Seeking a Scriptural Ministry Model
Many of us would be relieved if sanctification in the Church belonged to professionals but that is not how God has ordained the Church to operate. Each of us is mutually necessary for the upbuilding of the Body and we will need each other until glorification. Most see Church as an event and not as a calling that shapes our entire life. The “passive body that pays the professionals” culture of the modern evangelical Church must be forsaken for the ministry model God has so wisely ordained. The material has actually been developed as discipleship curriculum for local Churches.
The Best of News: A Reason to Get Up in the Morning
Creation began in goodness and the Fall is the reason for human suffering. God was unwilling for it to remain this way and so He sent His Son. Christ came to fulfill God’s plan of redemption. Christ has established His Kingdom and we, in our self-absorbed culture, need to see the grandeur of it. God has gathered a people for his glory and we find our comfort in His rule. We are the Bride of Christ.
Christ has come to break our allegiances to self and to the world toward a goal worth living for. Christ came with a message of repentance and faith – radical life change – but also came with the power for that life change to occur. The power of indwelling sin is enslaving but Christ sets people free so that change is possible. The Scriptures call this change redemption. We are not only changed but restored to God.
Christ – Not Strategies and Techniques
People usually want things only to get better than they are and want strategies and techniques toward that end. What people need are new eyes to see the unseen: the Kingdom of God represented by people engaged in spiritual battle. Heart-changing help will never be found from down below with insights from this age’s philosophy and psychology.
Psychology reduces people to a set of systems and models but Christianity sees people as they are and offers them real transformation. We are not to treat the Scriptures as a collection of therapeutic insights because we need more than a “system” to change but Christ Himself. We point men to Christ. He is hope.
What is Really Wrong?
In rejecting a Biblical description of man, the world eliminates any possibility of answering “what is wrong?” The Scriptures say that our core problem is sin. Sin is a condition that results in a behavior. We are sinners and we all do sinful things. Sin is part of our nature and we will always be dealing not only with our history but with how sin distorts the way we handle it. Help will only come as we deal with our past and our own sin. This is essential because sinners tend to respond sinfully to being sinned against. We need rescue. We need redemption.
Sin is the ultimate disease, the grand psychosis. You cannot escape it or defeat it on your own. Our deepest problem is moral. The first thing sin produces is rebellion. We are born with it and do not have to be taught it. Rebellion is our inborn tendency to give in to the lies of autonomy. We will climb over anything and anyone to get our way.
Sin also produces foolishness, which believes there is no perspective, insight, theory, or “truth” more reliable than our own. We think we see the world clearly and we convince ourselves that we are okay and that our irrational, rebellious choices are right and okay.
Finally, sin renders us incapable of doing what God has commanded us to do. It is not just that we do not want to do God’s will, or that I think my way is better, it’s that even when I have the right intentions, I can’t pull it off and I always fall short of God’s intentions.
The Good News – Rescue for Myself
We cannot walk through life on our own. We need rescue from God. The good news is not freedom from hardship, suffering, and loss but it is the news of a Redeemer who has come to rescue me from myself. As we respond to the work He does in our lives we will be prepared by Him to be an instrument in His hands.
In the Hands of the Redeemer
Embedded in the larger story of redemption is a principle: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others. God raises up particular people for formal ministry roles but the Bible’s circle of helpers includes all of God’s people. We don’t change anyone, God changes people. We are simply instruments. Most think God has a small toolbox but His toolbox is large: it is the entire Body of Christ. Our adoption into the family of God was a call to ministry and a call to the good work of the Kingdom.
The overall Biblical model is: God transforms people’s lives as people bring his Word to others. Eph 4:11-16 teaches that it is the entire body , Christ’s Church, that does the work of ministry. The body not only grows but each does its own work. Eph 4 moves us beyond self-centered living to a body-focused mentality where we are caught up in the Kingdom’s purposes where we are each called to a particular work.
The changes God produces in people are directly connected to the ministry of the Word. We need to bring more than compassionate hearts and willingness to listen. These are important fruits but we must offer more: the heart-changing truths of the Word to people in the midst of their lives and relationships. God’s Word changes people dramatically even as the rain transforms a parched land.
The Bible is not a Spiritual Encyclopedia
Many people don’t understand what the Bible is and think of it as a spiritual encyclopedia with a complete catalog of human problems coupled with a list of divine answers. Many treat it as a book of aphorisms and treat the Scriptures as a cut-and-paste system to human trouble. Self is still at the center in such an approach. In personal ministry there is a lot of pressure to handle Scripture topically to find the passage that meets the problem. People want a fix to their problems and this approach robs them of what the Scriptures truly have to offer.
The Scriptures do have powerful and important things to say about topics that affect people but it does so in a different way than we expect. When we use encyclopedias we don’t need the rest of the books of the set to understand the specific topic but the Scriptures are not so organized. There are overarching themes and each passage depends on the whole for understanding and application. Being truly Biblical means that my counsel reflects what the entire Bible is about. The overarching story of the Scriptures reflects the fact that our problems are deeper than the individual sins we commit. We seek to find identity outside of the story of Redemption. We need more from Scripture than insight, principles, understanding, or direction. We need something that will change us from the inside-out. We need Christ whose person and work can free us from our slavery to self and our tendency to idolatry.
Three Grand Themes
There are three grand themes of the story of redemption. The first is God’s sovereignty. The universe is under God’s control. He has the power and authority to do exactly what He pleases. God has a plan for the world and the people in it. The answer to “What is God doing?” is “Accomplishing His plan.” A Christian’s peace rests in the presence, peace, power, and character of the Lord.
The second grand them is God’s grace. We live in a word where there is grace to be found. God has made a way to deal with the deepest problem: sin. We need not be imprisoned to sin but the intruding grace of God has made a way of escape. The only hope to broken lives and despair is God’s grace.
The third grand theme is that this is the Lord’s story. We live in His Story – history. We seek to steal glory and make the story about us but the truth that the story of the Scripture is the Lord’s glory frees us to live as we were created unto: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Living for God’s glory, not our own, is what we desperately need.