Team Ministry, 'Body Ministry' | You Are All 'in the Ministry'
- Summary: Hire the preacher and let him do the ministry work, right? Wrong! God’s plan is for all believers to do the work of the ministry. There is zero unemployment in the Lord's Church.
Philippians 1:1, NKJV Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.
- •• This is the biblical pattern for any local church, such as the apostle Paul was writing to in Philippi
- • “saints” — contrary to some modern definitions, “saints” in the New Testament are God’s people, specifically those who know Jesus Christ as Savior. This is born out in various other translations:
- • “God’s people who belong to Jesus Christ” — Contemporary English Version
• “All true Christians [at Philippi]” — Phillips
• “[to the pastors and deacons and] all the Christians in the city of Philippi” — The Living Bible
• “the followers of Jesus” — The Message
• “God’s holy people” — NIV
- • “bishops” — unfortunately, over the centuries this word has lost its proper, original, biblical meaning, which is “overseers” (Amplified and several others), “the congregation leaders” (Complete Jewish Bible), the “church leaders” (Good News Translation), “the elders” (New Living Translation). These were the spiritual leaders of the flock, undoubtedly including the pastor(s).
• “deacons” — spiritual men assigned to natural tasks in the church, such as the original Jerusalem deacons appointed to look to the well-being of the church’s widows (Acts 6:1-6).
- •• This will be the typical composition of a New Testament church — (1) a group of “saints”, who are all the born-again believers who make up the church; among those saints there will be (2) one or more “bishops, overseers, elders, leaders, pastors, fivefold ministers” attending to the spiritual needs of the church and (3) “deacons” overseeing and accomplishing numerous natural tasks in the church’s ministry. The saints, the deacons, and the spiritual leaders together make up the "team ministry" that is so much more effective than the traditional pulpit-pew churches, where the congregation is content to let the pastors do the heavy lifting.
Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
- •• Here we have five named ministries — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Along with the church’s elders, these aptly-named “fivefold ministries” are the “bishops”, the spiritual leaders and overseers in the churches.
•• Unfortunately, much of modern Christianity labors under the misconception that it is just these ordained ministers who do the work of “the ministry”. That is partially true; these leaders certainly do minister for the Lord in their areas of spiritual giftedness and callings. But Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches a broader and very important truth — these five ministries are charged to perfect, to train, to equip, the saints, so that the saints do the work of the ministry.
- • vs. 12, Amplified His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church). Many have called this "body ministry" — that is, the entire body of believers, not just the leaders, exercising their spiritual gifts and thus participating in the work of the Lord.
• God never intended a small group of ordained leaders to carry the full load of ministry. Rather, his intent was that these men, along with accomplishing the work the Lord has called them to do, will also motivate, train, and release the saints of the church to do the work of the ministry consistent with the spiritual gifts God has placed in each of their lives. Let’s look at some more Scriptures that teach this truth, then see some good biblical examples.
Mark 13:34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
KJV “…and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work…”
- •• Jesus was speaking of His then-pending return from earth to heaven, to be followed at the end of the age by His Second Coming back to earth for His people. Meanwhile, during this Church Age that is now nearly 2,000 years from its beginning, we see Jesus clearly assigning “to every man his work”. Not just the leaders, but all of “his servants … each with their assigned tasks”. From this verse and many others like it have come the biblically proper expressions "the priesthood of all believers" (see Revelation 1:6; 5:10) and the "authority of the believer" (see Luke 10:19).
1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
- •• God calls all of us to do “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). And to empower us to serve Him in this way, He gives “each of” us spiritual gifts to reach out and bless and build up others on His behalf.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
- •• The Holy Spirit (vss. 7-11) dispenses various supernatural gifts to God’s people, so that each of us in turn can minister effectively and with power for the Lord. Among these gifts given for ministry by the Spirit are (vss. 8-10, KJV) “the word of wisdom … the word of knowledge … faith … gifts of healing … the working of miracles … prophecy … discerning of spirits … divers kinds of tongues … the interpretation of tongues.”
- • And remember (vs. 7) “to each one” — not just to a select few — these gifts for ministry are made available. And the door that opens the way into this Holy Spirit realm of ministry with power is the baptism with the Holy Spirit that is available to each and every born-again Christian.
1 Corinthians 12:18-22 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
- •• The Lord’s Church, both worldwide and locally, is made up of “many parts, but one body”. Symbolically speaking, you may be the eye, the hand, the head, the foot, or another function in the spiritual “body”. And every part — every person, every task — is important, is “indispensable”, says the apostle Paul. For example, in your natural body, you probably don’t give a moment’s thought to, say, your pancreas. But just try getting along without it! It’s the same with Christ’s “body”, the church. Every single part is needed and contributes to the health and functioning of the whole.
•• Now let’s look at some bible examples of the “saints”, not just the leaders, doing the work of the ministry.
Mark 16:15-18 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
- •• This is Mark’s account of the Great Commission (the other main account is Matthew 28:18-20). A charge is given to reach “all the world … [with] the gospel”. And supernatural signs would follow not just apostles, but “those who believe”, to confirm their witness of Jesus Christ. This is a commission that is still being fulfilled 20 centuries later by believers going with the gospel into all the world, with the Lord confirming that gospel with supernatural signs that were promised to “accompany those who believe”. That can be you, if you’ll take Jesus’ words in faith and step forth with your witness for Him, in full expectation that He will fulfill His promise and will grant you supernatural enablements to confirm the testimony that you share.
John 4:7, 25-30, 39 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” …  The woman said [to Jesus], “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you — I am he” …  Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him…  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…
- •• For brevity I have omitted the part of the story (vss. 16-19) where Jesus spiritually discerned and mentioned to her some startling facts about her life. This otherwise unknown woman, a Samaritan at that, went back to the town and told the people about this amazing Jesus. In response, crowds came out to hear Jesus, and many “believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”
•• A similar thing happened in my life many years ago. A young woman whose hand I was pursuing shared convincingly with me about her faith in Jesus Christ. I came to saving faith in the Lord, and — happy postscript — that young lady and I shared 38 years of blessed marriage before the Lord called her home to heaven.
Acts 9:10-12, 17-18a In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” …  Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord — Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.
- •• This was a great moment in biblical history. Saul of Tarsus (later known as the apostle Paul) was healed of blindness and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Who ministered these dramatic touches from God to Saul/Paul? — “A man named Ananias … a disciple”. Not an apostle, not another of the fivefold ministries, but simply “a man … a disciple”.
•• The takeaway? You! — man, woman, teen, child, old, young — you can minister healing to others, or the baptism with the Holy Spirit, or speak to them a word of knowledge by the Holy Spirit, and much more. Why? Because it is the saints, not just church leaders, who are to be equipped to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
Acts 21:8-9 …we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Vs. 9, Amplified …four maiden daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
- •• Here we see four unmarried young ladies who were being used in the spiritual gift of prophecy. This is consistent with the apostle Peter’s great Pentecost sermon, quoting the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).
•• Upon which types of believers will God pour out His Spirit and empower them to be used in gifts of the Holy Spirit? — “all people … sons and daughters … young men … old men … both men and women”. That includes you, my fellow believers in the Lord!
So, now that we know that God’s plan is to use all of us Christians to minister in the building of His worldwide Church, what shall we do to present ourselves to God as willing candidates, fit for the Master’s use?
- 1) Seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit, by which the Spirit will empower you for ministry (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4).
2) Stir up those spiritual gifts that are in your life, or will yet come into your life. Do not neglect them, but seek God continually to be used by Him (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).
3) Submit yourself to the equipping for ministry available to you through godly fivefold ministers and elders in your church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
4) Be dedicated to fulfilling God’s giftings and call upon your life. Heed the apostle Paul’s words: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17).
5) Approach your opportunities to minister for the Lord with thanksgiving and joyful commitment: “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21).
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©2013, 2015, James H. Feeney.
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by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.