Ministry is a word that has become a bit taboo among some Christians and some allergic reactions are so strong that the mere utterance of the “M” word causes an immediate shutdown of the auditory faculties. Understandably, people with this kind of negative response to the mere mention of ministry were usually victim to a hyper-active and over-zealous church that taught that ministry, specifically saving souls was everything.
To others, ministry is kind of a catch-all term for all Christian service. If one were to narrow the definition and limit the ministers to those who the most visible functions in the church, then you would be left with the evangelists who bring people into the church and disciplers who ensure that the new converts grow into mature followers of Christ.
The evangelists have the easier ministerial role in the sense that their methodology of choice is the gospel. Preach the gospel and people will be saved. The role of the discipler or spiritual mentor is much harder to define. There are as many different discipleship programs as there are churches. Some use Master Life, some use Survival Kit, some use home-grown classes, others rely solely on the work of the Holy Spirit. It seems like a perfect system – one group of leaders helps people get saved and the other group helps converts to grow and mature.
The Apostle Paul was part evangelist, part discipler, part pastor, part spiritual father. He wore many hats. But his methodology, if you want to call it that, was always consistent. Preach the gospel. He preached the gospel to non-believers and he preached the gospel to veterans of the faith who were straying a bit from the faith, or who were in sin, or who were beginning to deviate from the core Christian message. The gospel is the core Christian message which means it is the message that needs to be preached to save, but it is also the very same message that needs to be preached to those already believed to be mature in the faith so that they can be refocused or grow even further.
I think living out the Great Commission is a much better word choice than ministry. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey. What is the best discipleship program? What is a teaching that will help disciples of Christ to obey the will of God? The answer is the gospel. The gospel, therefore, needs to be preached throughout one’s Christian life. The gospel that God loves sinners and through the cross we are forgiven, redeemed and made whole so that we can be His witnesses in this world.
Ministry sounds so functional. Minister sounds like a job title. But Great Commission is a biblical truth and mandate for all Christians. And when we go out to the world to make disciples of all nations and when we are striving to teach new believers to obey, shouldn’t the gospel be at the core of what we believe and what we share? How to carry out the Great Commission disciple making in a practical church program with the gospel at the center is a challenge we all must face. Any ideas?