The spiritual concept of "Ministry"
Pope Shenouda III | 27 December 2009
8. Ministry is a debt we owe:
Ministry is part of the big debt due by us to the church that raised us, taught us, and guided us to the way of God, and gave us the Spirit for ministry. We should serve the church as she served us. Ministry even is a debt we owe God Himself who loved us all such love and gave us His knowledge and taught us His ways. We have to love Him in turn and to show this love to His children whom He left in our charge.
9. Ministry is a duty:
It is a spiritual duty required from everyone.
A person who loves God and loves people should serve, for no such person can suffer it to see people perishing before his eyes and stands silent and motionless. Likewise a person who has experienced God's love will always have an inner impetus to speak about such love.
When the Samaritan woman knew Christ, she went immediately to speak to the people about Him, saying, "Come, see …" (Jn 4: 29). She turned from a sinner to a repenting person, or rather more to a preacher who loves Christ and speaks to people about Him!
The same happened with many of those who had been healed by Christ, for they went about speaking about Him.
Everybody can serve according to the variety of the gifts: some serve the poor in the field of charity; others serve the sick; others focus on solving problems or on teaching, in case the church gives them permission. Some people's ministry may be to give a good example.
Therefore who has no ministry has actually failed to fulfill his duty as far as his abilities allow him and has failed to serve his brothers. Such failure to offer a ministry should be mentioned as a confession in the ears of one's spiritual father, for this means that one's love for others, for God, for His Kingdom and for His children is incomplete.
10. Ministry is a debt, a talent, and a responsibility:
God will ask us about each of the children He left in our charge: what we have done for their spiritual edification. Ministry then is a serious responsibility before God and the church. Its seriousness may be briefed in that:
A minister may be the only source of religious education in the life of his students.
They perhaps may not find another source for their spiritual nourishment at home or in school or community. Besides, the church has left this responsibility in your hands and relied on you fulfilling it.
If the children do not find the spiritual nourishment in the church on the hands of its ministers, they will be lost due to such negligence on the part of the ministers!! We can say that the spiritual life of the youths of this generation depends on the faithfulness of the ministers: whether they can kindle their hearts with the love of God and fill their minds with the sound religious knowledge, or let them go empty and cry to God because of the emptiness they experience due to the lack of care on the part of their Sunday school teachers.
Will God then not say to the minister, "Give an account of your stewardship"(Lk 16: 2)? Stand therefore with fear before God, and remember always that ministry is not a mere activity, but rather a responsibility, a talent which we have to offer to God with its profits (Mt 25).
11. Ministry is an example and handing down:
Ministry is handing down rather than teaching.
It is handing down life to the others, i.e. handing down the divine image to them in the living example of the minister who should be a visual aid of the sound spiritual life with all its virtues.
Ministry then is the teacher rather than the lesson, or rather a life conveyed from on person to another or to others.
It is the case of a person who has tasted the sweetness of the Lord and likes to make the others taste it, saying to them, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34: 8) It is a life flowing from a great soul to other souls, or a life of a person who being filled with the Spirit flows from his fullness upon the other. The children are not in need of a teacher who may fill their minds with words or views, but they need a pure heart attached to God and can lead them to God and intercede for them with Him.
They are in need of an example to imitate, in whom they can see the true Christianity in practice.
There may be a Sunday school teacher who is eloquent as should be, but his knowledge is not rich. He has so great influence on the children that merely seeing him would implant in them the love of God. The way he speaks and deals, his spirituality, his cheerful and calm features, all this teaches them more than lessons may do.
They see God's image in such a minister, and they love God who works in that minister's life.
They like to be like him, their life like his, for the children like to imitate. Be then good examples to them, and know that their spirituality surpasses yours, their hearts are clearer, and their principles more sublime. They are white pages with nothing written by the world on them, so they need a high level to benefit from.
The Lord said, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18: 3) He did not mean that we return to childhood, but to grow up in innocence like children.
If you are not an example to them, at least do not be a stumbling block. In their simplicity they accept whatever you say and believe it, therefore let your words be the truth and the righteousness which they expect to know from you and see you doing. The offences, whether in teaching or life, have a great punishment, for the Lord says, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Mt 18: 6)
This good example is called silent ministry.
It is the ministry in which a person gives teaching without speaking. People learn from his life without preaching, for he himself is a sermon. But a person who does not give his life as a sermon, whatever words he may say about ministry will be useless and fruitless. He is a mere transmitter!
12. Ministry is life and spirit:
It is life rather than speech, not mere knowledge conveyed to the others. The words in it should turn into life, for the Lord Christ said, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (Jn 6: 63) Are our words in the ministry life leading the others to life? See what the Lord says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (Jn 10: 10)
Is the fruit of your ministry the change of the life of your listeners to the better? In your ministry, do you give them life? Or do you flow over them from your life? I fear that the saying that applies to you is: 'who lacks something cannot give it.'
Therefore you ought to have communion with Christ and a previous experience in spirituality so that you may be able to introduce God to people. There is a well known saying in the field of the ministry which says, 'None can flow except him who is filled."
13. Ministry is fullness and abundance:
One should first be filled that he may overflow. See the twelve apostles, as an example, how the Lord Christ prepared them for the ministry. They spent over three years absorbing life from Him, from the Good Master, the greatest and deepest Master the world has ever known. They received from Him His example, His pure teachings, from His practices and wonderful visual aids, signs and wonders and way of ministry. They received lessons every day and every hour, spending all their time with Him. However He said to them, "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high," (Lk 24) "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me." (Acts 1: 8) And when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the Day of Pentecost they started their ministry and flowed from their spirit on the whole world. Then the fullness of the Holy Spirit became a precondition for the election of the seven deacons (Acts 6: 3).
What about you my beloved children? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit so that the Lord may trust you with ministering to His children? You may inquire about the criteria for being filled. The answer is: at least when the fruit of the Spirit appear in your life (Gal 5: 22, 23). I cannot speak about the gifts of the Spirit, for these are a higher level which may not be for every one. The children may forget your words but will not forget your life. Are you a spring of life to them? Or have no influence? Or a spring of offences, God forbid?!
14. Ministry is life conveyed from one person to another:
Not only through giving the example and handing down, but there is also a wonderful example from the Holy Scripture about the ministry of the seventy elders who assisted Moses the Prophet in the ministry: the Lord said to Moses, "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel … bring them to the tabernacle of meeting … Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you." (Num 11: 16, 17) Believe me, I stood in wonder meditating on the verse "I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon you"!!
15. Ministry is an effective power:
It is the power of the Spirit working in the minister and in those to whom he ministers. It is the power of the word of God that does not return void (Isa 55: 11), like the life in the seed, when cast into the earth it does not stop work or growth but gives fruit some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred (Mt 13: 8).
16. Ministry is spirit rather than formalities:
Some may think that ministry is mere formality, a mere regular lesson preparation book, attendance sheet, visitation, explanation … etc. and that is all, but ministry is spirit first of all.
It is the spirit of the minister which his spiritual children absorb from him, the spirit with which he delivers the lesson, and with which he deals with the children, it is the heart of the minister rather than his tongue, it is his heart fervor rather than means of education.
17. Ministry is a spiritual means for growth.
It is a spiritual means for the growth not only of the students but also of the teacher. A lesson which affects not the minister and has effectiveness in his life cannot have any influence on those to whom he ministers. The lesson then is a spiritual means for him by which he may grow spiritually and his children grow with him.
A teacher who thinks that the lesson is only for his children, is not an actual minister, for he should abide by the words he says to them and practice them.
We shall speak about the spiritual minister in the following weeks, God willing.