Not so long ago I discussed the subjective nature of a ‘good’ sermon.
A good minister is not so subjective to assess as a sermon because the apostle Paul discusses it in his letters and he gives advice about a good minister 1Tim 4:6 and evangelist 2Tim 4:5 when writing to Timothy.
Ministers and preachers
First, one needs to distinguish between preachers and ministers. There is ‘ministry’ and there is ‘teaching’ Rom 12:7. Every Christian has a ministry. Ministry is service, and each Christian and the local congregation need to find out what gifts they have for their individual ministry in the Christian church. Preaching is different. Not every Christian has the gift of teaching, although they should practice it and learn it. Fewer Christians have the gift of public teaching and even fewer have been called by the Lord Jesus Christ to be set apart as preachers of the Gospel.
There are always too many preachers in the world – those whom Christ has called and equipped for the work on the one hand, and on the other hand those in the preaching office whom Christ has not called.
There are different ministries in the Christian church. There was an apostolic ministry Act 1:17,25 and before this there was a prophetic ministry Hos 12:10. There are those involved in ‘the ministry of the Word’ Act 6:4, who are ‘ministers of the new testament’ 2Cor 3:6 and 2Cor 4:1, ‘testifying the gospel of the grace of God’ Act 20:24. The ministry of the Christian church in general is ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ 2Cor 5:18 – reconciliation between God and man, and between man and man, through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace. There is also a ministry to the temporal needs of the brethren Act 12:25 with Act 11:29-30.
The classical text for Christian ministry is Eph 4:12 where Paul teaches that the offices in the Christian church Eph 4:11 are designed for equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, for edifying the body of Christ. This shows that the church is to develop the gifts and graces of the godly to improve their ministry.
Eph 4 emphasizes that the church is the body of Christ so that Christians ought to work together and to support each other. Paul wanted Archippus to consider the ministry which he had received in union with Christ and to exercise it to the full Col 4:17. All Christian ministry requires the enabling of Christ 1Tim 1:12. The concept of a ‘do-it-yourself Christian’ or a ‘go-it-alone Christian’ should be a rarity. Yet sometimes individuals have no guidance in specific areas of Christian ministry and they need to respond to the commands of Christ and to practice on their own without the help of others. Christian conversation is one of these neglected areas and yet it is one of the most important and effective means of grace for spreading the Gospel in a hostile environment where public preaching is denied or opposed.
Christian hospitality is another ministry 1Cor 16:15, demonstrating and providing Christian care to the needs of others. It has proved exceedingly beneficial for Christian outreach and bringing the Gospel to those who are unfamiliar with it. It is demonstrable that free food, shelter and car parking (!) will encourage people to attend meetings that they would not otherwise attend. Christians, sadly, are no different from the general public in this regard.
Christian hospitality is a ministry where Christian women come into their own Rom 16:1 as experience shows. Without their hospitality many outreach efforts by local congregations would flounder.
At last we reach good preachers. Such preach Christ freely to all who will listen. Others are a stumbling block 2Cor 6:3 obstructing access to Christ in the Free Offer of the Gospel 2Cor 5:20 and 2Cor 6:1-2. Paul goes on to give examples in 2Cor 6:4-11 of how patient, persevering and inoffensive preachers must be.
Paul explains at length to Timothy in his epistles how to make full proof of his ministry as an evangelist 2Tim 4:5, using the inspired Scripture that he may be personally balanced and developed in godliness as a Christian evangelist 2Tim 3:14-17, taking heed to himself as well as to the doctrine 1Tim 4:16. Paul says that the sign of a good minister of Jesus Christ is one who expounds the Scripture and explains the liberty the believer has in Jesus Christ against and contrasted with those who were imposing unbiblical traditions upon them 1Tim 4:6.
As for preaching itself, I have a number of blogposts on preaching: – the role of the pulpit, what should we expect from preachers, wise preaching, and balanced preaching. I have drawn attention to the biblical distinction between pastors and teachers. In a future blogpost I hope to show the difference between teaching and ruling elders – meanwhile, I am on ministry.
Ministers of Jesus Christ
Jesus explains ministry as service to others. Speaking of Himself, He said: ‘The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many’ Mat 20:28. He came to serve others. He was His Father’s Servant and He came to serve His people. Although He is their Lord, He served them. ‘If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet’ Jn 13:14, referring to the readiness with which Christians should forgive each other.
Christian ministry serves others, rather than expecting others to do our bidding, to be our servants.
How does this compare with those control freaks who throw their weight about in a congregation, contrary to Peter’s teaching 1Pe 5:3, imposing the traditions of men that Paul contradicts 1Tim 4:1-3 as a sign of a good minister 1Tim 4:6?
Congregational ministry is ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ 2Cor 5:18.
Each congregation needs ‘all hands on deck’. Preachers are to be pre-eminent in teaching and foremost in developing the gifts and graces of the saints and identifying their particular ministry.
Would God that such heaven-sent ministers would help you to identify your service in His Kingdom – that they would be helpers of your joy 2Cor 1:24 rather than a hindrance 2Cor 6:3 – building and edifying congregations in ‘the ministry of reconciliation’.
Does your congregation do so?
What ministry has the Lord given you? Take heart and serve Him as the best Master Who will not forget your work of faith and labour of love 1Th 1:3. It would be unrighteous for Him to do so Heb 6:10.
As John Bunyan put it so well so long ago: “Come and welcome to Jesus Christ”.