A Symphony of Goodness

Have we misunderstood the idea of ministry?

The Spirit is Good (4)

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1.8

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all...1 Corinthians 12.7

Ministers all
In many churches, a misguided view of ministry hinders the good work of the Spirit in building the Body of Christ.

This was made graphically clear to me on one occasion when I was conducting a workshop in a church outside Philadelphia. During a break I wandered the halls, just to stretch my legs and get a bit more of the flavor of this church. On a wall outside the church offices was a poster entitled, “The Ministries of Our Church.” Under that heading, depicted in a neat and tidy organizational chart, were all the official activities sponsored in the name of ministry by this church, arranged by departments, committees, and teams.

I studied that poster for a while. Here were all the familiar players: Worship Committee, Christian Education Committee, Youth Team, Children’s Ministry, and so forth. Visitors and members could here discover all that was available to them within this building. And, as in many other churches, it was clear that efforts were being made to provide some kind of ministry for everyone. 

The message was clear: Ministry was what this church did for its members. In this view, ministries are church-sponsored activities for church members, so that everyone can find a place.

But this is not the view of ministry, which we find in the New Testament. Or at best, it’s only part of the New Testament’s understanding of ministry, and surely not the most important part.

A symphony of ministry
According to the apostle Paul, ministry is what church members do, as they are being equipped by church leaders. Ministry results in building the local church in unity and maturity in the Lord (Eph. 4.11-16). Churches don’t do ministry. Equipped church members do ministry. The word ministry originally referred to what a waiter at a banquet does, as he keeps an eye on his assigned tables. His job was to make sure that the needs of banqueters were met – clean utensils, timely drinks, and so forth. His focus was on others and their needs.

The works of ministry for which God’s people are to be equipped are similar to this. Each believer is assigned a Personal Mission Field made up of people and places throughout the local community. We have been sent to this world as Jesus was sent (Jn. 20.21), to bring near, by words and deeds, the reality of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit.

Ministry requires the Spirit to bring forth spiritual fruit in each believer, and to provide the instruction, gifts and skills, and power to serve others for Jesus’ sake. Such ministryincludes what we do for one another in the local church, but it is by no means limited to this. Most of us spend the large bulk of our time out in our Personal Mission Field, and we are called to do whatever works of ministry will enable us to show the love of Jesus to the people in our lives.

As the Spirit of God works in local congregations, cultivating fruit, distributing gifts for ministry, and sending out the saints into their Personal Mission Fields, a veritable symphony of ministry plays out in the community, bringing the glorious melodies and harmonies of God’s grace and truth to light in all the relationships, roles, and responsibilities of the saints of God. It is the work of the Spirit, through and in local churches, to bring these joyous, Good News tones to every niche, nook, and neighbor of the local community, moving and empowering God’s people for good works in ways appropriate to the needs and situations before them.

This is the ministry the Spirit uses to cause the goodness of God to abound within a local community.

The ministry of the local church is only partly that which church leaders provide for members within the walls of the local building. More importantly, ministry is what the Spirit does, bringing forth His fruit, exercising His gifts, and distributing His power throughout local communities as equipped church members go as Kingdom ambassadors into their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, marketplaces, and schools as Kingdom salt, light, and leaven. When this work of the Spirit is properly pursued, then the grace of Jesus Christ becomes visible, and people can see and experience the reality of the Kingdom not of this world (Acts 11.22, 23).

Seek the greatest gifts
Local communities are a network of relationships of various kinds. God’s mission for His churches is that their members should be the Body of Christ throughout their local community, and not just as they are assembled together in their preferred building. 

We must seek the gifts of the Spirit, and especially the gift of love (1 Cor. 14.1). People from every walk of life should continually brush up against and have interaction with Christians from various local churches. As those Christians, filled with the Spirit and wielding His many different gifts – reach out in the powerof the Spirit to the people they interact with each day, a fragrance of Christ spreads throughout the community, and a symphony of grace and truth arises in the many and harmonious good works of God’s ministersin every place, bringing the love of Jesus and the hope of glory to the lost world.

This work of bringing God’s goodness to our communities is the work of God’s Spirit , and it flows through the ministries of all those who are united in Jesus in His Body.

For reflection
1. How is the word ministry used in your church? How does your church equip its members for ministry?

2.Our Personal Mission Field is simply the sphere of influence we travel in within our community. Have you identified your Personal Mission Field? How might the Spirit of God bring His goodness to light through your ministry there? Watch this brief video (click here), then download the worksheet, map out your Personal Mission Field, and let the Spirit work His goodness through you day by day.

3.What are some of the most common opportunities for showing the grace and speaking the truth of Jesus that you encounter in your Personal Mission Field each week? How can the Holy Spirit help you to be a more consistent source of God’s goodness there? 

Next steps – Transformation: Meditate on Psalm 90.12, 16, 17. Give thanks to the Lord for the people in your Personal Mission Field. Ask the Spirit to show you what you can do today to play your part in His symphony of grace and truth.

T. M. Moore

The Spirit of God executes the will of King Jesus, as His Agent on earth, for the progress of His Kingdom. Learn more about the kingship of Jesus and our place in it by ordering a copy of the book, The Kingship of Jesus, from our online store (click here).

We look to the Lord to provide for our needs, and He does so through those who are served by this ministry. Please prayerfully consider becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe with your financial gifts. You can send your tax-free contribution to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452, or use 
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

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. 

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