Who is the minister in our congregation? What a silly question, you may say, because the answer is obvious. And in any case, what does that question have to do with Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:12? Well, he does refer to the ‘work of ministry’.
In this verse we are continuing to reflect on Paul’s exhortation concerning unity. We have seen that unity requires correct attitudes and beliefs. It is also enhanced by the giving of gifts by the ascended Christ to his people. Now Paul reminds all of us regarding what we should do in our local church life. The pastor, in teaching the congregation, serves by equipping the believers to serve one another. So what will serving one another look like?
An illustration of what is in mind here is to liken the church to an orchestra and Jesus as the conductor. The harmony of the orchestra depends on each gifted musician playing his or her instrument when the conductor indicates they should. Some of these individuals are more gifted than others in the orchestra, but the less-gifted have also to play in order for there to be harmony. So in the church: Jesus directs it by giving particular gifts; some, such as pastor/teachers, are more public; the others are also needed. Harmony is only achieved when all of them practise their roles.
The word that is translated ‘serve’ was used for those who served at tables, who gave to guests the food that had been prepared for his master’s guest(s). Later it was extended to all who engaged in various kinds of service in which the servant’s position as a lowly person was obvious. It described a person who worked hard.
Paul makes it clear that ministry in a congregation is shared service – all the believers are to be involved in this activity and no-one is allowed to opt out. A balanced, healthy Christian life must have a corporate dimension. The fact that it is shared service indicates that the spiritual gifts we have been given were given for the common good. There will not be disunity in a congregation composed of hard workers in Christ’s cause.
This service is also self-effacing service. It should not be difficult to see the crucial importance of this attitude. Humility means that a person will neither think too highly of himself or too lowly of others. A humble believer delights to benefit from other Christians and to serve God with them. There is no disunity in a congregation composed of humble members.
The consequence of such service is growth of the body, both numerically and in spiritual stature, as it continues to serve Christ together. Realising this means we have to change our opening question to, ‘Who are the ministers in our congregation?’ Or perhaps to, ‘Who is allowed not to minister in the congregation?’