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: TILL WE ALL COME IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH, AND OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, UNTO A PERFECT MAN, UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST: EPH 4:11-
The most popular concept of "the ministry" is that of a profession which one chooses, trains for, and then practices with the attendant salaries, retirement programs, and other perks and benefits. According to this concept the "hired man" is paid to preach, teach, visit, counsel, pray, perform weddings and funerals, and to generally be in charge of everything (except the money of course). In the religious tradition I grew up in, "the ministry" was something one "surrendered" to do, as though some great sacrifice of life and liberty was at stake. Today many so called "ministers" see this office as a place of great dignity and desire to be set apart in a special class of men (and sometimes women) called the clergy. (see III Jn.1:9) They then make a distinction between themselves and the "common" people who are known as the "laity". This is perhaps part of the error of the doctrine of the "Nicolaitanes" (see Rev.2:15), for when that name is literally translated, it means conquering the people. This concept is even taken to the point where many believe that "the clergy" have some special place of mediation between man and GOD. This is to usurp the place of CHRIST who is the one MEDIATOR between GOD and man. (see I Tim.2:5). Now I in no way want to demean the offices that GOD calls men to, nor do I wish to disparage the fact that HE gives gifts to men to perform the functions of these offices(apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc.). These "callings" or "gifts" cannot be chosen as one selects a career or applies for a job. Only GOD can give a man these gifts and fit him for the work he is to do. A man cannot decide to have them or reject them; they are simply bestowed by the sovereign purpose of the ALMIGHTY. "For the gifts and calling of GOD are without repentance" (Rom.11:29) "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of GOD and not of us." (II Cor.4:7). If a man thinks he has one of these gifts and is able to keep silent then that ability is the very evidence that he does not have this calling. (see Jer.20:9; 23:9)
Now while it is true that there is a calling and giving of gifts to men such as pastors and teachers, the "work of the ministry" is the calling of all of GOD"s people, and it is the plan of GOD that the saints be equipped (i.e., perfected; see text) for that work through the exercising of these gifts. Each of the LORD"s children is called to the "work of the ministry" which is the building up of the body. We each have a great responsibility to "minister" one to the other. (see Rom.15:2;14:9; I Cor.12:7; Eph.4:16; I Thes.5:11) The New International Version renders verse 12 of our text : "To prepare GOD"s people for works of service, so that the body of CHRIST may be built up." So rather than having a "minister" we are all ministers for the benefit of the whole body. How might we minister one to the other? I believe our ministry to each other falls into three categories which all go hand in hand and in some ways are inseparable.