Ministry or Menistry?

Ministry or Menistry
Robert Wurtz II

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11–13 NKJV)

It is contrary to the general expectation of workers that they see no results for their efforts. If men and women cannot look with their eyes or touch with their hands the results of their works, they generally cannot comprehend the meaning and worth of it all. This was one of Solomon’s complaints… “It is all vanity!” In other words, nothing really lasts. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Moreover, living things must go the way of all flesh.
The purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors (shepherds) is not to build something made of wood or stone. As tempting as it is, we must never measure our works by tangible things. Nevertheless, many are working towards leaving something behind that will serve as a monument or memorial to their “work.” It is a mindset. In fact, unless their time and treasure are in some way building the “monument” then spending them (time and treasure) does not make sense.  Some have the philosophy, whether they say it or not, that resources must not be spent on people — but on property or possessions. The concept of laying up treasure in heaven where moths and rust cannot corrupt seems to allude many.
Yet God has made an investment for His own project, the Church. While men are building their own memorials and their fathers’ sepulchers with God’s resources, God is expecting us to build an invisible Church. In another form, we are building a kingdom that does not come with observation. In other words, we can’t point to it and say, “It is here… or it is there.” This kingdom is within the hearts of men. We are to work in this ministry until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Our labors are to be directed towards the saints maturing into the fullness of Christ. That is our end goal. Not anything that man can lay his hand on or look at. Our resources (giftings, time, and treasure) are to be spent with this in mind.  Ministry is work! The Greek word for work is ergon and is sometimes translated as ‘works’ (as in “the works of our hands”). These works we will someday be judged by. With this in mind perhaps we should ask ourselves a series of questions to know whether or not we are on the same page with God when it comes to our works in the “five-fold ministry.”
1. Does the ministry equip the saints?
2. Does the ministry promote men or ministry?
3. Does the ministry edify (build up) the saints?
4. Does the ministry work towards the unity of the faith?
5. Does the ministry preach and teach the knowledge of Christ?
6. Does the ministry aim towards perfection of the churches?
7. Does the ministry strive to be a body that rightly represents Christ in the earth?
In order for the people of God to realize (see come to pass) God’s purposes in gifting the Church with the “five-fold ministry,” there has to be a consciousness of what God is trying to do with the churches in the first place. What are we aiming at? Are we trying to build our own legacy? Are we trying to leave something behind that we will be remembered for? Are we investing our resources in tangible things so we can look at them and boast about them, or are we investing in people? Are we in step with God’s purposes in the earth?
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11–13 NKJV)

Preaching the Gospel in Absentia

Robert Wurtz II

“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:14–16 NKJV)

Many commentators and Bible students read Romans 1:14-16 and are met with a mystery. Why would Paul preach the Gospel to people who had already heard it? In fact, he rejoices because word of their faith was said to have reached the “whole world.” Why did they need to hear the Gospel again? Some suggest that Paul was asserting his authority over the saints at Rome (particularly the Gentiles) because he was “an apostle to the Gentiles” and that task had been committed to him.

Many Greek scholars agree that the church at Rome came about through the preaching of the saints sent out from the “mother church” at Jerusalem. This means there was likely a Jewish emphasis. If this is true it would follow that Paul would address the believing Jews in the manner that he did. Yet perhaps Paul felt responsible for making sure that all the saints at Rome fully understood the Gospel. Having never met them face to face and having nothing to go on but what he had heard concerning their faith — I think he played it safe and re-preached the Gospel to them all over again. Indeed, the book of Romans is an example of Paul’s Gospel message as it would have been preached to people who he had no way of knowing where they stood with God.

When Paul met up with the first believers at Ephesus he asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. He soon found out that they had received only John’s baptism — which by that time had already expired and was no longer effectual. Their response was to be rebaptized in water. The Greek word for re-baptism is ἀναβαπτισμός (anabaptismos). This is ἀνα (ana or “Re”) and βαπτισμός (baptismos or “baptism”) We get the name Anabaptist from this word. With this event in mind, I suggest that Paul was re-preaching the Gospel to the saints at Rome — in much the same way the early Ephesians needed a re-baptism. Paul simply could not risk the possibility that there was some defect in their understanding or experience. The only way to be sure was to re-preach the Gospel to them.

There is one Greek word that translates the English words preach the Gospel, and it’sevangelisasthai. We get our word evangelize from the cognate of this Greek word εὐαγγελίζω (evangelizo). So if ἀναἀναβαπτισμός is used for anabaptism or re-baptism; perhaps we need to coin a new word Anavangelism and Anavangelist. Instead of re-baptizing folks, we re-preach the Gospel to make sure that the people heard the right message. Many false Gospel messages have gone out into the land. Would it be fair to say that if Paul was concerned enough to pen a message such as Romans that we ought likewise to be concerned about what people are hearing, believing, and responding to today?

Can you imagine being in Rome and picking up the message of Romans and reading it for the first time? Our attention would be arrested when we read, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also…” Many sermons have been published over the last 500 years. Sometimes when I read one of John Wesley, George Whitefield, or some other dear saint — I’m transported to the time and place. I can almost hear them preaching to me. I get the same feeling when I read Romans. Did you know that the entire book of Romans can be read aloud in just over an hour? I have sat through sermons that were two hours long. I have a hunch that Paul could have preached the entire message of Romans in one sermon. As good of a grasp as Paul had of the Gospel, I believe he could have done it extemporaneously.

What did we think Paul meant when he said plainly, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome, and then went on with his message? He was preaching the Gospel in Absentia. That is to say, he was not present physically but nevertheless he preached to them. Modern scholars get all tied up debating whether it’s a letter (epistle) or a didactic teaching, etc. They wear themselves out trying to find a category for the book because it is so unlike the other epistles in the Pauline corpus. They want to know why he comes off so strong thundering against sin.

Some almost complain that it’s not soft and as easily entreated like the epistles. Of course, it’s not like the epistles, those were written to the saints. Not knowing where the people at Rome stood with God, he took it for granted that he needed to preach to them the “whole lot” as if they had never heard the Gospel. And that’s why we have it in its completeness.

What did Paul preach to the Jews, Greeks, Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise…” (Romans 1:14 KJV)? Why does Romans sound resoundingly like Paul’s preaching at Mars Hill? Why does it agree with Acts chapter 26? I suggest quite simply that Romans was a sermon preached in Absentia. It contained within its body the essential message necessary to “… open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:18 NKJV) It even contains an “invitation” towards the end, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1–2 NKJV)

What a difference it would make if all ministers took Paul’s approach to making sure the people heard the Gospel properly.

Worshipping With Themselves

Robert Wurtz II

“When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound. For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” (Hosea 5:13–6:2 KJV)

 

The two kingdoms could not defend themselves against the chastisement of the LORD with the help of any earthly power, including the mighty Assyrians. They had a festering wound — what we would call in modern times an abscess. The root of this deadly sore was sin. Not just any sin, but apostasy from the Lord. In fact, though God elected Israel to be a light to the nations and predestined them to be a kingdom of Priests unto God; they failed miserably becoming more sinful and godless than some of the pagan nations before them.

Jehovah (Yahweh/YHWH) was not ready to merely cast them aside, but He brought to bear tremendous chastisements that were designed to sober their minds so they might change them and turn back to Him. In another figure, He turned the temperature up until the bellows was burned and the silver was consumed in the fire (Jeremiah 6:29). In other words, as a nation, they were never cleared of their sin no matter what God did. What made things worse is that they sometimes tried to serve Him in a backslidden state. They went through the motions as if they had no sin. This type of blindness and self-deception is rife in modern times.

Backslidden — but Still Worshipping

“Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.

Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:10–17 NKJV)

At some point in the 20th century the prostitute who worshipped Jesus in Luke 7:36-47 became the role model for worship — only instead of repenting and receiving forgiveness, multitudes came to believe they can go on worshipping God with full-blown sin in their lives. From whence it came I cannot tell, but somehow people got the idea that worship solves everything. So long as a person is a worshipper… nothing else mattered. An entire generation believes that worship is a substitute for obedience. Many believe they can live like Sodom and Gomorrah, but as long as they were a “worshipper” God is fine with their sin. The old timers would say that such a lie is hatched from hell. Nevertheless, it is a very old lie; because it was a common problem in Israel.

Isaiah 1:5, 6 tells us that Israel’s “whole head was sick.” God actually referred to them as Sodom and Gomorrah.  The other prophets likewise painted horrid pictures of how terribly the people, who were called by God’s name, had drifted from Him. He could no longer tolerate them coming to worship Him — while behaving like they did. What did God say, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.” Isaiah 1:16-17 gives a list of things they needed to do to get back on track. But the point is well taken. God does not accept worship as a sort-of “spiritual cure-all” for the disobedient. Worship must begin with obedience. 

What did God tell Hosea? “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence…” Our first word is “I” or Jehovah. This is important because since the beginning, Israel had been offered substitutes and imposters in place of the one true God. You will recall that while Moses was on the mountain with God that a dreadful thing happened: 

“And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.” (Exodus 32:3–5 KJV)

Notice how the people were about to worship a gold calf as if it were Jehovah! We would call this a “bait-and-switch” if they were selling goods. Nevertheless, it has been the common means of fooling people down through the ages. Many cults have offered people a false god in place of the one true God. They go through all the religious motions worshipping it… just like Aaron proposed in Exodus 32:5. The meeting may have been labeled “A feast to the LORD” but it was a feast to a dead golden calf serving as an imposter. It was idolatry. Aaron had turned the people’s minds away from the one true God and fixed it on an idol. The key thing is that the people worshipped it as would pagans, but called it “A feast to the LORD.” The whole experience was false.

Worshipping With Themselves

Similarly to how the Pharisee who “prayed with himself” in Luke 18:11, it is very possible for people to “worship with themselves.” The Greek words “with himself” is pros heauton, . This was a soliloquy with his own soul, a complacent recital of his own virtues for his own self-satisfaction, not fellowship with God, though he addresses God. (A.T. Robertson) When a person “worships with himself/herself” it is likewise not fellowship with God — though God is being addressed. One can sing in order to admire the sound of ones own voice. This is not worship. One can play an instrument in the name of worship — but truly they are admiring the sound of their instrument. This is why some desire their instrument to be loud. Their admiration is a sort-of “self-worship” — but addressed to God. True worship has God alone in view and does not divide the worship with anything else.

worship

Religion

It has been said that “Religion is worship in the absence of God.” Sadly, Israel reached the point where God was not present with the people, but they still went on with their worship meetings. What happened? They created a golden calf, a substitute for the presence of God. It was something to direct the senses to. However, God cannot be made into a golden image or anything else. One might exclaim, “We would NEVER do that!” Really? Not so fast. In modern times a whole generation believes that God is a feeling… a similar feeling that one would get listening to a power ballad at a rock and roll concert.

The Holy Spirit is not a feeling. He is a person — the Almighty. Not a tingle, goosebumps, or strange emotional feelings one gets when a beautiful musical arrangement is played. As sad as it is, too often the band starts to play and the music leader (much like Aaron) has knowingly or unknowingly fabricated an imposter. Colored lights begin to flash into the manufactured smoke… the feeling begins to build… and someone proclaims, “Look saints! It’s the glory of God! I feel the presence of God!” Or in the words of Aaron, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” It didn’t happen over night. It happened one compromise at a time. One carnal leader influencing another carnal leader until a whole generation has been deceived by these false spiritual experiences. Somewhere along the way someone knew better — but they did it anyway and defended the practice. Many were on paid staff — receiving a check to deceive people concerning the true presence of God. 

What were the children of Israel doing? They were trying to worship God with sin in their lives. They substituted God with something else. It could have been anything so long as the people could direct their need to worship at it. Yet one cannot worship and rebel at the same time without self-deception; but this has not stopped multitudes from trying. If the book of Isaiah teaches us anything it is that repentance-less worship is worthless. Man may fabricate a host of sights, sounds, and feelings that counterfeit God and His holy presence, but God doesn’t buy it. He says, “… in their affliction they will seek me early.” Not counterfeits or figments of mens imaginations, but Me, the real Me. Indeed, when the people were finally ready to get right with the one true God they declared, “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” Again, notice the personal pronouns.

The consequence of repentance and seeking the one true God is that, “…we shall live in his sight.” This is a way of saying that we will live in the genuine presence of the LORD. We will forsake the notion that worshipping God is a substitute for obedience. Again, the one true God says, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” Notice the personal pronouns, I, my, me. The people may go through the motions worshiping as they always did… but God was absent. It was dead, empty religion — surviving off the life support system of false emotional worship experiences. Is God saying to a generation, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence”? Repentance and acknowledging our sin is always the first step. We must agree with God. There can be no way forward until we acknowledge our offenses. God will simply “return to His place” until we do and leave us to our false devices.  

 

 

   

 

 

A Body or A Business

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship. (Acts 20:36–38 NKJV)
Our passage is a refreshing reminder of how saints loved one another in the book of Acts. Rather than taking the attitude that is frequently encountered in the world — the saints at Ephesus wept when the man of God followed the Lord and left their midst. In a display that demonstrated their genuine love for the man and his ministry they “…all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him.” The original Greek suggests they kept on kissing him. Surely the moment would have felt more like a funeral than a ministerial send off.
 Fast forward to the twenty-first century and contrast Paul’s experience with what often happens in churches. The man of God follows the leading of the Lord to a different field of work and rather than the people “weeping freely, and falling on his neck and kissing him…” they make the departure as difficult and awkward as they possibly can. In some cases they try to block the move all together. When ministers are viewed like professional ball players who must be faithful to their “team” or risk being slandered and mean-mouthed when they leave — something is terribly amiss. It is almost impossible for a ball player to leave on his own terms and at the same time leave on good terms. Beloved, this ought not so to be in the churches of God.
I suggest that one of the reasons why this is so prevalent in the West is that too many ministers and church leaders view ministry as a competition. They market their church and pay close attention to the number of attendees compared to the church down the street. Under this model, “churches” are not really churches — they are “teams” or “businesses” that compete with one another. Church goers are viewed as religious consumers. Under this scenario it is impossible for one church to rejoice with another church when they are successful. Why? Because whether it is said or not they are viewed as the competition. Sound like the carnal church at Corinth? Indeed it does.
“But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:24–26 NKJV)
The church at Corinth was plagued with carnally-minded saints. Carnality always leads to death. It must be repented of and forsaken. Paul sought to sober their carnal minds by illustrating how our own bodies function. God designed the body of Christ in such a way that there would be no division. A body must work together as a unit or it cannot function. Can you imagine a human body where the individual parts competed with each other or tried to destroy each other? God’s design is “that there should be no schism in the body.” Schism is a word that means division. People who cause division are carnally-minded and are living their lives as ordinary sinners.
However, there is codependency in the human body in which each part’s survival is dependent on the others survival. The Greek text suggests that this “care for one another” is quite profound. The great New Testament scholar A.T. Robertson comments on this passage, “Paul here personifies the parts of the body as if each one is anxious for the others.” Can you imagine what the visible church would look like is all churches and Christians actually “worried about” or “had the same care” for one another? Rather than viewing the church down the road as the competition they did everything in their power to promote success — as if their life depended on that other churches survival?
If churches functioned like a body they would not behave like a business. In business there is fear that good employees will take their skills to the competition — so they require non-competition agreements to be signed. I have known of workers to give their two-weeks notice only to be escorted out of the building like a criminal after years of faithful and fruitful service. Why? They were going to work for a similar business that could possibly “compete” with the former company. Beloved, in the churches of God we are not in competition with each other. We should be willing to send ministers to help struggling churches with the same care for one another. To do otherwise is to expose ourselves as unworthy of the Body and an enemy to the true cause of Christ.

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