(As found on Christianity Today)
Discerning believers can detect the note of authority in the life of a worker who is himself under authority, and they are not afraid to follow him.
It is unfortunate that the “corporation concept” of leadership has taken over in many Christian organizations, including churches. Jesus had this to say about that concept:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them are given the title Benefactor. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:25-27).
If we submit to Christ, we need never fear submitting to others, for the authority of ministry is submission.
When I visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, I think of a question a tourist asked the guide. That tourist was my wife, and her question was a valid one: “Why was this building constructed?” Our guide was a bit nonplussed at first, but then she smiled and said, “Why, to the glory of God.” Glory in them to the glory of God (II Cor. 12:7-10).
All that God does is ultimately for his glory. Three times in the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul reminds us that God’s great work of salvation is “to the praise of his glory” (verses 6, 12, and 14). God does not save sinners in order to make them happy, although that is a blessed fringe benefit. He saves them that he might eternally be glorified in them.
Ministers must have that eternal perspective. The man who forgets the ultimate is going to be trapped by the immediate, and this can only lead to a busybody kind of superficial service that takes refuge in schedules and statistics. The short-sighted servant forgets God’s glory and soon begins to take shortcuts,play politics, and practice manipulation in order to “get results.” But that’s building with wood, hay, and stubble; and the result is ashes. A pastor friend often reminds me that the harvest is not the end of the meeting; it is the end of the age. This is why it is dangerous to be too dogmatic in evaluating ministries today. The only motive that will survive the fiery test of that day is, “I served to the glory of God.”
There is nothing God will not do for his servant who gives him the glory and who does not fret when others take the credit. The servant who lives for the glory of God has at his disposal all the authority and power of the universe. All of creation works with him to “declare the glory of God.” Praise will not elate this servant, and criticism will not deflate him. He can distribute loaves and fishes or wash dirty feet with an equal amount of joy and skill.
Difficult circumstances that he cannot understand he can accept as long as a God is glorified. He can do even more than accept, for, like Paul, he can glory in them to the glory of God (II Cor. 12:7-10). The first serious internal problem the early church faced was caused by neglect (Acts 6:17). Peter admitted that he and his associates were so busy serving tables that they had neglected prayer and the ministry of the Word. Other believers picked up the load, the apostles returned to their rightful ministries, and the problem was solved. More than that, the Word of God spread and multitudes trusted Christ.
The Word of God and prayer have always been God’s most important tools for ministry. Moses alternated between teaching the Word to the people and going into God’s presence to pray for the nation. Samuel told the people, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (I Sam. 12:23). Paul’s ministry followed a similar pattern: “Now I commit you to God [prayer] and to the word of his grace, which can build you up . . .” (Acts 20:32).
Both are necessary. If we study the Word and never pray, we could have a great deal of light without heat. If we pray but never study, we could become fanatics exhibiting a great deal of zeal but little knowledge. Bishop Handley Moule said he would rather try to tone down a fanatic than resurrect a corpse, but why should it be necessary to do either? If we use the Word of God and prayer, we will have a balanced, healthy ministry and will do the work of God according to the will of God.
The minister who does not know the Word of God is a failure in his calling. Paul, in his pastoral epistles, often mentions the Word of God, doctrine, and teaching. One qualification for a minister is the ability to teach (I TIm. 3:2) – this suggest the ability to learn. As Matthew Henry said in his commentary:
“Study close; especially make the Bible your study. There is no knowledge, which I am more desirous to increase in, than that. Men get wisdom by books; but wisdom toward God is to be gotten out of God’s book; and that by digging. Most men do but walk over the surface of it, and pick up here and there a flower. Few dig into it.”
We can pick up wood, hay, and stubble on the surface of the ground, and that without too much effort. If we want gold, silver, and precious stones, we must dig for them.
We must also pray. “Prayer, meditation, and temptation, make a minister,” said Luther; note that he put prayer first. “The Christian ministry is a work of faith,” wrote Charles Bridges in his classic The Christian Ministry. “And, that it may be a work of faith, it must be a work of prayer. Prayer obatins faith, while faith in its reaction quickens to increasing earnestness of prayer.”
It is dangersous to minister without prayer. “In whatever a man does without God,” wrote George MacDonald, “he must fail miserable or succeed more miserably!” Our Lord depended on prayer when he ministered on the earth. Paul prayed without ceasing. The giants of the faith conquered their enemies because they prayed. We honor their memories and build their tombs, but we fail to imitate their faith.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).