Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (ESV)
The layman or lay woman is the minister. Most people think the pastor is the minister. To minister means to care about, to do compassionate deeds, to love, to serve. Certainly every pastor should do these things, but this passage teaches the primary responsibility for works of ministry is for the average Christian.
This is directly opposite of the way that most people think. We tend to think that the members of the pastoral staff are the ministers. Consider the problems this creates.
Howard Hendricks, renowned former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, said, “The church today is like a football game: 40,000 people desperately in need of exercise watching 22 men desperately in need of rest.”
The goal of the great commission is to make disciples. Perhaps five thousand will graduate from seminary this year. But such a small contingent cannot disciple a few thousand people each.
Christianity has become, at least for some people, a spectator sport. It is an event to attend once per week. In the aftermath of COVID, many have dropped out of meeting at all. When we meet we gauge the quality of what we call the service. Yet this is not truly the service. This is the pep rally. It is only when we leave the place we gather or the Zoom call that we watch online, that we enter the real service.
Year ago there was a commercial in which two generals fought one another while their armies watched them fight. But in the battle for souls, the other side doesn’t just send one person. It is easy to expect the pastor and his staff to fight the opposing army, but the result of this approach has been to move the church to the point of irrelevancy.
The problem is not the people. The problem is the model. The biblical pattern is established in Ephesians 4:11-12 in which the people are the ministers. It is the goal of this site, and our sister site, thegathering.org, to equip people for their work of ministry.
The apostle Paul was a small businessman. Making tents enabled him to self fund his ministry. Not only did it provide him income, but it also enabled him to have great credibility with the people to whom he was ministering. So much so, that this middle aged Christian businessman turned the world upside down while providing a ministry model for us all to follow:
To the Ephesians he said: “You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.” (Acts 20:34)
Likewise, he worked when he was in Corinth, teaming up with Aquila and Priscilla, who were also tentmakers. “Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.” (Acts 18:1-3)
And to the Thessalonians he made it clear that he was modeling the form of ministry for the average person: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9)
So it becomes clear from the scriptures, we are all ministers. The only choice is how we get paid.
For most of us, the place where we engage the most people, have the greatest opportunity for impact, and have a lasting chance to really make a difference is in our homes, our neighborhoods, and in our places of work.