Christian Ministry

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Body Life Church and Ministry

Posted by on 04 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Church

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

1 Cor. 14:26 ESV

Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

Eph. 5:18–19 NLT

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Col. 3:16 NLT

[emphasis mine]

A Body Life Church is a fellowship of believers who seek to minister to each other by calling everyone to faith in God, love of Christ, and service to others. Body Life is about relationships: a growing, deepening love affair with God and mutual concern for one another. This mutual concern is reflected in a quick response to spiritual and physical needs, frank and open discussions, and forgiving and selfless attitudes.

Body Life is about coming to the primary Sunday worship service ready to minister whether one is the pastor, a worship team member, or a parishioner. Body Life is coming to church services prepared to give life as well as receive it. Body Life is not sitting passively sitting in the pew, but outwardly looking for opportunities to bless others.

True Christian ministry is the overflow of the Life of God in us. Ministry is not a position, but a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. We spend time with Christ, Christ reveals himself afresh to us. The overflow of that experience is life, that life encourages and blesses others. Ministry is not a title, but the release of our love of Christ for others. When all of us engage in true ministry as overflow to one another, we are walking in Body Life.

Body Life ministry begins with each parishioner attending services ready to bless, encourage, and exhort others to greater trust in Christ. Body Life ministry is a celebration of spiritual gifts; all members of the body are encouraged to discover and trust the Holy Spirit with the use of their giftings. Body Life says that every member is valuable, every member is is a conduit for God’s grace, every member can be used by God to bless others.

Body Life ministry is a recognition that all believers are ministers, not just the clergy. The purpose of the ministerial priesthood is to build up and equip the entire body of believers to be ministers in the church and for the world. Body Life ministry is a pervasive spirit of love and unity, resulting in an attractive, persuasive evangelistic witness to the world (Eph. 4:11-12; John 13:35).

Every Sunday at Lamb of God: A Three Streams Church, we take time in our worship service to minister to one another in the Spirit of Christ (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16) We come prepared to share a word of prophecy, release a word of knowledge, explain a scripture text, or share a devotional thought during an allotted ministry time. We pray that each week God graces us with his Holy Spirit that we might do the words and perform the works of Jesus.

In Colossians, the Apostle Paul includes Body Life as a true mark of Christian worship and devotion (Col. 3:15-17). In Ephesians, fullness of the Spirit is linked to encouragement, inspired singing, and thankfulness (Eph. 5:18-20). In First Corinthians, mutual ministry is encouraged for the building up of the church. Peter encourages us to maintain an urgency in our worship relying on Christ to empower us to minister to one another because the second coming of Christ is imminent (1 Peter 4:7-11).

The church is a living organism. In the physical body, the hand moves when the brain says to. So too the members of Jesus’ spiritual body takes direction from Him as our Head. Jesus gives each member gifts and talents, making himself alive within his church. He equips his people to love one another, and to serve in unity his kingdom. This is Body Life.

Ray Stedman, Body Life

You Are God’s Sword

Posted by on 29 Jun 2012 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.

1 Cor. 1:21 NLT

Christian ministry is the overflow of the Life of God in us. Ministry is not a position, but a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. We spend time with Christ, Christ reveals himself afresh to us. The overflow of that experience is life, that life encourages and blesses others.

Ministry is communicating “life information” to others: why he loves, what God does, when he speaks, where he works, and how he transforms. Ministry is sharing with others how God has been faithful in our lives and how God will be faithful in theirs. Ministry is encouraging others to trust Christ’s work on the Cross, the Father’s faithful provision, and the Holy Spirit’s consistent guidance.

Christian ministry is God operating through our weaknesses, we become his instrument as a witness to God’s great grace, testimony to God’s faithfulness, and a expression of his love. We are God’s swords used to expose darkness, declare God’s Word, and embody the gospel.

Remember you are God’s sword—His instrument—I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne quoted in Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), 282.

What Is Christian Ministry? (Part Two)

Posted by on 08 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Lesslie Newbigin

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.

What Is Christian Ministry? (Part One)

Posted by on 06 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, John Newton

 

Ministry is a Relationship with a Person

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Tim. 4:5

True Christian ministry is the overflow of the Life of God in us. Ministry is not a position, but a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. We spend time with Christ, Christ reveals himself afresh to us. The overflow of that experience is life, that life encourages and blesses others.

Ministry is communicating “life information” to others: why he loves, what God does, when he speaks, where he works, and how he transforms. Ministry is sharing with others how God has been faithful in our lives and how God will be faithful in theirs. Ministry is encouraging others to trust Christ’s work on the Cross, the Father’s faithful provision, and the Holy Spirit’s consistent guidance.

The message I would bear is Jesus Christ and him crucified and from the consideration of the great things he has done, to recommend and enforce Gospel holiness and Gospel love, and to take as little notice of our fierce contests, controversies and divisions as possible. My desire is to lift up the banner of the Lord, and to draw the sword of the Spirit not against names, parties and opinions, but against the world, the flesh and the devil; and to invite poor perishing sinners not to espouse a system of my own or any man’s, but to fly to the Lord Jesus, the sure and only city of refuge and the ready, compassionate and all sufficient Saviour of those that trust in him.

John Newton, Letter to Harry Crooke of Hunslett, Leeds, cited in Marylynn Rouse, “An Important Turn to My Future Life,” The John Newton Project Prayer Letter (October/November 2008), 1.

Dealing with Despair

Posted by on 29 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Christian Missions, Discouragement

 

Debilitating Discouragement

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Gal. 6:9 NASB

Despair is an emotional state that convinces our hearts that our circumstances are bigger than God’s all-encompassing power. Despair is used by Satan to cause us to doubt God’s goodness, fear God’s sovereign plan, and reject God’s promises. Despair immobilizes our spirits making us feel drained over past events, pessimistic about future possibilities, and discouraged about our present conditions.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah experienced a similar despondency (1 Kings 19). Elijah fled to Mt. Horeb in fear because of Queen Jezebel’s threats. He sinks into despair over Israel’s apostasy. Israel did not respond to Elijah’s call to revival. Elijah is distraught over their inaction and spiritual declension. Elijah is baffled by Israel’s lack of repentance after God mighty displays of power on Mt. Carmel.

Elijah’s depression is so great that God must speak to him in a “still small voice” in order to awaken his inner man. The Lord commands Elijah to get back to work and do the things that prophets do. The Lord wants him to snap out out of his discouraged funk. Therefore, Elijah begins the raising up and appointing process for new leaders. These leaders will govern over Israel’s spiritual, national, and international obligations.

Like Elijah, the Lord will call on us to step out and over our despair. The Lord’s commands carry within them the grace to obey. He will strengthen us to overcome whether we are “feeling it” or not. Therefore, despair is defeated by making deliberate choices to live the everyday Christian life: obey biblical truth, do God’s revealed will, and trust God’s covenant promises.

Sometimes I feel  . . . that my cross is heavy beyond endurance . . . my heart seems worn out and bruised beyond repair, and in my deep loneliness I often wish to be gone, but God knows best, and I want to do every ounce of work He wants me to do.

C. T. Studd cited in World Shapers: A Treasury of Great Quotes from Great Missionaries, ed., Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddemann (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1991), 41.

For a long time I felt much depressed after preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to apparently insensible hearts; but now I like to dwell on the love of the great Mediator, for it always warms my own heart, and I know that the gospel is the power of God–the great means which He employs for the regeneration of our ruined world.

David Livingstone cited in World Shapers: A Treasury of Great Quotes from Great Missionaries, ed., Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddemann (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1991), 42.

Don’t Give Up So Easily

Posted by on 12 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Church Fathers, Dallas Willard, Hearing God, J. Sidlow Baxter

open_doors_0001

Opportunities and Opposition

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

1 Cor 16:9 KJV

God’s call may be an inward drawing, an internal prodding, or a wooing sense in one’s spirit. On occasion, God’s direction may come as an outward audible voice, which sounds much like our own human voice (1 Sam. 3: 1-21). Mostly, God speaks in our hearts as a thought that is much like our own reasoning. God’s thought appears to come out of nowhere and is not an idea we normally would have conceived. Dallas Willard calls this type of inward direction, “a God characteristic type of thought” (1 Kings 19: 12). God is not playing a cat and mouse game disappearing when we most need him. He is no trickster playing with our lives while we stumble around in the dark. The Lord will make his will known even if he has to repeat it continually.

God’s call may lead us to a season of difficulty and opposition from the enemy (Matt. 4:1). Trials do not indicate that we missed God or somehow lost our way. The very thing that God most desires to accomplish in us and through us, intimacy with him, is the very thing that the kingdom of darkness wants to oppose. We should not allow difficulties and discouragements to prevent us from obeying the call of God. If we obey and trust God’s call, the Lord will be glorified by our obedience and our faith will grow exponentially.

There are open doors in every life, doors to high achievement and wide usefulness and spiritual discovery. Many of us, in moods which we allow too often, look upon our circumstances in life as barriers to attainment; but in our moments of truer perception we discern that the imagined prison bars are in reality open doors of opportunity. Our circumstances only look like barriers because the inward eye by which we recognize spiritual values is diseased.

But there are never open doors without opposition. . . . There is an opportunity in every difficulty and difficulty in every opportunity. That is why so many blessings are missed, so many heights left unscaled, so many chapters of service left unwritten. Some of the finest foreign missionaries are those who never went! They heard the call, they felt the urge, they were keen to go, they saw the open door and would had gone through; but there were adversaries, obstacles, discouragements; there was hesitation; the vision faded; and the grand vocation was never fulfilled.

J. Sidlow Baxter, Awake my Heart: Daily Devotional Meditations for the Year (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1960), 10.

It was precisely because the opportunities were so great that Paul had so many adversaries. The devil is always active when he risks losing his booty.

John Chrysostom cited in 1 & 2 Corinthians: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 186.

Have You Listened Lately?

Posted by on 03 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Listening Ministry

But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.

Psalm 66:19 NLT

Ministry does not start with talking, it starts with listening. Paying attention to a friend’s needs, cares, longings, and desires is the utmost sign of respect and concern. Christ’s love is extended when we stop, hold our tongue, and listen to others’ problems. As we listen, we pray for the Holy Spirit to minister to their pain asking Christ to heal their hurt.

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.

HT: reformation21

“Handle Them With Hands”

Posted by on 17 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Holy Spirit, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Puritans

Ministry That Is Full of the Spirit

And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.

Acts 6:3 NLT

When I entered the ministry some thirty years ago (it seems like yesterday), the emphasis was on the Holy Spirit’s power. Christian leaders taught that Christian ministry should not be pursued without the Spirit’s blessing. Our ministry could not be successful without the Spirit’s enabling. Our ministry would not have a lasting impact without the anointing of the Spirit. Our ministry could not change hearts without the transforming work of the Spirit. All these statements were true and are still true.

While these “spiritual” concerns were real and should be heeded by any gospel minister: we should not neglect diligent study of the Word, faithful theological reflection, and research into the latest insights in pastoral care and counseling. Emphasis on the Spirit’s anointing should not displace diligent and faithful study. “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NLT).

It’s not an either-or, God blesses the minister with a yielded heart and a faithful mind. We worship and serve the Lord in “Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We are called to love the Lord with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

However for today’s new minister, the pendulum has swung the other direction. For the training of new pastors, the academic is over emphasized to the neglect of spiritual maturity. The obtaining of advance degrees more prized than a ministry candidate’s prayer life. The size of the congregation more valued than than the depth of the minister’s walk with the Lord.

We need both: faithful men and women who will walk with God while consistently acting on the means of grace: study of the Word of God, earnest prayer, receiving the sacraments, and fellowshipping with other believers.

This practice he [i.e., David Brainerd] earnestly recommended on his death-bed, from his own experience of its great benefits, to some candidates for the ministry that stood by his bedside. He often speaking of the great need of ministers have much of the Spirit of Christ in their work, and how little good they are like to do without it; and how, ‘when ministers were under the special influences of the Spirit of God, it assisted them to come at consciences of men, and (as he expressed it) as it were to handle them with hands: whereas, without the Spirit of God, said he, whatever reason and oratory we make use of, we do but make use of stumps, instead of hands.’

Jonathan Edwards quoted by D. M. Lloyd-Jones, “Jonathan Edwards and the Crucial Importance of Revival,” in The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 370.

We Should Never Assume

Posted by on 11 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Evangelical, Evangelism, Missions

Evangelical Essentials (Part Thirteen)

We persuade men [people].

2 Cor. 5:11 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul did not sit back and assume that people had grasped the gospel. He was actively engaged in overcoming their objections by persuading men and women to yield their lives to the Lord of creation. Paul actively participated with the Holy Spirit in attempting to win hearts to the loving Savior.

The Bible says that, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30 KJV). As Christ is living his life in us, we will be fruit bearers. People will want to come to us and pluck that fruit of the Spirit in order to be refreshed. That attraction is an opportunity from the Holy Spirit to bring them to Christ. We are called to “watch to see where God is working and join him.”

[Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, Preteen Edition (Nashville, TN: Lifeway, 1994), 11.]

We must tell others what motivates us. What If I run out of  a room as fast as I can, how do you know for what reason I run? Have I looked out the window and seen my automobile being stolen? Is the phone ringing and I need to answer it? Is the building on fire and I need to save myself? How do you know unless I tell you? In same way, how do families, friends, and neighbors know the reason for my service unless I tell them that I am motivated by God’s love for me and my love for him? I must tell them.

Brothers and sisters, it is not enough to say that the liturgy contains the gospel message; Christ calls us to be proactive in sharing the message of the Cross.

Primitive [Early Church] evangelism was by no means mere proclamation and exhortation: it included able intellectual argument, skillful study of scripture, careful closely reasoned teaching and patient argument”

[Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 160.]

We should be mindful of the advice of Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, and other notables of the Great Awakening, “Pastors should be faithfully working toward entirely converted churches.” We should never assume that everyone in our parish knows our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must not take for granted that just because someone was baptized in a church or raised in a religious environment that they have an intimate, on-going, dynamic relationship with Jesus. We cannot assume the salvation of our congregations.

Spiritual Manipulation

Posted by on 19 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: A. W. Tozer, Christian Ministry

nicodemus1

Only God Opens Hearts

About the intimate workings of the Holy Spirit in the human heart there is a highly personal relationship in which no third person can share. The sacred work of redemption was wrought in darkness. No strange eye could see what was taking place when the sins of the world entered the holy soul of Christ that He might die under their weight and thus make his life a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46).

That there is a deep mystery about the new birth is plainly stated by our Lord.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:8-12).

It is bordering on the irreverent to suggest that this sovereign work of the Spirit can be induced at the will of a personal worker by means of a textual recipe. The moment this is attempted, the Spirit withholds His illumination and leaves the worker and the seeker to their own designs. And the tragic consequences are all about us.

All any Christian worker can do is to point the inquirer to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). That was all John the Baptist did. He did not attempt to create faith in any of his hearers. The Spirit alone can open the heart, as John well knew. It is our task to arrest the sinner’s attention, give him the message of the cross, urge him to receive it and meet its conditions. After that the seeker is on his own. The individual is out of the hands of the instructors and helpers and in the hands of the God with whom he has to do.

A. W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 152.

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