In my line of work as a Minister, when I am with people from other tribes or denominations I am willing to be flexible with the language they use. Just like tribes in the Outback, every group has names for some things and labels for other things that are unique to that group. In churches of Christ we use the term ‘Ministers,’ which is loosely from the Greek word for worker or ‘Evangelists’ from the Greek word for Herald or Proclaimer. The word literally means, ‘Good News-er.’ One who does the Good News. I like both terms but they both have their strengths and weaknesses.
In other tribes they use the term ‘Pastor’ which is from the Greek word for shepherd. A friend of mine is a minister in a Reform church where they use a Dutch term, “Domine” for their minister which translates as, ‘Lord.’ I definitely wouldn’t like that!
I don’t like the title ‘Reverend’ for two reasons. One is that Jesus teaches that His followers should avoid titles of importance. In Matt 23: 8 – 12 He says,
But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘Teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
To be ‘Reverend’ is to be revered and only God is to be worshiped. The second problem I have with titles is that they imply there is some distinction in Christian service between those who work as Ministers for a church and those who are members of a church. I will often get someone saying to me something about, “Now that you are doing the Lord’s work.” If I’m doing the Lord’s work, who’s work are you doing? We are all called to do the Lord’s work! There aren’t just some of us that are doing the Lord’s work and the rest of us are waiting to take a dirt nap. We are all called to do God’s work.
In the same way believers have been saved from something, we have been saved ‘to’ something. You have been saved from a life of futility and you have been called to a life of eternal purpose. We are all under that call! If the apostle Paul is to be believed, all believers in Jesus are given some measure of the Holy Spirit for ministry. We have all got some special ministry to perform. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12,
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Cor 12: 4 – 11
The beauty of that passage is that you don’t have to worry about whether there is such a thing as speaking in tongues. God gives out the gifts, whether you believe in them or not. We don’t need to decide whether there are gifts. We are only to make use of the ones we have been given.
You have been called to a ministry. What is it? The sad thing is that we have such a small imagination about what Spiritual Gifts are like and how they are used. Ministry happens outside of Sunday morning worship right? Is God active in the world outside of one hour on Sunday? Of course! Then why should we be surprised that God is calling us to serve the needs of others on a day other than Sunday? Is God active and powerful outside of our church building? Of course! So why do we find it difficult to imagine ministry outside of our church buildings?
God gives more gifts than just song leading, reading the Bible, leading a prayer, teaching Sunday School and passing emblems! God expects us to do more than just preach and serve on a Sunday morning. We need a wider imagination; a wilder imagination of how God is at work. If God is creative, then his palate of gifts will be creative as well.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Cor 5: 16-20
Once we become believers in Jesus Christ we acquire a new set of lenses with which to look at the world. Everything looks differently in the light of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Here are a couple of examples:
My across the street neighbours (members of our church) wrecked their garage door (funny story). By the time I found out about this their next-door neighbours had offered, “You buy a garage door and we’ll install it for you.” That is the kind of service that I am talking about. This guy has tools and a mechanical gift and he offers to help fix this garage door. I don’t know if he is part of a church or not but he is serving a need that my neighbour has. That is the kind of ministry we are looking for.
My wife is an Labour and Delivery Nurse working in a department of all women. She would never consider herself a preacher or an evangelist but she is continuously serving as a ‘herald,’ a proclaimer of God’s grace. She has conversations at work where she is the only one (or one of the vocal few) who can testify to the blessing that marriage has been in her life. She regularly speaks of the beauty of a sexual relationship within the context of a loving marriage. She has had the opportunity to demonstrate forgiveness in the workplace. She has been given many gifts, and these are all spiritual gifts. They are opportunities granted by God to proclaim reconciliation.
You might be asking, “I don’t have any gifts like that. How can I find what God’s gift for me is?” The answer is spiritual discernment and it takes time. To find your gifts you need to slow down and accept God’s lead. This is one of the things I find difficult. I want to pick what God has for me to do and then get His blessing on it just before I go. It doesn’t work like that. I have learned that you first need to place yourself at God’s disposal and that might take a week or two of quiet daily prayer and Bible reading (at least for me it does). While I am coming to grips with the fact that I am not in charge I consider the people who are currently in my life. The parents of the kids I coach, my neighbours and what is going on in their lives, the people at my place of work and so on. Through reflectively reading God’s word and talking to people at church about it God speaks to me.
While reflecting on the people in my life and what God’s word is saying to me I will sometimes feel a nudge in one direction or another. I will see how someone in my life is just like a character that Jesus is dealing with (the woman at the well in John 4), or maybe I will imagine how I can serve someone in a way like Jesus has (like walking with the heartbroken disciples in Luke 24: 13-35). That is the Holy Spirit speaking to me; not in a thundering voice but in a gentle whisper.
Sometimes what God says to you needs to be confirmed by Godly counsellors and that is part of what being in a church is good for. If you feel God’s call to do something, talk to someone at church about it and ask what they they think. Ask them to pray for it as well. When you let God lead, He will lead you.
We have all been saved from something, and we have all been called to something.