Meet the New Minister: IT'S YOU!
By Michael Tummillo
What do you think of when you hear the word "minister?" Many will think of a man standing behind a pulpit, preaching, stomping, shouting or droning on and on in hopes that somebody in the congregation is actually "getting it."
Part of man's Adamic nature is our human need to follow someone we can see, hear, and touch. In 1 Samuel 8:1-9, we read how the elders of Israel desired to have a king like all the other nations. They already had a King-God Himself-and were the only theocratic nation in world history. But they wanted a man that they could elect and un-elect, impeach, maybe even assassinate, who knows? They were forgetting that kings aren't elected; they are born from the lineage of other kings.
Samuel spoke to God about what it was they wanted, and God agreed, telling Samuel to warn them that their king would take their sons and daughters and servants and tax them silly. Despite this, they still chose to go with an earthly king and wound up with Saul, one of the worst kings anybody could have asked for.
Fast forward to the city of Corinth, where those who were supposedly followers of Jesus Christ received a letter from an apostle named Paul. These Corinthians, when they heard the word "minister," probably envisioned a big-shot traveling preacher, an eloquent speaker whose knowledge of Scripture was most impressive.
Division had come to the Church in Corinth and had some saying, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas." Men were, once again, bowing to their Adamic nature, giving in to their carnality and allowing dissension to set in as quarreling factions gathered around mere men. Paul attempted to point out the danger and the overall weakness of their actions, and now tries to correct their perspective by writing: "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy [or faithful]." (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)
RENEWING OUR MINDS TO THE TRUTH
Paul saw the importance of the Church viewing God's ministers in the right light.
PLEASE! When you hear the term "minister," abandon the notion of the traditional concept of a fulltime, paid spiritual employee who is kept around to do the preaching, the teaching and the counseling, while managing the spiritual corporations we call "church." Unfortunately, this is the widespread concept of what a minister is.
This modern concept was, of course, totally unknown to the early Church and is not represented anywhere in the Bible. The concept of a Lone Pastor is an unbiblical imposition that has only come into the Church within the past 250 years. On the other hand, a minister of Christ in the New Testament Church was ANYONE who by virtue of a gift of the Spirit was a preacher or teacher of the Word of God. That is what Paul is referring to.
The Bible teaches that every child of God is a priest, and there is but one high priest, Jesus Christ. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, and a people claimed by God for his own, to proclaim the triumphs of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You are now the people of God, who once were not his people; outside his mercy once, you have now received his mercy." (1 Peter 2:9,10)
The word "people" is actually a translation of "laos" from which we get the word "laity" All of God's laity are priests. In other words, the royal priesthood is composed entirely of the laity of God.
Let's go a step further in stating that God's laity IS His clergy. The word "clergy" is from "kleros" which means "heritage." This is the word used in 1 Peter 5:3 where the elders are instructed not to lord it over God's heritage (kleros). This heritage is equated with the Body of Christ.
Scripture knows nothing of either clergymen or laymen. In fact, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans was mentioned in the Apocalypse of John to the churches of Pergamos and Ephasus in Revelation 2. It is a symbolic name of a party that represents the hierarchy of a ruling class over the rest of the people, developing a pecking order of fleshly leadership. Jesus hates this and warns the people to repent or else "I will come upon you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." The word "Nicolaitans" is made up of Nikao, meaning "to conquer," and Laos, meaning "the people." The Lord was not impressed.
Often, when I minister to different denominations and groups of The Church, I try to get the listeners to embrace this concept. After all, it's critical; we're talking about THEM, the Priesthood of Believers. I might say something like, "I may have a license to marry and bury, but that is the ONLY difference between us." In the eyes of God, THEY are every bit the minister that I am.
It grieves my Spirit when I hear of things like "Monday is Pastor Appreciation Day," or attend a function where special reverence is paid to the attending ministers. If we only realized what we are doing to those whom we exalt as "Pastor" of the flock.
Following are some statistics about pastors. These statistics came from across denominational lines, and have been gleaned from various reliable sources such as Pastor to Pastor, Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Global Pastors Network.
WARNING: It isn't pretty, so hang on to your pews!
Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches.
Four thousand new churches begin each year, but over seven thousand churches close.
Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years. Ninety percent of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job preparing them for ministry.
Eighty-five percent of pastors said their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people.
Seventy percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Ninety percent said the ministry was completely different to what they thought it would be before they entered the ministry.
Seventy percent felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.
Regarding Pastors' Wives....
Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
Eighty percent of pastor' wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
Eighty percent of pastors' wives feel pressured to do things and be something in the church that they are really not.
The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
Regarding Pastors' Marriages....
Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
Regarding Pastors' Children....
Eighty percent of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.
Folks, we're killing these people, destroying lives, insisting that they fit a mold for which no human being was EVER intended. Just as the Children of Israel waited for Moses to descend from the mountain with God's Word, we, too, expect our "pastor" to give us this week's Word from the Lord-and we pay him to do so-when each of us is a part of this Kingdom of priests and kings.
ARE YOU A MINISTER, OR NOT?
Yes, every Christian is a minister. As with anything else, some of us take this responsibility more seriously than others.
How is the Church to view these people? Do we refer to them by special, unbiblical titles? The apostle says, "We want you to look at us as servants of Christ." The word for servant is the Greek word "huperetes." This literally means "an under-rower."
What's that? The Corinthians knew. Their city was where the warships of Rome sailed through en route to the sea. The Corinthians knew that the lowest deck of these boats was made of single rows of benches on both sides of the ship. That's where the rowers sat. On a little deck raised up ABOVE them all, so that each rower could see him, was the captain of the ship. The rowers-or under-rowers-would row according to his orders. That explains why Paul chose that word to describe those who are teachers, preachers and ministers of the Word of God within the Body of Christ. Maybe that's why an old-time preacher I knew said, "If you are rowing the boat, you won't be rocking it."
When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, and Pilate asked him if he were a king, Jesus said, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants [huperetes, or under-rowers] would fight," (John 18:36). In other words, "If My kingdom were of this world, I'd tell my subjects to fight you and they would obey Me."
This same word is used again in the account of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. They took with them a young man named John Mark to be their "minister" (huperetes, or under-rower). Did that mean that he was to be in charge of prayer meetings and Bible studies? Actually, it meant that he was the one who would carry their bags, run errands, and do what they required of him for the sake of the Kingdom.
Paul was essentially saying to the Corinthians, "Here is what we want you to think about us as ministers; We are not seeking followers but are making disciples. We are not big-shots but humble servants of Christ, "under-rowers" with our eyes fixed on Him, our Captain. We try to say and do what He commands us to say and do by His Spirit that dwells within us. THAT is all we want you to think about us as we minister here."
They weren't Board members, nor were they servants of a congregation, any single member of the Church, or any denomination. They were servants of Christ. In fact, Paul says in Galatians, 1:10, "If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ." Instead, they would say and do what the Father told them to say and do, just as Jesus did-the One who declared, "I do as the Father has commanded Me," (John 14:31) and "By myself I can do nothing" (John 5:30). This is what a servant of Christ-an under-rower-must do, also.
My responsibility, and yours, as priests and kings, is to say and do what God says and tells us to do.
ALL of us.
As Karl Ketcherside wrote in his book Let My People Go: "Our greatest source of power is not in the pulpit but in the lives of those in the pews. We must meet the challenge of making every man of God a man of might. We must use our meetinghouses, not for parading profound pulpiteers, but for training soldiers in spiritual combat. We have moved the battlefield into the mess hall and our brethren spend their time fighting each other. Let us discover and utilize the tremendous power in the priesthood of all believers, a power that is all too often siphoned off down the drain of disuse and discouragement."
Michael Tummillo has been broadcasting email messages of Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ since 1999. To subscribe, please write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For details, log on at http://www.YourTown4Jesus.org.