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Posted: 6/06/03
LifeWay Family Bible Series for June 15

Ministry is the privilege of every believer

Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11

By Tim Owens

First Baptist Church, Bryan

A wonderful story has been told about Poland's famous concert pianist and prime minister, Ignace Paderewski. It is a true story of a mother who took her child to a concert to expose him to the talent of the great pianist. She hoped to encourage her son in his piano lessons, which he had just begun. They arrived early at the concert and were seated near the front. Standing alone on the stage was a marvelous Steinway grand piano. As they waited for the concert to begin, the mother entered into a conversation with the people beside her.

Eventually, 8 o'clock came, and the lights began to dim. Everyone turned their attention to the stage and the grand piano. The mother looked up and was horrified. Her son was sitting at the piano and playing with one finger, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” “Oh no,” she thought, “How am I going to get him down?”

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As she began to make her way to the stage, Ignace Paderewski appeared on stage. He went over and sat down beside the child. He whispered in the child's ear, “Don't quit; keep playing!” As the little boy continued to play, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began to fill in the bass part. Then with his right arm around the little boy, he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

When Christians are playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and thinking their gifts are too small for God to use, God comes beside them, sits down with them, and whispers in their ear, “Don't quit; keep playing.”

This is the message of three passages of Scripture–Ephesians 4:11-16, Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Peter 4:10-11. Paul concludes the book of Romans by appealing to his readers to live out their faith in practical ways, including exercising their spiritual gifts. In anticipation of the end time, Peter admonished his readers to use their gifts to serve others. The church reveals itself to be a community of grace when all members are ministering with their gifts to meet the needs of others. In mutual ministry, every Christian belongs to Christ and is responsible for building up the church.

Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” This passage is the basis for a major shift taking place in the church of the 21st century. The following ways of “doing church” have developed over time, and they represent a subtle drift away from both biblical and effective ministry.

bluebullMost pastors and church staff members are thought of as "professionals" who perform the "important" ministries, while the laity performs the "less important" ministries.

bluebullMany lead pastors function as a CEO or COO, whose role is more administrative rather than the spiritual development of God's people.

bluebull Senior pastors are treated on the part of the church membership as the one who is paid to do the ministry, while the members consume the sermons, visits, calls, etc.

What is beginning to emerge in the church of the 21st century is a return to the biblical model of Christian ministry. More Christians no longer want mediated expressions of faith that come from “professionals,” nor do they want pastors to be merely administrative leaders who manage the church. Instead, they want spiritual leaders who can lead them into personal expressions of faith and ministry. They want a spiritual mentor who will walk with them on their journey of faith.

The churches who are willing to make this shift will experience the removal of the erroneous dichotomy between spiritual experts (clergy) and spiritual amateurs (laity). They will enjoy the liberating grace that the church is not made up of two classes of people, clergy and laity. Rather, every believer is a spiritual priest with a ministry. More Christians are unwilling to follow leaders who are doing the ministry for them. Instead they are looking for team-based leaders who are willing to say, “Come join me in spiritual growth and ministry.”

On the part of pastors and church staff, the shift requires a much more intense commitment to personal, spiritual growth. A leader cannot give what he or she does not have. The priority is to model what it means to be a Christian rather than to be a “professional minister.” To treat every believer as truly a priest in ministry means the role of the church staff shifts from “doers” to “equippers.” It means the goal in ministry shifts from being program-driven to community-driven, where all Christians are encouraged to discover their gifts in ministry, equipped in how to use those gifts and empowered to exercise their gifts for the growth of the church.

On the part of church members, the shift invites God's people to move from being spectators of ministry to being participants in ministry. Ministry leaders who are committed to equipping God's people and believers who are committed to exercising their gifts in the ministry of the church will bring the church to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Question for discussion

bluebull What has God whispered in your ear that you have been too timid to follow through on?

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