Vol.XIX No.XII Pg.4
February 1983

The Ministry

Robert F. Turner

The ministry is composed of ministers who minister. Of course we all know this because some brethren have taught for years that...

The ministry is a profession by which one earns a living by being supported to preach "full time" by a local church. And, woe be unto the one who quits "full time preaching" for he has "quit the ministry."

Ministers are men (women are not allowed who are "full time, located preachers" who do a greater work and exert a greater influence than the rest of their brethren.

To minister is to do the work of a "full time, located preacher" and can include just about anything that the brethren want him to do.

No...I'm not trying to lessen the importance of and need for men to devote themselves to preaching the gospel. Nor am I opposed to "full time, located preachers." But, the concept of "the ministry" described above, and held to by many brethren, is a bit different from that which is seen in the scriptures. Let's look at the context of Eph. 4:11-12 in order to bring the first century concept of "the ministry" into sharper focus.

Vss. 8-11 describe certain "gifts" that had been given to men: those who were apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors who were teachers. The purpose or function of these men with spiritual gifts is described in vs. 12 (note the change of prepositions in the ASV): "for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ..." What was the work of these men? It was for the perfecting (preparing, making ready) of the saints unto something. "Unto" what? "Unto the work of ministering (service) and "unto" the building up (edifying) of the body of Christ. Who were the ministers? The saints. Who were to do the edifying? The saints.

What does this text suggest about the proper concept of "the ministry"? The ministry is a way of life (see "walk" in 4:1,17;5:2,8,15) entered at baptism (4:5) and left only when we die or apostatize.

The ministers are the saints — all of them — men and women. Each has a different role, but all are of equal value to the whole body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). A minister who preaches "full time" is not "the" minister, and is of no greater importance and influence than a minister who is a "worker at home" (Tit. 2:5) or slave (Phile. 8-20; see also Rom. 16:1-15). To cure a Muhammad Ali complex ("I'm the greatest") read Mk. 10:42-45.

To minister is to make our contribution to the "servicing" and edifying of our brethren (1 Thes. 5:11).

The greatest work is done, and the best influence exerted, by saints who view themselves as ministers with a great work of ministering to be done. This concept of "the ministry" needs to be restored. Will you help?

David Smitherman