• 09:22
  • Sunday ,13 June 2010

The Ministry (23)

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,13 June 2010

The Ministry (23)

 In continuation of the preceding Article about individual work done by the Lord Christ and the Father Apostles:     Individual work is clear in the ministry of the Father Apostles as well as in their Epistles, as in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, where we read about his work with Philemon and with Onesimus the slave. St. Paul could turn him from a slave to a beloved brother profitable to him in the ministry. He even promised to repay his debts to Philemon (Philem 16- 18). 

      In St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, in addition to the pastoral and theological teaching contained therein, there is private talk with Timothy about his personal life and conduct, and even about his health, as for instance his words, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities." (1 Ti, 5: 23) So many are the examples in other epistles of the apostles 
      Advantages of individual work:  1. Individual work is concentrated, private and yields immediate fruit. A sermon in the church or in a meeting is usually addressed in general to everybody present, but in individual work, focus is made on a certain person, and on that person's life and circumstances. It is concentrated ministry with clear results, unlike the public sermon where a preacher cannot guess the impact of his words on the listeners. A preacher can notice the response or the rejection to his words, as well as the reactions or objections.   2. Individual work is distinguished for having a special reward, because it is secret ministry. Public sermons, large classes of Church Education or ministry in villages, all such ministries are apparent to everybody. The name of the minister, his ministry, and its times are known in advance, but individual work is not known to anybody or admired by anybody, for, "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Mt 6: 4, 6)  3. Individual work also implies humbleness. Some ministers serve only at high levels, either in big meetings, big churches, or a famous place, otherwise they excuse themselves! On the contrary, in individual work a minister speaks to one person only, away from fame. Such is the ministry that gives, and apparently receives nothing.  4. Individual work is distinguished for implying more love and more concern, more impulse and more care. In public sermons people go to church, but in individual work, it is the minister who seeks the person. Even if the person seeks the minister's guidance, he will find special care.   Individual work is love for the others, and awareness of the value of each soul for which Christ died, and for which the price was the blood of Christ. It is plucking out of that soul from fire, as the apostle says, "Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." (Jud 23) The angel of the Lord likewise said about Joshua while saving him from the devil who was resisting him, "Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" (Zech 3: 2) How deep are the words of St. James the Apostle in this regard, "He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (Jas 5: 20)!  5. Some individual work may be so important as to turn into a great public work. An example is the care and guidance offered by the Lord Christ to Saul of Tarsus. The Lord's call to Saul turned him to a great power in evangelism, who labored in the ministry more abundantly than all the other apostles (1 Cor 15: 10). How then can you know that the person whom you serve will not be a great person afterwards!  6. You can acquire deep spiritual experience through individual work, by which you know more about the human soul, the wars against it, and the hindrances on its way for virtue. You will know the difference between theoretical teaching to groups and talking, arguing or discussing with a certain person, explaining to him the way of virtue and listening to the obstacles hindering his way.  7. Individual work is distinguished for being more practical than public work. A person who has previous or present experience in individual work will be more effective and influential in public work or preaching. His words will have good impression on the others, and his teaching will be practical rather than theoretical, speaking about the actual life people experience. 
      Priesthood involves both individual and public work together.     Priests do public work in the public prayers, sermons, and services, and do private individual work through confessions, solving of problems, and visitations. A priest works with all people in public and with each individual separately, or with two individuals together sometimes, as when making conciliation between them, assisting them in arranging their joint life, or arranging their joint ministry. A priest may also do individual work with one family from among all the families of the church, or with a certain group.  
      Fields of individual work:     There may be individual work with one's own household, as Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Josh 24: 15) The Lord also said about His commandments, "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house." (Deut 6: 7) See then whether you have a spiritual ministry amidst your family or mere social and family relationship or even fighting, whether you have ever tried to lead your younger brother to God or one of your relatives to repentance or to sound faith.  
      Individual work may also be among the neighbors and acquaintances. If you are spiritual, they will benefit from your spirituality and from your spiritual influence. Your presence among them ought to have its fruit in their life. I fear that your talk with them is void from any mention of God, because you avoid or feel ashamed of mentioning Him lest they accuse you of being a godly person! The same applies to the work or school or university colleagues as well as to the friends in the club or in any social activity.  
      How do you serve those? Have you attracted any of them to the way of the Lord, or even invited somebody to a church meeting? I really admire Philip the Apostle who while on his way did great work with the Ethiopian eunuch. He introduced faith to him and baptized him, so the eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8: 38, 39) 
      Remember how many people the Lord had put in your way, and see whether you offered any of them a spiritual word, a word of benefit, or some encouragement. 
      True ministers of the Lord are really wonderful and distinguished for their testimony to the Lord (Acts 1: 8)!     Among the many people you deal with some would offer you their knowledge, others their intelligence, others their gentleness, and others some service, but those distinguished ministers of the Lord would introduce to you Christ in a nice and attractive way that makes you feel that Christ is in your midst! This may happen on any occasion, during a visit to a patient, a comforting visit to a sorrowful family, or on a feast day. A true minister can turn any ordinary meeting to a spiritual meeting in a calm and natural way! I remember here the deep meetings of the saints, foremost of which is that of the holy Virgin Mary with Elizabeth. Was it a mere service to that old woman in her last months of conception, or it was accompanied by something more? When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1: 41)! It was a meeting of prophecy, divine revelation, praising, and spiritual talk. 
      Wonderful also is the meeting between St. Anthony and St. Paul, and between many others saints! They used to speak about God, and His name was always on their tongues. His name is sweet and blessed on the mouths of His saints, as we say in the praise songs. You would say, 'Who hears? Who understands? Who accepts?' Oh, my brother, just speak and leave the result to God's work in the hearts. You have only to speak God's word with wisdom, and trust that His word will not return void, but will accomplish what He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isa 55: 11). Therefore, be keen within your ministry to let God speak on your mouth, and as for the result, remember the words of the Scripture, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." (Eccl 11: 1) 
      Some souls need much time to accept the word of God and to let His word be fruitful in them. This needs persistence and patience.     Each soul has its own circumstances and intellect, its past and its present, its environment and pressures, and its feelings, emotions and concepts. Not the same word is suitable for every soul, but individual work requires wisdom for choosing the suitable words, the suitable way, and the way of dealing. 
      You can address a certain problem directly in an acceptable way, but the same way may not be acceptable to a large number of people who probably are not used to it. A minister should watch for an occasion to say a spiritual word in a natural way. The way to do individual work will be the subject of the article of the following week, God willing.