Lectures on Ministry
Pope Shenouda III | 13 December 2009
Ministry is not mere teaching, otherwise it will be just an intellectual work, nor a minister a mere teacher or a bearer of knowledge which he conveys to the ears and minds of students! What then is ministry?
1. Ministry is love:
It is love filling the heart of the minister towards God and His kingdom and towards people, especially the little. Such a minister loves God and desires that everybody loves Him, and loves people and desires to bring them to God. Such love in the heart is expressed through ministry, for ministry is the natural outcome of a greater thing, that is, LOVE.
If ministry is void of love, it will be a dry and routine work done automatically without spirit. It will turn into mere teaching or mere scholar or social activity! On the other hand if we love those whom we minister to the same as God loves them or loves us, then we will reach an ideal ministry. But if we cannot attain such a level of love, let us try to have our hearts filled with love towards those to whom we minister, as far as our hearts can hold such love.
The Lord Christ's ministry is mainly based on love, for we read that He loved His own who were in the world to the end (Jn 13: 1). This also is clear in the Redemption, for, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3: 16)
You cannot have a spiritual influence on a person unless there is exchanged love with that person. Through this love people may trust you and accept your words and open their heart to you. Then you will know their spiritual needs and can bring them to God and to His kingdom.
A minister of Sunday Schools therefore is a loving and loved person, who loves his pupils and is loved by them, and loves ministry with all his heart and mind. In such a case his ministry will be mingled with emotions.
When one of the pupils is absent this minister will be sorry for his absence, longing to see him. Even if there are 28 present he will long for the two absentees. His visits will not be formal but with love for God and for people. In every activity he will not focus on himself to appear as a good and honest minister, nor for fear of God, but in love for those whom he minister to.
In preparing a lesson for the ministry he tries to give all that he knows to his pupils. He brings some nice stories that may please them and gathers useful thoughts and interesting information, not with purpose to make his lesson an excellent and ideal one, but because in love he desires to make the others happy and benefit. All his labor is for their sake.
2. Ministry is giving to everybody:
Giving is the nature of the minister.
He does not force himself to give, nor compels his will to minister, but he does this automatically as something natural in him. He is like a tree which nature is to give shade, flower, or fruit to everybody, or like a spring which nature is to give water and irrigation to everybody. A minister likewise gives love, teaching, visitation, compassion and help to everybody.
A minister gives to every one on every occasion, and in every place, at home, within the family, in church, in club, amidst study or work colleagues, and everywhere. Like his Master he goes about doing good (Acts 10: 38). Whoever he meets or God puts in his way he tries to express his love to him even indirectly or does something to bring him to God.
Ministry is a moving good.
It is good moving towards people, pushing them towards God with all means: a word of benefit, a blessing, or help which moves the minister's heart towards all the hearts whom he meets. His life is not valuable to him and he does not focus on himself but sacrifices his life for the good of the others.
3. Ministry is the nourishment of the soul:
This nourishment the minister gives to the others to fill them with the good word of God, as the Lord says, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?" (Lk 12: 42) He gives them a rich meal of the Scripture, of meditations, saints' biographies, songs and hymns, theology and dogmatic subjects. He gives them all this in a simple spiritual way which pleases the soul and connects them with God and with His beautiful attributes. Here someone may inquire:
How can a minister present a rich spiritual meal to his children in one hour per week?
Actually the spiritual influence does not depend on the length of time but on the power of the word; the spiritual word which comes on the mouth of a spiritual person in whom the Spirit of God speaks; the powerful and effective word of God which is likened to a two-edged sword.
One word St. Anthony heard in the church changed his whole life and became a cause for an angelic life in all the church.
Ministry does not need much talk but only spiritual and effective words.
It needs words bearing the power of the Spirit, effective in convincing and in impact, and leading to action. On the contrary, the ministry which has no influence or spirit resembles seeds which are not alive, whereas ministry requires entering into the depths, moves the heart, does much, and is considered an incentive.
4. Ministry is holy zeal:
It is a blaze of fire within the heart, kindling it with love for the others and seeking their salvation, not calming down until it succeeds in leading them to God. That is why the Psalmist said, "Zeal for Your house has eaten me up." And St. Paul the Apostle says, "Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?" (2 Cor 11: 29) In fact whoever loves people and has zeal for their salvation will not confine his ministry to a certain group, but loves everybody and serves everybody, putting before his eyes the words of the apostle: "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor 9: 22) All this concerns ministers, what about God?
5. Ministry is the work of God Himself:
Ministry is a spiritual work, because it is the work of God Himself, the Good Shepherd (Jn 10: 11, 14), who said, "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down … I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick." (Ez 34: 15, 16) David the Prophet likewise said, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." (Ps 23: 1)
It is relenting from God to let us take part in work and in caring about His children. He is capable of doing the work of care, but due to His humbleness He – blessed be His name - granted us the honor of working with Him in the same field. Therefore St. Paul could say about himself and his colleague Apollos, "We are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor 3: 9)
Ministry then is communion with the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit who works for the edification of the kingdom, and we are but mere tools in His hands. He works within us, through us, and with us. He gives a word to the speakers and an impression to the listeners. A minister is a mere tool in the hand of the Spirit. But if the ministry is just a human activity it will be in vain and without benefit. That is why we say about the sermon: Let us listen to the word of the Lord on the mouth of so and so.
This is clear in the words of the Lord: "It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Mt 10: 20) And in the messages to the seven churches in Asia we read, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." "(Rev 2: 3) we rejoice at these words, for they give weight to the ministry:
6. Ministry is a bridge between God and people:
Be then a good bridge in your ministry, conveying what the Spirit says, for ministry is a bridge leading people to God, or a bridge on which God's gifts are conveyed to people. A spiritual minister receives from God, not from his own self, and gives His disciples, because the Lord commanded that no strange fire shall be offered on the altar but only the holy fire coming down from God.
Ministry is like the ladder of Jacob reaching between heaven and earth and the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Gen 28: 12). The angels go up with the people's requests and come down with God's response to them. This is represented in the words of the Lord, "ask and you will be given" (Mt 7: 7). The ministers are like God's angels lifting their prayers unto heaven that God may give them word on opening their mouths, and giving their children and pupils God's word.
7. Ministry is the mission of the angels and apostles:
St. Paul the Apostle said about the angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1: 14) And about himself and the other apostles he said, "God … has given us the ministry of reconciliation…Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 5: 18, 20)
The topic of the "Ministry" is a long subject which I shall complete in the following weeks, God willing.