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The Ministry of All Believers by Howard Snyder: Part 1

Call it revolution or reformation – the church’s understanding of ministry is changing radically. Ministry is in crisis today. Seminarians say they don’t feel called to the traditional pastoral role, and young men and women in pastoral service tell me. “I don’t fit here.”  A young man with...

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The Ministry of All Believers by Howard Snyder: Part 4

Posted by Radical Resurgence | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 14-05-2012



The third foundation stone for the ministry of God’s people is the call to be servants of Jesus Christ. To be a minister in the church means to be a servant. This underscores the practical significance of the church as servant.

A key passage here, though many others might be cited, is Matthew 20:25-27. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus says in effect: If you are going to be my disciple, you must function differently from the world’s way.  The model is not hierarchy but servanthood.  Ministry is service, and greatness is Christ-likeness.

This foundation stone suggests three things for the ministry of God’s people.  First, Jesus is the model for ministry. We do not have to look else where, and anything we learn elsewhere must be corrected by Jesus’ example.

Jesus shows us the spirit in which ministry for the Kingdom is to be carried out. When we follow Jesus, priesthood does not become professionalism and gifts do not become self-gratification.  In our ministry we are to have the mind of Christ, following his self-emptying, serving example (Phil. 2: 1-6).  Lie Jesus, we are to take the form of a servant. Christ’s body is to be the servant church for the sake of the Kingdom.

Second, success is to be measured by faithful service.  It is required of servants that they be found faithful. (1 Cor.4:2).  The standard in the church is not faithfulness instead of success.  Rather, in the ecology  of God’s plan, faithful service is the only way to Kingdom success. Jesus illustrated this in his parables of the Kingdom.

The standard of success is different in the church from that in the world because God’s Kingdom operates fundamentally by grace, not by technique, and through the building of community, not empires.  God the King is the source of both power and the wisdom which brings the Kingdom.  As we serve him in the spirit of Christ, we serve the Kingdom.  He has given us the secret of the Kingdom, and the secret is service.

Third, servant-hood suggests that we are to do the works of Christ.  Doing Jesus’ work is an essential part of the church’s Kingdom witness.  As Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, did the work of the Kingdom, so the church today, empowered by the Spirit, is to do the works of the Kingdom. And the works will be even greater than those Jesus did; for God’s Spirit now works in the church, and the church is spread throughout the world.

We are not, then, left with blind faithfulness.  We are not to do our will, but God’s will.  We are not to build human empires but God’s Kingdom.

We are not to serve earthly powers but God’s power. We are not to do simply whatever seems good to us but to discern the mind of Christ.  What we see Jesus doing in the New Testament, this we are to do as servants of God and his Kingdom today.

These, then, are the three foundation stones for the ministry of God’s people.  They fit into the overall ecology of the church which we have been exploring. Christians are priests of God and servants of Christ, gifted by the Spirit.

Note the shift here from the Old Testament to the New. In the Old Testament, some of God’s people were priests; now all are priests, fulfilling the original design.  In the Old Testament, some people were special servants of God; now all believers are servants of Christ.   In the Old Testament, some people were occasionally gifted by the Spirit for special tasks; now all God’s people receive gifts of the Spirit.

The drift of church history has often been to reverse this: to restrict ministry and charisms, and certainly authority, to a select priesthood  or clergy.  But in the ecology of the Kingdom all believers are priests, servants and gifted ministers.

These three foundation stones form an interlocking basis for Christian ministry today.  They all say the same thing: Ministry is for all believers.  Every believer is ordained for the ministry.  To be a member of the body of Christ is to be a minister.

This does not, of course, answer all questions about Christian ministry.  But it provides a basic perspective from which to deal with specific questions. It suggests the direction any valid reformulation of the church’s  understanding  of ministry must take.

The basic point is that God wants us all for his Kingdom.  In a church of one hundred members he wants one hundred ministers, not one, or five, or ten. And this will be a functioning reality if we see what Kingdom ministry is and agree with Scripture that the church is a ministering community in which every believers is gifted, called and empowered.

Extract from Liberating The Church: The Ecology of Church & Kingdom by Howard Snyder.

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