Blessings of Ministry
In the last quarter of this year, God opened up the door for me to relocate for employment. Amongst all the changes associated with this move, there have been blessings such as getting to know a new community, finding a local church to join, and having a good work environment. There have also been aspects of my life left behind which I miss, such as family and friends, a familiar environment, and my prior local church involvement. In the midst of all these changes associated with my move, I have found myself with a greater appreciation of and longing for local church ministry.
It is said, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” My time not being involved in local church ministry while searching for a church to join has sharpened my appreciation for local ministry. At the ascension, Jesus gave a command that guides the existence and conduct of Christians while on earth:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” – Matthew 28:18-20
Because Jesus has all authority, we’re to make disciples. “Go”, “baptizing”, and “teaching” are participles modifying the command to make disciples. So, while on earth, Christians have been left with the guiding command to make disciples; this includes initial gospel proclamation and baptism, teaching Christians about God’s Word and consequent obedience, and “going” in the pursuit of accomplishing those tasks.
In addition to the command to make disciples, Scripture also addresses our use of spiritual gifts:
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” – Romans 12:6-8
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:10-11
As the above two texts show us, we’re commanded to use the spiritual gifts God has given us for the sake of Christian ministry and making disciples. If God has gifted us with abilities of service, teaching, contributing, leadership, etc., we’re to use those gifts in evangelizing to non-Christians and edifying Christians, all the while depending on God and striving to glorify Him.
Local church ministry is by no means the only way to fulfill the commands to make disciples and use our spiritual gifts for God’s glory. Those commands are readily fulfilled in our interpersonal interactions with others in our daily lives. Local ministry just provides a more structured and predictable arena for Christians to make disciples and use our gifts.
Another set of verses that should shape our desire to make disciples and use our spiritual gifts is in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
Here, we’re reminded of the transient and temporary nature of earthly treasures. They can be lost, stolen, and destroyed. Consequently, we’re told to have our treasures in heaven, which will then guide our heart.
The reminder in Scripture such as this – to pursue that which has a heavenly, eternal impact –should further stir our desire for making disciples and using our spiritual gifts; because engaging in both of those is engaging in something that will last beyond our time on earth.
To pull it together, the key thing I’ve been reflecting on and hope has been communicated through the Scripture texts above is this: we must strive to make disciples and use our spiritual gifts for God’s glory because not only has God commanded us to, but also because the fruit of those activities will have an eternal impact. We can fulfill these commands in both local church ministry and our daily interpersonal interactions with others. My time not involved in local ministry while searching for a church has fostered a greater appreciation for it. It is easy to get routine and unappreciative of local ministry when we engage in it week in and week out. However, we should never fail to appreciate local ministry for the opportunity it gives us to make an eternal impact in the lives of those around us.