Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Teaching Summary (5/12)

Rediscovering Church:
Being a Team
Acts 6:1-7

Last Thursday, we spent some time on the question, "What is ministry?"

It's a tougher question than you might think. An easy answer is that ministry is what a church does (or should do). But what does that mean? Is it teaching the Word? Is it counseling? Is it having small groups or bake sales?

We had some good discussion and some good definitions. Someone defined it as, "meeting people's needs". Another volunteered that it's, "being the hands and feet of Jesus." Someone else said it was "doing things according to our core values." (A classic teacher's pet, that one.)

All of those definitions are good, and I think ministry is all of those things and more. The ministry of the first century church was (among other things) feeding the hungry, prayer, teaching the word, sharing meals, growing in community, worshipping with reverence, and proclaiming Jesus to the unbelievers. But the answers lead to a secondary question: "Who's responsible for that ministry?"

The temptation we all face in the church is to view the staff as being the "ministers", and the congregation as being the "receivers". This shows in the comments of church shoppers: "Well, I liked the music, but I just didn't get anything out of the sermon," or "I just didn't feel like I was fed there," or "I really like this one because it has the programs I want." This is one of the by-products of the "come and see" model of evangelism, where Sundays become a production to win "seekers". While it's a great way to make Christ appealing to the unchurched, it lends itself to the "minister-receiver" relationship and a consumer mentality of church. We need to fight against that tendency, even as we try and attract non-believers to church.

The way to fight against that tendency is to stop worrying about ourselves so much, and focus more on how we can meet the needs of others. It is the job of the leaders to equip the believers for ministry. But all of us do the actual ministry. We need to function as a team in order to accomplish all that God has for us.

In Acts 6, there was a controversy because some of the widows in need weren't receiving the provision that had been allocated for them. It wasn't corruption in the system, it was simply that the growth of the church made the administration of the system more difficult. When the Apostles were informed of the problem, their reaction was strange: they decided not to get involved. It wasn't that they didn't care, it was that they knew other people were better suited for that type of ministry. They were called to prayer and teaching the word, and if they had to take time away from that, the church would suffer. So they called together ALL the believers, and gave them the freedom to appoint 7 men to lead the "distribution center" for the needy. While they gave the believers parameters for who they could pick (good reputation, full of the Spirit, and wise), they didn't micro-manage the selection process. God led the people, and they picked godly men. Throughout the process, everyone was involved. When it was over, there were almost twice as many leaders, and everyone had a taste of "ministry".

While we currently aren't faced with the same problem as the early church (namely, administrating rapid growth), we will be at some point. And it's while we are still in these early stages that we need to put the foundation in place that Harvest will be a church where everyone plays a part. God has given all believers supernatural gifts for the benefit of the church, and we can only reach our potential as a church when we all use them.


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