Through our examination of Ephesians 4:11-12, we have seen that all of Christ’s people are “in the ministry.” We don’t all serve as paid church leaders, of course. But Ephesians makes it clear that these leaders are to equip all of God’s people for the “work of ministry,” to translate Ephesians 4:11 more accurately. Thus, if you belong to Jesus Christ, then you are one of his ministers. You are “in the ministry.” But, you might wonder, where is your ministry?
Last week, just after the sun appeared, I opened my bedroom curtain and there, in the field beside our house, I saw a burning bush. It was burning, but it was not consumed, and my breath caught in my throat. Of course, I thought of Moses. The bush wasn’t literally on fire. But the bright red leaves of the small sapling against a backdrop of yellows and blues and pinks and greens of fall was stunning. I knew, right then and there, I was in the presence of God.
From time to time, a young dad and his son go for a walk in our neighborhood. The little boy is five and just started kindergarten this year. He is curly-haired, caramel-skinned, full of energy and smiles and giggles. His dad is tall and lean, a head full of curls, and has a serious case of love for his son. The other day, the two passed my window in fits and starts… As they reached the corner, the young boy stopped, apparently done with walking or running or anything else…
Long hours filled with anxiety might get the job done, but they will not produce a life of value and significance. God intends for us to work, yes, but also to rest. Psalm 127 doesn’t suggest that it’s wrong to build a house or guard a city. The problem comes when we do it on our own strength, trusting in our efforts, working long hours, thus disregarding our health, our families, and, indeed, God’s gift of rest.
Scripture does not limit the use of the word “ministry” to the things ordained pastors do. In fact, the church didn’t have ordained pastors during the first years after Christ. The New Testament language for ministry includes all of God’s people. So, as we have seen in Ephesians 4, the leaders of the church, people like pastor-teachers, are to equip all of God’s people for the ministry. We are all called to serve the Lord and to serve others in his name. That’s what ministry is all about.
The leaders of the church are to equip the saints—that is, all of Christ’s people—for the work of ministry. The leaders are not the primary ministers. Rather, the ministers are the people of God, who have been drafted into God’s ministry and who are to be equipped for their ministry by their leaders. When we call these leaders “ministers,” or when we say that they have gone into “the ministry,” we obscure the fact that, according to Scripture, all Christians are ministers… including you.
These days, you can read dozens of books on church leadership. You can attend dozens of conferences each year that will give you the “secrets” of how to lead churches effectively. Different leadership models and emphases abound in these books and conferences. Some are taken from the business world. Some emerge from psychological or sociological perspectives… Ephesians 4:11-12 offers inspired insight into the unique role and function of church leaders.
Today’s Life for Leaders devotion has a specific audience: church leaders. Now, if you’re not a pastor or church staff member, you might be inclined to skip this devotion. You’re welcome to do so, of course. But I expect you might find this one to be helpful to you. Today’s word of warning is based on what we saw in last Thursday’s devotion. As you may recall, we noted that Christ’s gifts as portrayed in Ephesians 4:11 are not what we might expect.
As the residing realm for the Creator of all things, heaven is a place of primacy. This is not just the place where God resides, but also the place where he rules and reigns as Sovereign. Heaven is the place where God legislates, adjudicates, and appropriates resources—not unlike many of the government systems in our earth. So when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he intentionally ascribes Heaven as the address of all things God.
Early in my Christian experience, I thought that the Apostle Paul intended me to retreat from the world to spend all my time focusing on my interior life of prayer… Thankfully, the apostolic command to “pray continually” isn’t primarily about developing our devotional prayer life, even though that is important. It has much more to do with learning to pray our everyday life, particularly in the context of our work, where prayer may be the last thing on our minds.