Martin Luther once said, "If I could become a king or emperor today, I would not give up my office as a preacher." Charles Spurgeon said, "If God calls you to be a minister, don't stoop to becoming a king." Whether you are a minister of the gospel or not, it is important for us all to know what a gospel minister is, what they do, and how they do it. Why? Because the gospel ministry that he engages in is an integral part of the success of the Church of Christ.
For a period of time I used to preach in a small Baptist Church. When I was there, I can vividly remember a guy turning up on a big Harley Davidson motorbike. I heard the bike rumble up, and when I looked out the door, I saw this enormous man with a gang patch on his back. My immediate thought was that we were in trouble (we were in a part of town with lots of gang members). However, he came up and quietly shook my hand, gave me a hug, walked into church, and sat down. I quickly discovered that he was an ex-gang member who had salvation from the Lord. He now rode for a "gang" called the redeemed motorcycle group. A Christian biker group who shares the story of Christ with people. I had very wrong expectations! If we have wrong expectations, as we think about the ministry, we may end up in trouble, too. In Colossians 1:25-29, the Apostle Paul helps us have proper expectations for ministers of the gospel as they are patterned after the Apostles.
What is a minister of the gospel?
Paul says, "I became a minister". The word Paul uses is the same word that gets used for many titles that all function as servant roles. This is a very important thing for us to remember, that the minister is not a king, nor a master, but a servant. As one preacher said, "Even the apostles were ministers, not masters! They were servants, not of the Corinthians, but of Christ. As Matthew Henry put it, "They had no authority to propagate their own fancies, but to spread Christian faith." They were sent out to preach the gospel and so see churches created."
The gospel minister, like the Apostle, is a servant. But who is he the servant of? He is the servant of God. Paul says, "I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me." Often we can be tempted to imagine that a pastor or minister is the servant of the Church or of the elders. We can subtly think that he is an employee. Paul rightly reminds us he is neither of these things, but he is a servant of God. Leon Morris helpfully makes the point, "Occasionally the idea is found that the minister is no more than the minister of the church. Lay people provide his salary and they sometimes feel that they stand to him in the relation of employers to employee. This is emphatically not the case. He is the minister of Christ, not of men. His lowliness and his dignity must both be insisted upon. It is the high privilege of the minister to be Christ's agent in doing Christ's work according to the call Christ has given him."
Regardless of what we think of them and what contractual agreements we might have, the minister of the gospel is a servant to all, but only God is his master. He is like an ambassador with diplomatic immunity. He comes as a servant of the King, on behalf of the King, and yet he comes for the benefit of all those he serves.
What does this mean for us in the church?
First, what we desperately need from God for the Church is not scholars, counsellors, managers, business executives, or sages, (though these things are all needed and helpful!) but men who are called by God, set aside by God, appointed by God, equipped by God, and empowered by God for the good of the Church. We need men who can say with the Apostle Paul, "I became a minister according to the stewardship of God that was given to me for you." The Church is drowning in savvy leaders and business experts, but where are the men who walk forward with the anointing of God upon them? Where are the Timothy's and Epaphras' of today? Pray that God may raise up men of this ilk!
Second, your minister needs your help. Your minister will be constantly tempted to fall off the horse in one of two directions. He will be tempted to belittle his calling and think of himself as just a servant of man and forget his high calling, or he will be tempted to forget he is just a servant and think he has just a high calling. Or to put it another way, he will be tempted to think that he is more or less than an appointed servant of God. Your minister needs your help to remember both. He needs your prayers for God's Spirit to help him fight against these temptations.
Third, your pastor or minister needs your encouragement. It is an immense thing to realise that you stand on behalf of God before the people of God as you labour to prepare souls for eternity. In a future article, we will consider what the minister does and how he does it. But just consider the eternal significance of what your minister does. He will often be attacked by the devil and discouragement of soul. Labour to be his support and not the opposite! By your words and prayers, you can see him go from strength to strength. It is very easy to tear him down; it is harder to see him built up. It is simple to complain and murmur about his weakness; it is more challenging to accept the man God has given you. It is quick to walk out when he upsets you and change to another church; it is slow to seek reconciliation and peace with God's representative.
This article was contributed by Logan Hagoort, Pastor from Covenant Presbyterian Church.