The gospel helps church leaders with one of their toughest challenges: that of moving people (husbands, wives, singles, youth, and children) from the sidelines to the front lines of ministry. Here’s how.
What is Ministry?
First, what is the “ministry” that we want them to be engaged in? Ministry is much more than merely teaching a Sunday school class, or showing up for a project. Ministry is the application of the gospel to life, in life. This is in fact what we see in Jesus’ example and it is the overwhelming picture of ministry that we glean from most of the New Testament. We may not all be called to teach a class, but we are all called “to speak the truth to one another in love” (Eph. 4:15-17).
Our Ministry Confidence is in the Gospel Itself, Not Our Abilities, Plans or Programs
We begin with Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 1:17+18; 2:4-5.
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ, be emptied of its power.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul’s message was the gospel and his confidence was in the gospel message itself, not his skills and abilities, to bring about the desired goal – the transformation of people’s lives to God’s glory. In other words, Paul believed in a fully sufficient gospel.
Christians are on the Ministry Sidelines Because They are not Placing Their Confidence in the Gospel
Because so much ministry is centered on Sunday and people with teaching gifts (Sermons, Sunday School, Programs), rather than every day life, people have completed their self analysis and concluded that they have nothing to offer…and sit in exile on the ministry sidelines as a result.
Such cases reveal a dependence on their own abilities (or lack thereof) for ministry effectiveness. But God calls us to minister. We are a kingdom of priests (1Pet. 2:9)! We are to speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:16). We are a house of living stones (1 Pet. 2:5)! And Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation” (justification, sanctification, and glorification). We are all, A-L-L, gospel ministers.
A heart that truly believes the all-sufficient, powerful gospel and that seeks to help people apply the riches of our redemption in Christ to life will minister effectively because it is the Holy Spirit who actually takes our applications of the gospel truths and makes them efficacious in the life of the believer.
How to Move People’s Confidence From Self to the Gospel
1. Teach people what ministry really is: It is not merely teaching a class (something which they may never do), etc., but it is proclaiming the gospel to one another in life so that we grow up into Christ as individuals and as a local body. This ministry is everyone’s responsibility.
2. Equip people to do number one above. Teach them how to apply the gospel to the heart by faith in life.
3. Teach and remind people—often—that it is the gospel that makes them sufficient to minister. The gospel calls them, the gospel equips them, the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to bring transformation in His time.
4. Publically highlight and develop a greater emphasis on the everyday life ministry that is taking place. Most people view “real ministry” as that which is done by professionals, not what THEY do in their relationships. This is a hard change for people to understand and act on. It takes a very intentional effort to make the change.
5. Examine your own example as a leader. Is your example one that clearly demonstrates that you believe that “the little guy” can do real, effective ministry? Are you always in the spotlight? Do people see you minister through your own weaknesses that find strength in the gospel? Or are you always seen as the guy for whom ministry is effortless and the guy who never struggles?
6. Begin to graciously and patiently hold people accountable for doing this ministry.
7. Remind them that the gospel is their strength.