What Is Christian Ministry? (Part Two)

Jesus and People 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:11

Jesus liked people. Therefore, those who minister in Jesus’ name will like people, too. Seminaries cannot teach you about people: only experience can provide insights into people’s peculiarities, choices, attitudes, and issues. On one hand, people will serve, encourage, and love others with an energy and life that is both surprising and delightful. On the other hand, people can act with the most devious and self-serving of intentions. Their behavior defies all the rules of gracious and loving behavior. These same people who are simultaneously bewildering and benevolent attend our churches and work in various parachurch ministries.

Pastoral wisdom recognizes that Christian people are imperfect and that these people are the people that God uses to advance his kingdom. Pastoral care points people to Jesus, reminding them of his precious promises, and encouraging them to trust the Christ who died and rose again on their behalf.

Pastoral counsel uses Scripture to display God’s great grace and remind his people that Christ is available in power to live his life in and through them (1 John 4:9). Pastoral comfort makes available the sacramental grace (i.e., Eucharist, baptism, confession, etc.) of our Lord to the bewildered and hurting.

Christian ministry is about people, if you do not like people, you will not like Christian ministry. The same manner in which Jesus ministered in the Gospels is the same manner in which he will minister through us. Therefore as difficult as people can be, Jesus will want us to reach out to all.

The same principle holds good if we consider that other very common name for our office-minister, or servant. We are not made ministers in order that the rest of the Church may be excused from serving; we are made ministers in order to help the whole Church to be a serving Church and to lead it in this service. Just so, we are made priests in order that the whole Church may be trained to be a truly priestly body, fulfilling in its whole life the great High Priesthood of Jesus.

If we are called priests, it is not in order to keep the priestly function in our hands and exclude the rest from it; we are called priests in order that the whole body may be holy priesthood, and that every member in it may be trained and equipped and encouraged in every way to play his part in the priestly ministry of Jesus for the whole of mankind. If we are priests, we are such as priests of the priestly people, for the sake of the priesthood of the whole body.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Good Shepherd (Oxford: Mowbray, 1977), 43.

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