Monday, May 27, 2019

Anonymous Asks (42)

“How do we minister if we are already in a Christian school?”

Outside of the modern religious and political contexts, the word “minister” simply means “agent” or “assistant”. More importantly, when we find the word “minister” used in the Greek New Testament, it has an established meaning which translators have replicated inconsistently in English.

That meaning is “servant”.

Real Ministry Explored

That is not the way most of us use the word “minister” today. Often we use it as a title, referring to a person who is more like a spiritual authority figure than a servant; a religious expert and a public speaker, usually with a degree of some sort. We come closer when we use the word as a verb rather than a noun, as you have done. Older people still speak occasionally of “ministering to someone’s needs”, by which they mean caring for others — serving them, really.

However, it sounds as if when you use the word “minister”, you are thinking of an evangelist or a witness; a person who presents the good news of Christ to the unsaved.

This is not an incorrect way to use the word. When the apostle Paul wrote, “I magnify [or make much of] my ministry [to the Gentiles],” he was very probably speaking primarily about his work taking the gospel to the unsaved in foreign countries, as well as the work of making disciples of these people when they had confessed Christ in order to bring them to maturity in the faith.

Waiting on the People of God

However, that is not the only way — or even the primary way — the word “minister” is used in the New Testament. The early church chose seven men to minister to the needs of the congregation. A similar Greek word is used there. The expression the apostles used for what these men would be doing is literally “serving tables”. The men they chose were not actually waiters, but they were happy to perform a fairly menial public service for the people of God just like a waiter does: quietly, efficiently and in the background.

A good waiter does not draw attention to himself deliberately, though he may get noticed if he is exceptionally courteous, friendly or provides excellent service. The same holds true for the real, biblical “ministers” of the church. You probably realize that serving does not require a formal office or defined set of spiritual responsibilities. Peter tells us, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” One thing this means is that it is possible to minister both verbally and non-verbally, formally and informally. All that really matters is that we Christians get busy serving one another and building up the Body of Christ.

Spiritual Gifts

Now, the Holy Spirit has given various gifts to the members of the Church in order to help them meet one another’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I wrote a three-parter on this subject in 2016, including a full list of the available gifts of the Holy Spirit, so I won’t repeat all that here, but you may find one or more of those posts useful if you have not studied spiritual gifts. You can find them here, here and here.

So then, you’re looking for a way to minister in a Christian school? Have I got good news for you! If you check a concordance for the words diakonia, diakonos and diakoneĊ, you will discover there are way more New Testament references to “ministering” to Christians than there are to “ministering” to the unsaved. Most of the spiritual gifts I have mentioned are very useful in a Christian school environment, including helping, encouraging, serving, sharing, leading and performing acts of mercy. (Also, if you expect to find only Christian kids in a Christian school, think again. There may be more need for the service of a gifted evangelist than you currently anticipate.)

Opportunities Aplenty

I don’t know in which specific way the Holy Spirit has equipped you to model Christ’s servant spirit to the world and to your fellow believers, but I guarantee that if you love the Lord Jesus and are looking to serve him, you will certainly find opportunities in your Christian school to minister to others.

In fact, if you look hard enough, you may find far more opportunities than you have time for.

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