and future all at once. The Kingdom of God has already broken in to history. We see reference after reference to it in the Old Testament. The Kingdom of God is a present reality-our God is a living God and the will of God is being fulfilled even now. Finally the kingdom of God is a coming, or future, reality. Indeed the Lord taught us to pray: “The kingdom come, thy will be done…”
How does the kingdom come about? First, it is always the kingdom of God. God, not humans, brings about the kingdom. On the other hand, God invites and requires human collaboration in the realization of the Kingdom. We are co-workers with God in the coming of God’s final reign over all creation.
Our human efforts don’t create the Kingdom but they are “of vital concern” to it. In other words, we don’t know precisely how our efforts contribute to the coming of the kingdom, but we do know that they have some significant connection with it.
The Kingdom is for everyone. In fact, many people in the kingdom are not in the Church, and many people in the Church are not in the Kingdom.
In the final accounting “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Ministry helps God’s will to be fulfilled for other people, for the Church, and for the whole world.
The mission of the Church is the proclamation, celebration, signification, and service of the kingdom of God: word, worship, witness, and service.
Do you think that one’s particular denomination makes much difference in the way one defines ministry? If so, how? If not, why not?
Do you think there has been too much or too little emphasis on ordained ministry? Do you regard recent theological and ecumenical developments as restoring some balance or making matters worse? Explain.
The definition of ministry is inextricably linked with the nature and mission of the Church. Do you think that differences of opinion about ministry, even within the same denomination, usually reflect more fundamental differences regarding the Church? Give examples.
What ministries do you think the Church could easily do without because they’ve outlined their purpose or usefulness? What types of ministries, not now on the books, will the Church have to develop as it moves into the next century?
If you were invited to speak what three points about ministry would you most want to make?
If you were asked to put together an advertising campaign to interest more lay people in church ministries, how would you go about it? What points would you most emphasize?
Do you remember when you said “yes” to Jesus? How long ago was it? A few months, maybe years? I said “yes” to the Lord in November 1964 when I was a teenager. But I also said “yes” to Him just the other day.
After a row with Ken, I escaped to the shopping mall with a friend to get my mind off the quarrel. While meandering past a sales rack of blouses, I could no longer contain my self-pity. I began sobbing right next to a couple of mannequins. I couldn’t hide my face in a tissue, and my wheelchair was too big for me to escape behind several clothes racks. All I could do was sit there, cry, and stare at the mannequins with the plastic smiles.
While wiping my eyes with the backside of my hand splint, I knew what I had to do. In between sobs, I said out loud what I’ve said so many times before, “Yes, Jesus, I choose you. I don’t choose self-pity or resentment. I say ‘yes’ to your control of my life!”
Even though my face was still wet, my heart filled with peace. Nothing about my husband had changed. Shoppers on the other side of the store still picked through the racks… teenagers still ambled by giggling, and eating popcorn… but everything was different because of my peaceful heart. Because I said “yes” to Jesus.
(From Diamonds in the Dust by Joni Eareckson Tada)
To choose against God (your control of your life) brings emptiness and pain – death. To choose God’s control of your life brings blessings and fulfillment. Have you turned over control of your life to God? He offers a relationship open to all people. Today, accept Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, then you can experience his promises of peace in your life.
BIO:Thomas Dewitt Talmage 1832-1902 American Presbyterian minister.
Thomas Dewitt Talmage was a lawyer before his conversion. Upon entering
the ministry, he served three Reformed churches in New Jersey, New
York, and Pennsylvania, and also two Presbyterian churches in New York
and Washington, D.C. After serving as a chaplain in the Union Army
during the Civil War, he built a tabernacle in Brooklyn in 1870. It was
burned by vandals in 1872. It was rebuilt but burned again in 1889, and
again in 1894. Talmage served as pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church in Washington, D.C., from 1895 until 1899. His sermons were
printed in 3,500 newspapers each Sunday across America and Europe. He
also edited The Christian Herald and authored more than 500 sermons,
which were published as a complete set. Preaching without the aid of
notes, his oratorical powers were compared to those of George
Whitefield, and his poetic expression to that of Shakespeare and
Milton. Over 30,000 people received the Lord Jesus Christ as personal
Sa- viour during Talmage’s ministry as pastor.