Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How does God organize people for effective ministry?

How does God organize people for effective ministry? This is a question that is not often pondered. God puts people in many different types of situations that will ultimately bring him glory. It also matters in how we define ministry, if we define ministry as any act of service that brings glory to God then there are some great examples to be found in the Old Testament. Let's take Joseph as an example, by his willingness to serve God whole heartedly even after his brothers intended him harm, his entire family ended up in a better situation.  Another similar situation takes place in the book of Daniel when the three Hebrew boys refused to bow down to the idol and worship. This en-turn led the king to glorify God and worship him.
God's Design
From the beginning God has had a plan. God is the ultimate creative being, because he is the only one who can create from nothing or ex nihilo. He worked hard at creation for six days then on the seventh He rested. In chapter 2 of Genesis verse fifteen, God gave man charge over the garden to work in it and care for it. Just as God made man and watched over him and took care of him. We can also say that God has plans for us to do things long before we ever existed. You may be asking yourself, how I can make such a statement but all you have to do is read the Bible it is right there in black and white. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."(ESV)
In the book of Numbers God gives specific instructions to the people of Israel, he first numbered all of the men of fighting age, and set them apart by tribe. However, not every tribe had men set apart for war. The tribe of Levi was specifically set apart to the service of God in the tabernacle, and was to keep guard of the people of Israel while they ministered at the tabernacle (Numbers 3:8).  Every man had a job to be done and no matter how menial in the end it was to be done to the glory of God. We are admonished by Paul not to work for men but for the Lord in Colossians 3:23. 
A Closer Look
There are several passages in the New Testament I think we should take a look at to gain a clearer understanding of what the Lord had in mind for His people. Let's start with Mark 3:14 & Acts 4:13, from a casual glance these two verses may seem like they have nothing to do with one another; in actuality they are very closely related. The verse in Mark speaks directly to the act of the Lord's choosing men to follow him; not only to follow him but that would learn directly from him and then go out and preach. Now use a critical eye and read over that verse in Acts again instead of just glossing over like we tend to do to so many other things. Did you notice what was said?  13 "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."(Acts 4:13 ESV). These two men had been handpicked by Jesus they were average men with no special training in the eyes of the Jewish community. They did however possess something no other normal person did, a close personal relationship with Jesus. This relationship was so powerful that people were able to notice that these men had been with Jesus, because he taught as one who had authority. The phrase for they had been with Jesus was not used for some passing association but a deep personal relationship.
Moving forward we will look at Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, to gain a greater understanding of how as servants of Christ we are to carry ourselves. To better understand the fifth verse of chapter one, we need to process chapter two verses five through ten. Let's hear what Paul had to say, 

"5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greedGod is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God abut also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers." (1 Thes 2:5-10).

Paul is telling those reading this letter that he had a deep seated love for them and instead of making any demands of them for their well being, he and his fellow co-workers in the gospel worked hard to provide for themselves in an effort to not hinder the Gospel. One thing that stands out in this passage is the tender language Paul uses; it is of a familial nature as he refers to a nursing mother and her children. Paul was reminding them of how they lived among them so that they could love one another in a very similar manner. Now we will review what Paul had to say in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5, ESV) What kind of men were they, well Paul told us; they were gentle, affectionately desirous of them for the sake of the Gospel and hard working.
Bringing It All Together
Dr. Michael Mitchell in chapter eleven of his work Leading, Teaching, and Making Disciples puts great emphasis on this familial language. Not necessarily this passage in particular but of the language of the New Testament as a whole. In the New Testament there are many different ways that believers are referred to: slaves, sons/daughters, soldiers, and the list goes on. But the language use the most is based around the nature of a family with God as our Father and Christ as our brother, the first born and we are co-heirs with him.
In gaining a better understanding of this family dynamic is helping I relate to my children, when the atmosphere is filled with love and understanding things tend to go a whole lot smoother. On the flip side is when I begin to come frustrated with a situation and my voice escalates the demeanor of the entire family changes and it seems like less is accomplished; or what is accomplished is not to the quality or standard as could have been in a different setting. Just like with any family each person has a role to play; they are not all glamorous but they all serve a purpose. When we do as we ought to because of our standing in the family it brings glory to our Father, while allowing us to be effective.

            Going back to the stories I referenced in the beginning we can see that God can take and use any situation He please for effective action. In Numbers 22 God chooses to use a donkey to keep Balaam from going forward with his wrongful actions. Since God has already set in place for us the things He wishes for us to accomplish we can trust Romans 8:28 when Paul says “God works all things together for who love him and are called according to his purpose.” (my mix from several different translations over the years). If these principles were taken seriously the church would feel like home; when I say the church I am not merely referring to the building it plays its part, I more specifically mean the people. In the end when everyone serves the function they were created for there is harmony and love has room to grow, while productivity and relationships have the chance to grow simultaneously. What has God called you to, and how are you responding? If you need to change course so that you are fulfilling the position that God has specifically called you to, do so and see the difference it will make in your life.