Summary: This sermon from Ephesians Chapter Four challenges our laity to be in partnership in ministry with pastors as pastors train them for that ministry.
EVERY CHRISTIAN IS A MINISTER--EPHESIANS 4:11-13
Since the time I was in the fourth grade, I always wanted to be a teacher. Prior to wanting to teach music, I inspired to be a classroom teacher. I always enjoyed school. Each year I would enter a new grade that became the grade I wanted to teach.
Although I never trained for the teaching profession, I’ve always had the opportunity of fulfilling the ministry of teaching as a pastor. In many respects the ministry of pastor and teacher is one calling. Paul tells us that “the gifts Jesus gave were that some should be pastors and teachers.” Apostles, prophets, and evangelists are separate offices Christ has given to His Church. Pastors and teachers is a combined office with two distinct functions.
The Greek word for pastor is also the word of shepherd. The analogy between those who shepherd sheep and those who are called to pastor Churches are not coincidental. The work of a shepherd has many parallels with that of a pastor. Shepherds care for sheep; pastors care for God’s people.
Just think for a minute how many characteristics human beings share with sheep. Sheep are affectionate, unaggressive, relatively defenseless, and in constant need of care and supervision. Doesn’t that description basically fit each one of us as well? Therefore, the way a pastor nurtures his or her congregation is not unlike the way a shepherd or shepherdess tends their sheep.
A pastor preaches and proclaims the Word of God. A teacher teaches the Word of God. Paul makes it clear in verse twelve that the pastor-teacher is commissioned by God to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Who are these “saints?” This term is used about forty-five times in the New Testament for all true believers in Jesus Christ. Paul addresses this letter: “To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1).” All who are faithful in Christ Jesus in Ephesus and elsewhere throughout the centuries are called “to the work of ministry.” This includes each one of us.
To What ministry are we called? The word ministry literally means “servant.” We are all called to be servants who follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus sets our example in His own personal testimony in Luke 22:27, “. . . I am among you as one who serves.” Then in Matthew 20:25-28, He commands us, "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’” Jesus fundamentally portrayed the servant spirit by washing His disciples’ feet in John 13 and then explained, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” Our ministry is that of serving others following in the example of Jesus, our Suffering Servant.
We serve others by meeting their needs. The opportunities throughout Scripture and in our world to do so are limitless. Servant ministry in Matthew twenty-five includes: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, opening the door of hospitality to the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. Servant ministry includes preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, and giving. Servant ministry is laymen, laywomen, and teenagers from our Vermillion River District working countless hours building the Hispanic parsonage in Momence. Servant ministry is going to the Gulf Coast to help our brothers and sisters rebuild their homes, Churches, and communities after the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina.
Servant ministry is donating blood to the American Red Cross or buying Christmas presents for needy children for the Salvation Army Angel Tree. Servant ministry is raking the leaves or mowing the lawn for your elderly neighbor. Servant ministry is becoming a big brother or big sister for a child or teenager that needs a godly mentor to show them the way. Servant ministry is sharing compassion and showing concern. Servant ministry is encouraging those who are discouraged. Servant ministry is giving financial support with a generous heart. Servant ministry is showing mercy.
Servant ministry is babysitting for a young Mother and Father so they can have “a Mom and Dad’s Night Out.” Servant ministry oftentimes is simply having open eyes to see and meet the most obvious needs of those around us who are hurting in some way. Servant ministry is our food pantries and Chatsworth United Methodist Church providing Thanksgiving Dinner for our community.