(In 1986 the Vineyard magazine, First Fruits, published an article by John Wimber entitled RELEASING LAY LEADERS. This is such an important subject for the church, that I have decided to post most of the original article in four parts over the next four weeks in the hope that God would use it to bless the Vineyards in India.)
MINISTRY AS SERVANTS
Other key passages for equipping and releasing lay ministers are Ephesians 4:7-16 and I Peter 4:10-11.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:10-11
I have discovered three truths for effective ministry in these passages.
First, all ministry is by God’s grace. It is the grace of God, his love expressed through his word and personal interaction with us, that motivates us.
Second, God gives a wide variety of ministries. Two of these are mentioned in the Peter passage — speaking gifts and serving gifts. Among charismatic Christians the speaking gifts (like tongues, teaching and prophecy) are frequently emphasized to such an extent that the serving gifts are ignored. I believe it is essential that all gifts be encouraged and honored in the church, especially serving gifts like hospitality, helps and administration.
To minister means to be a servant. The Greek word doulas is often used by Paul in the New Testament to describe his relationship to his converts and his relationship to Jesus. The word means bondslave and has an interesting history. The Roman slave in the first century belonged to his master. He had no rights. His time, money, marriage, family, and future were at the disposal of his master. This is the image of Christian servanthood that the New Testament writers used. ministry as a servant means doing the bidding of the master.
We too are not our own; we have been bought with a price. We coins in the Lord’s pocket. He can spend us for bubblegum or whatever else he wants. Many of us want to dictate how we are spent by God. But he makes the choices; we do not. Success in the Kingdom of God, then, is measured by faithful service. Each one of us is to do the bidding of God.
It is redemptive for us to serve one another in physical ways. Often after becoming a believer, a person will gravitate toward speaking gifts, inner healing, or deliverance ministry, because he feels those ministries give validation and assurance that he can function. Now, if these folds could minister to other people’s physical needs, like scrubbing floors, changing babies; diapers, in addition to growing in the spiritual gifts, it would be productive in their lives. It is redemptive to mow our neighbor’s lawn, to cook dinner for someone and take it to their house, to help someone pack and move. We have been called to interact with humankind at every level.
Third, every believer has some ministry. This is the area that is most difficult for pastors to reis. Fear is often the culprit that keeps them from releasing the church to minister. The degree to which pastors contain their fear and turn it into faith is the degree to which we can see the church released and watch it bloom.
It is difficult to take risks with people who do not look like they are ready or mature enough to minister, but if we do not do it, they will not get whole. What we frequently have today are wounded healers and wounded soldiers. Rehabilitation takes place in the trenches. The process of getting whole often is directly related to the activity of ministering to others. We are ministered to as we minster to others. Whatever we want to keep, we have to give away.
Taking care of people in real-live situations is not always clean and tidy. Many times people are not grateful for what we do for them. Sometimes they even turn on us. But ministering to others is the only way to live. If we do it as unto God, it is not all that significant whether the recipient is grateful to us. That is one way we can measure for whom we minister, by how upset we are by their reaction later.