Ministry for Mission: Sent like Jesus (3)
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40.6-8
“Here David indicates his readiness to yield obedience, as well as the cordial affection of his heart and persevering resolution. His language implies, that he cordially preferred the service of God to every other desire and care, and had not only yielded a willing subjection, but also embraced the rule of a pious and holy life, with a fixed and steady purpose of adhering to it.”
- John Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 40.8
Sent like Jesus
The followers of Christ have been sent into the world as agents of grace – frail vessels, to be sure, but vessels capable, in the strength of the Lord, of turning their world rightside-up for the Kingdom of God. We are sent to be witnesses to Christ, to make disciples as we are going, to do all things to the glory of God, and to seek and advance King Jesus’ rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
It is the duty and calling of faithful and wise servants to see to it that the people of God have what they need to do the work that brings glory to God. That includes vision, incentive, knowhow, and desire to do the will of the Lord, growing from a solid grounding in God’s Word and a life of vital prayer. In the context of the local church, our work of equipping the saints and shepherding the Lord’s flock takes on greater importance, for we realize that no one takes up the calling of Christ completely ready for the task. The followers of Christ must be given those perspectives and tools necessary for doing the will of God; they must keep those tools honed and active in the work, and those perspectives ever clear and increasing before their minds. For in so doing, they find their greatest joy and their fullest purpose in life, and they make that contribution which glorifies God and ensures the transfer of His Kingdom to the generation that will succeed them.
We have been sent like Jesus, to embody, proclaim, and bring near the Kingdom of God; and for this high and holy calling, the followers of Christ need continuous, intensive, practical, and transformative training. They need to learn the disciplines of growing in Christ and serving Him, which will fill up the time of their lives with works aimed at loving God and neighbors to the glory of the Lord. And not just a few of the saints; all of them. All God’s people, every church member, must be trained for righteousness and good works.
What is necessary for the saints of God to do the work of ministry that glorifies Him? Our psalm suggests some key foci for a ministry of equipping.
The end of the work
The goal of all equipping must be that the saints become more consistent and effective at doing the will of the Lord (v. 8), which they will learn in their daily times of Scripture reading and prayer, as well as in the formal training provided in the local church. When this is our focus in training, and when those who are being trained embrace this outcome and delight in doing God’s will, they will find themselves in step with the Holy Spirit, Who is at work within believers to will and do of God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2.13).
Mere attendance in services of worship, Bible classes, seminars or workshops, or other teaching or training events is not the end we seek. Certainly, those activities can be helpful for preparing the minds and hearts of believers, and for sending them into their Personal Mission Fields fed, strengthened, ready, and zealous to do the good works that bring the will of God to light in the world. But this must be the aim and thrust of all such ministry activities. Coupled with these, the work of shepherding, which requires that we look well to know the condition of our flocks, will provide the coming-alongside encouragement, assistance, support, and accountability lives require if they are to overflow with grace.
Our labors will be in vain unless those we equip take what we teach concerning God’s will and actually do His will in all their relationships, roles, and responsibilities. We must make the outworking of love for God and neighbor, in terms specific to everyday needs and opportunities, the focal point of all our equipping, so the saints may understand the will of God, delight in it, and do the will of God in all their work.
In other words, we have to pay attention in all our equipping to the minds, hearts, and daily lives of God’s people.
Mind and heart
We cannot ready the saints for works of ministry if our only focus in equipping is to inform them of what the Bible teaches. While this is certainly very important, the goal of all Christian instruction is love, not merely knowing Biblical truth. Knowing Biblical truth can be a way to increase in love, but only if the instruction of the mind is coupled with the shaping of the heart, so that delighting in what we are learning about God’s will is emphasized together with knowing God’s will.
Here is not the place to unpack the specifics of what is involved in shaping the heart, or the affections. I recommend Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise on the Religious Affections, as the most reliable guide for delighting in the Lord, and understanding what is required to help others delight in Him as well. Suffice it to say that what excites the heart, and binds it more firmly to Christ, begins in a clear and compelling vision of Christ, exalted in glory, and works from there into an expansive understanding of His Kingdom and glory. When the minds and hearts of believers are excited by this glorious vision, it will draw them more fervently and consistently to Him, go with them in all they do, and empower them with the knowledge and skills relevant to whatever their situation may be, so that they do the will of God that they are learning to delight in so completely.
The fact is, in most of our efforts at equipping the saints, we tend to concentrate above all on two matters: content and delivery. We work hard to prepare our sermons and get our leadership training material together. We package these in forms that help people to understand the content of our instruction – outlines, study guides, worksheets, and so forth. We use the latest technology, embrace whatever current communications strategies seem to be working in the larger world, and strive to achieve a level of excellence in presentation and delivery.
These things we ought to have done, but not at the expense of neglecting to shape the heart to delight in the Lord, so that people do His will consistently and with joy. We must preach and teach and do all our equipping through to the ground, where the people of God live and move and have their being. We must help them to know the presence of our glorified Lord with them always, in everything they do; and we must lead those we are equipping to take whatever next steps will tap the Spirit’s power for making all things new in their lives.
Jesus knew the will of God. Jesus delighted in the will of God. Jesus took risks and made sacrifices so that He might do the will of God in all things. God’s will for Jesus was to do His work, and it was by that work that Jesus glorified the Father.
We do not glorify the Father by sitting in pews or classrooms, or even studying on our own. These can supply the food we need, from wise and faithful servants, but only if they launch us – mind, heart, and body – into our Personal Mission Fields, where doing the will of God with joy becomes just simply who we are.
The apostolic exhortation sings a similar note to this, “I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, the worship according to reason.” In place of the rites of the Law, the Lord required us to consecrate our limbs.
- Theodoret of Cyr (393-466), Commentary on the Psalms 40.5
T. M. Moore
Personal Mission Field
This is the third of several installments of this series on “Ministry for Mission”, in which we will be investigating the believer’s calling to a Personal Mission Field. If you’d like a preview of the topics we’ll be considering, watch this brief video.
Resources for Shepherds
Visit our new website and the Resources for Shepherds page especially prepared to provide shepherds with a variety of resources and opportunities for improving their skills. You can even add your own items by clicking the submission form and posting a resource of your own.
Please prayerfully consider sharing with The Fellowship of Ailbe through your giving. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).
This Way to Ministry
- T.M. Moore
- November 7, 2019
We must train God's people for ministry.
Ministry for Mission: Sent like Jesus (3)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.