Summary: This sermon examines what the Bible says about ministry.
Today, as we continue our study in Romans 12, the Apostle Paul is in the so-called practical section of his letter to the Romans. He begins chapter 12 by exhorting the Christians to live utterly and completely for God. Then, in verse 3 he starts explaining how Christians are to serve in the body of Christ.
I would like to take a few weeks to talk about how Christians are to serve in the body of Christ. So, let’s read Romans 12:3-8:
3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8)
Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, “There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable.”
So, if I could copy Napoleon, I say, “The church in the United States is a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable.” Vast numbers attend church each Sunday, and that is about as far as their faith takes them. There is simply no doubt that if all church members were as active as Christ calls them to be, the church would be unstoppable. Instead of lamenting all the bad things that are going on in our culture, the church would be actively engaged in transforming our culture for good.
So many Christians have a country club mentality regarding church. What I mean by that is that so many of them think that becoming a member of a church is like becoming a member of a country club. They apply to join, their membership is reviewed, they may have to go through a membership class, they are interviewed and, if they pass, they are accepted into membership, and they start paying their dues. After they are members they can then be as active as they decide they want to be. Some are very active, whereas others are non-active.
But Christ has far greater expectations than that for his body, the church. He expects every Christian whom he has saved to be actively using the gifts and talents that he has given for ministry.
I read a shocking statistic in a Gallup survey which discovered that only 10% of American church members are active in any kind of ministry. Isn’t that terrible? Is it any wonder that the church is a sleeping giant? But what I think is even worse is that the Gallup survey said that 50% of church members have no interest in serving in any ministry at all. Think about that! Half of all church members say that they simply want to remain as spectators. When asked to serve in a ministry, they say, “I just don’t feel led to get involved.” (Actually, one wonders if it is not another kind of lead—in the seat of their pants!)
So, what I would like to do in the next few Sundays is to take you through what we call Class 301, which is also called “Discovering My S.H.A.P.E. for Ministry.” Today, I want to examine what the Bible says about ministry.
I. The Definition of Ministry
Let me begin with a definition of ministry.
The New Testament word for ministry is diakonia, and it simply means “service.”
The pattern for Christian ministry is provided by the life of Jesus, who came not to receive service but to give it. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; cf. also Matthew 20:28). The verb used for “served” and “serve” is the verb form of diakonia.
Throughout the New Testament the word diakonia is used to describe the service of the apostles, ministers, elders, deacons, and church members.
So, simply put, I would like to suggest that ministry be defined as follows: Ministry is using whatever God has given you to serve him and the needs of others.
II. The Direction of Ministry
Note that we minister in three directions.
First, we minister to the Lord. We read in Acts 13:1-2, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” All Christian service is primarily because the Lord has called us to do it. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:17 that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”