Yesterday was our corporate worship. I assume, you, like me, spent some of the day with the church. How was corporate worship? What did you learn? Did you leave yesterday with a greater love for Christ? Did you learn how to serve another person in your church? Did you learn how to pray for those in the body? Hopefully you can answer yes to each question.
Corporate worship exalts Christ as we unite our voice to sing praises to Him, read and hear Scripture, pray for the church, and hear God’s Word through the sermon. But this is not all our worship. Worship is also serving. We are tasked by God with more than just formal worship. We are called to love one another, pray for one another, encourage each other, serve one another, and consider each other as more important than yourself. The one another’s in the NT speak to the need to worship Him through relationships with others. For the NT student, this is nothing new. Believers are ministers. The pastor is a minister, but not the only minister. Every believer is a minister as gifted by God (Eph 4:6).
Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The underlined phrase indicates God gives pastors and teachers to the church in order to train and prepare believers to do the work of service. What is that service? The Greek word is the same for “minister.”
If your faith is in Christ, then you are equipped by the Spirit to minister and serve other people. Ministry is rewarding, hard work, frustrating, yet filled with praise, joy, and amazement at God’s work in people’s lives. If every believer is called to minister, this means there will be times when you and I have to dig deep into a person’s life and support, exhort, admonish, or help him or her. There will be times when we don’t know what to say, do, or how to pray. Yet the reality looms like a perpetual rain cloud and we know service is required.
Yet often in discussions with people, there are a few actions believers are slow to develop and therefore hinders ministry. Or, to phrase this positively, there are three actions and beliefs a believer has to have to effectively minister to others. I worked in a Christian bookstore for five years. Every day I spoke with countless people regarding their concerns over friends, family members, and loved ones. People in the store had concerns and often I found each person needing to hear one of these three encouragements: “Engage in this situation;” “Be patient with him or her;” or “Take this opportunity to learn and provide biblical counsel.”
We are called to minister to people. Here are three actions and characteristics each of us needs to serve others (of course there are more, but these three are often overlooked).
First, be willing to engage the person. The story is familiar. While talking to a friend, it comes to light that he struggles with sin. Listening to him we are left with two options: pawn him off or engage and minister. In the Lord’s sovereignty, He decided your friend would open up to you. He is placing this issue and ministry opportunity on your plate: engage. Get into the situation and get involved. Paul says, ” Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
Galatians tells us to help restore our brother and bear his burden. His burden is my burden. Don’t know what to say? That’s okay. Listen to your friend and learn about the issue. Not sure how to respond? Give your friend the Gospel and promise him the hope found in Christ Jesus. Then tell your friend, you will learn too, and be there to minister and support him. Pray for him. Get involved and do what you need to serve. This is your brother in Christ, television, books, hobbies, and even family (to some extent) can all sacrifice to serve him. Get involved and serve him.
Second, develop and cultivate patience or long-suffering. Restoring your brother may be easy. The counsel may be simple. But unfortunately, sometimes the issue is something deeply rooted in a person having manifest for years. This means it will take time to learn, grow, and change. Yes the person should repent instantly, but sometimes learning and changing behavior takes time. You may actually have to tell the person 1000 times the same thing. That’s okay. Be patient. “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
In each situation a different form of counsel is offered depending on what the person is going through. A weak person needs help, the fainthearted needs encouragement, and the unruly needs to be admonished. Yet in all three circumstances, we are called to be patient. Change sometimes takes time. The Lord is patient with us. We can be patient with others.
“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25). When dealing with sin, sometimes a person digs in and refuses to admit sin or wrong doing. We must not give up and walk away. Even when he or she combats our counsel and insults us. Walking away is easy and removes the burden we are called to bear. Instead we must be patient and love the person. “Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Our ministry has to reflect biblical love. Personally I’m thankful the Lord is patient with me and therefore struggle thinking He is patient to me but I can be quick to dismiss other people.
If this is difficult, begin to work on patience. Start by remembering and thinking about how patient the Lord is towards our sin and maturity. Remember we don’t change people, the Spirit changes people. It would be great if simply tightening a screw fixed the problem. Unfortunately people do not work that way. Instead we need the tender, gentle care, and patience from loved ones.
Finally, be willing to learn in order to minister to your friend. When your friend comes to you with his problem and you’re thinking “I have no idea.” Be resolved to have an idea. You don’t have to know all the answers at that moment. Instead, go learn. When people would ask, “What’s a good book to give this person?” Our discussions always moved to, “Will you read the book?” Why? Because if God sovereignly ordains you to minister to him, then God wants you to also learn so you can encourage and exhort your friend. If your friend struggles with pornography. Rather than simply give him a pamphlet, grab your Bible, a good resource, and learn about the issue and how God wants us to minister in this situation. Call your pastor, grab coffee with him, and ask him how you should minister in this situation. Remember, he is here to help equip you. If it means staying up late reading and studying, your friend is worth it — you are worth it — people are worth it!
Learn the issue, know your friends specific details, and know what God says about dealing with the problem. Then engage more and be patient. Be resolved to minister to your friend and thank the Lord for the opportunity we have to love one another. The church is the safest place to confess your sin because we are a group of people who recognize our sin and yet know the Savior forgives and changes our nature. Is there a safer place to go when struggling with sin?