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The Ministry (9)

Pope Shenouda III | 14 February 2010
Measures & Success of Ministry 
God's measures differ from people's, for God tests hearts and minds and knows the truth about everything. He alone can evaluate each one's ministry and knows how effective or routine it is, and the reality or the outward bearing of ministry. No doubt, in eternity there will be wonderful things never imagined. We may find there ministers whom we have never heard about!! And perhaps some of the ministers we know at present will not be there!! Indeed, for our measures are different from those of God. What then are the measures of people for the success of ministry? How God judges them? What are the wrong and the sound measures?
The first measure is the extent of responsibility shouldered:This is the measurer of people, yet God has different measures.
Take for instance Stephen the first deacon; he was a mere deacon. Can we measure his ministry by his rank? Certainly not; for the holy church includes his name among the congregation of saints before all the patriarchs. His ministry is measured by its depth, for he was full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and faith (Acts 6: 3, 5). He was full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6: 8). He stood before three synagogues, and before those from Cilicia and Asia, and "They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke." (Acts 6: 10) That is why after the laying on of hands on him for deaconate, "The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." (Acts 6: 7)
So effective was the ministry of this deacon that the Jews could not suffer it, and they arrested him and stoned him. While being stoned Stephen saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7: 56). They saw his face as the face of an angel (Acts 6: 15). It is evident that a minister is weighed before God, not by his outward qualities and positions, but by the depths of his work, heart, and ministry.
 Another example is the holy Mar Aphram the Syrian.He is esteemed for the great efforts he exerted in the ministry and in resisting the Arians and defending faith even before being ordained Anagnostos (Reader) by St. Basil the great, a rank which tens of thousands of Sunday Schools Ministers nowadays receive, but Mar Aphram considered himself unworthy of.
Though a mere Reader, Mar Aphram was very esteemed by the Universal Church. Due to his wonderful deep poems and writings he was called "The Lyre of the Spirit" and "Melphan/Master". Shall we then measure his ministry by his rank as "Reader", or by its prominent impact on the ministry of faith and teaching, not only in his generation but also in so many generations until now?!
Another example is St. Athanasius, who was a mere deacon in the Holy Ecumenical Council of Nicaea that embodied 318 great father patriarchs and bishops representing the whole world. However, his ministry was not measured by his rank as a deacon, but by his resistance against Arius the heretic and strong refutation of his heresy with deep and sound theological understanding of the Scripture. While still a deacon, in the same Council of Nicaea, he formulated the Christian Creed which is now adopted by the churches all over the world. So, his ministry was measured by its impact and effectiveness rather than by his rank.
Another example is St. Simeon Al Kharraz.  What was his rank? He was neither a priest, nor a deacon, nor even a reader, but was merely a laborer, perhaps of no value in the society or a position in the church. The value of his ministry lies in the depth of his work and prayers which saved the whole church by a miracle – the miracle of moving Moquattam Mount in the days of Pope Abram Ibn Zaraa and in his presence. It is the quality of ministry not the rank that avails.
There is also the example of St. Reuiss. He was not a bishop, a priest, or a deacon. He had no official ministry in the church, yet the church considered him as one of the church fathers. God's hand appeared  clearly in some of his services.
We also recall Ibraim Al Gohari. He was a layman holding an official position in the country. He was not consecrated for the Lord, but he had deep love for the church. His services for the construction of monasteries and churches and care for the poor are unforgettable and put him in the rank of ministers and even higher.
Michael Anglo is an example outside the church. He was an artist and his service in the field of church icons, especially the icons of St. Peter Cathedral of the Vatican, gave him a name in history. Shall we inquire here about his rank in the church, or rather look to his deep service?! Therefore millions of people know Michael Anglo though they perhaps do not know the name of the Pope of those days, or just mention him as contemporary to Michael Anglo!
Another point we highlight in the context of the wrong human measures for ministry is the greatness of the place of the ministry: The greatness of the minister may be ascribed wrongly to the importance and greatness of the place where one ministers, not to the depth or the quality of the ministry.
Take for instance St. Gregory of Nazianz:  He became Bishop of Nazianz, which is not known to many except that it is a city of Caesarea Cappadocia which was served by St. Basil the Great. However St. Gregory did not acquire his fame from the greatness of that city, but from his theological lectures on the Holy Trinity and his own theological character, for which the church called him "the Theologian". He rather made that city famous.
 A similar example is St. Augustine. He was Bishop of the city of Hippo, which is not known to many, except that it is affiliated to the diocese of Carthage north of Africa, presided at that time by St. Aurilios. That city would have been forgotten in history if it was not Augustine who gave it its fame. He was distinguished by his meditations, commentary, theology, and defense of faith against the Pelagians and Manechaeans.
 Another example is St. Gregory of Nyssa. He is the brother of St. Basil the Great, and was ordained by his brother bishop of Nyssa which was only known as part of the diocese of Caesarea Cappadocia. Its name was first recorded in history by St. Gregory, who also wrote much against the Arians. He also had many meditations and a book on the Beatitudes.
Therefore let not anybody say: 'My ministry has lost its value because it is in an unknown town or village. Had I ministered in a big city I would have a great career'!!
The Lord Christ was born in a small village, Bethlehem, the least among Judah (Mt 2: 6). He was from Nazareth which some people wondered if anything good could come out of it (Jn 1:46)! Yet the Lord gave it fame in history and was called "Jesus of Nazareth" (Mt 26: 71), and He also gave fame to the village of Bethlehem making of it the greatest holy sanctuary.
Some ministers measure the greatness of their ministry by its long term.They are called "Senior Ministers", but this is not a correct measure, for some ministers may serve for shorter terms much more fruitful and effective ministry.
The Lord Christ Himself served only for three years and some months.He said about it to the Father, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." (Jn 17: 4) Indeed, He accomplished the Redemption, teaching, giving the good example, correcting the faults, and restoring the divine image to people.
John the Baptist ministered only one or two years. During this short period he could make ready a people prepared for the Lord, and go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah (Lk 1: 17).
Pope Kyrillos IV continued only for 8 years, yet he was called by the church "Father of Reform". This is due to the depth of the ministry he performed.
Time is lacking to speak also about some father priests, like:<BR>   Priest Menessah Youhanna, of Malawi: He reposed when he was thirty, and through his short life he delivered thousands of sermons, besides some books, such as: "The Crucified Jesus"; "The Way to Heaven"; "Church History", which he compiled when he was still a deacon. He also had extensive spiritual influence in spite of the short period of ministry.
Priest Antonius Baki of Queens: He is the first priest we sent to the States in 1972. He ministered there only for five months, but this short ministry was crowned by the words said by the congregation to him: 'We knew the Lord the day we knew you!' Such is the deep ministry which avails.
There may come to the church a guest to deliver a sermon, which is his only ministry in that church, but that sermon and its impact might not be forgotten by the people there for long years afterwards, while someone else may have ministered at the same church for long years but his sermons had not the same impact. One day of St.  Paul's ministry was certainly greater and deeper than long years of ministry by others.
Another wrong measure of ministry is the number of the persons ministered to. As the greatness of a commander in the army is measured by the number of those led by him, whether a hundred or a thousand, the success of the ministry likewise is measured according to some people by the number of those whom a minister serves. This measure may be true, but is not always absolute. What avails is not the number but the change which it caused in the lives of those, leading them to God.
The Lord Christ preached thousands before working the miracle of filling the multitude of five loaves and two fishes, but He had another ministry for the twelve disciples, for they were far more important than the thousands, because they were to attract to faith whole cities and countries afterwards. How beautiful are the words of the Scripture about the success of the ministry of those: "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2: 47) What avails then is not the number of the listeners, but the number of those who receive the word with joy and it brings forth fruit in them, leading them to repentance and to a life of holiness and perfection. 
That is why we encouraged limited number Sunday School Classes to enable the minister to take care of every soul in every way. In the same way we divided the dioceses to limited zones so that a bishop may be able to take care of every city and village in his diocese, lest they are lost amidst the big responsibilities of the metropolitan when he was to take care of whole governorates!!
The Lord gave us many examples of caring about the one soul as He did for Zacchaeus (Lk 19), Nicodemus (Jn 3), the man born blind (Jn 9), and others.
Another wrong measure for the success of the ministry is the multiple produce. It is represented in the multiple number of services or founding a large number of branches or activities. some may get lost amidst all this and not succeed in managing them, or even appoint a number of ministers without preparation. In all this the ministry will lose its spirituality, due to its extension and lack of depths
What are the sound measures for the ministry, and the factors of strength? This we shall discuss next week, God willing. 
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