To engage in ministry, what is required of us?
Many students I know here at Bob Jones University are starting camp ministry this week, ministering to and counseling young people about their spiritual walk. Others I know have already left or will soon depart for an overseas ministry trip to minister the Gospel to those who have never heard it. Still others – recent graduates or old friends – are already engaged in full-time ministry at churches all over the world. I know so many pastors and missionaries who are faithfully ministering in the context of local churches small or large.
For all these people to engage in the ministry God has called them, what qualities do they need to make sure they have? What “ministerial graces” are required for a man of God to pastor? Or for the people of God in general to serve Him?
First off, we must remember that all genuine ministry happens in the context of relationships. And relationships, as we all know, can be very complicated.
Simply put, when it comes to pastoring, the man of God must help the people of God come to grips with the Word of God so they might fulfill the purpose of God for their lives.
This worthy calling will only happen as the pastor or any person engaged in ministry maintains a right relationship with three things – God, God’s Word, and God’s people.
While there is much that can and should be said about the first two of these relationships, our focus will have to do with the third of those relationships – the one we must enjoy with the people we have been called to lead and impact in our ministry.
In order for a pastor to effectively minister the Word of God to the people of God, he must cultivate certain essential ministerial graces necessary to the kind of relationship God demands of those in His body. In order for a counselor or a missionary to be effective in their ministry, they must have certain character traits that enable them to properly function in the body God has placed them.
There are several places in the New Testament where ministerial requirements for a pastor are presented and explained.
However, there is one place in particular where God presents the graces necessary for the preservation of the unity in relationships among His people in His Church. And for this to be so among the people, it must first be true of the one who ministers to them.
Let’s look at Ephesians 4:1-3:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
What exactly is involved in this “walking worthy” in the church? Paul’s answer – its primary concern is a strong commitment to preserve and protect the unity of the body (4:1-3).
He says that this is to be of utmost importance to us, and we are to work hard at this, to spare no effort, to be diligent to maintain this unity!
The placement of these verses at the front end of the passage tells us that this aspect of guarding unity is of utmost importance and is primary in Paul’s thought.
And the reason we are to guard this unity is more than just because we want to preserve the harmony and health of the body. It has to do with God’s ultimate purposes in reuniting all things under one head (1:10).
So, how are we going to guard or keep this unity? Answer – by working hard to foster harmony with one another in the body!
What will it require? Paul goes on to tell us that keeping the peace involves four things that every one of us must work hard to cultivate in our lives!
- It will mean that we are going to have to love one another enough to forbear or put up with each other when we are irritated by someone else in the body (4:2)!
- To do this, we are going to have to be committed to a certain way of responding to those who irritate us – longsuffering! We are going to have to be people who don’t respond wrongly out of resentment or in retaliation toward those in the Church who irritate us, frustrate us, or hurt us (4:2).
- To be able to suffer long with irritating, hurtful people is going to demand a certain kind of temperament – one that keeps our natural responses under control! A meek temperament – a gentle and controlled response at all times toward all people under all circumstances (4:2).
- Since we are not naturally like this, the only way we are going to transform our natural aggressive temperament into one that is gentle is by thinking biblically about ourselves in all humility (4:2).
So what does this mean for you who are serving as pastors? Or for you who are starting a summer ministry at a camp, church, or a mission field. Here are some quick tips:
- Guard against the enemy of all this unity – Satan!
- Submit to the promoter of all this unity – the Holy Spirit.
- Personally cultivate the traits that keep all this unity – humility, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance.
What is required of someone engaging in ministry? A commitment to maintaining relationships in the body by cultivating unity-producing character.