Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Ministry To Give!

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20) 

A Ministering Community 

The first-century church body existed for ministry. Every member of the community shared the servant role of their Lord and, in the way He appointed, continued His mission on earth. As Paul expressed it, they were ambassadors of Christ, ministering in His stead (2 Cor. 5:20). 

In the sense of being sent into the world on a mission, all believers became successors to the apostles or "sent ones." This does not depreciate the special apostolic gift; it merely underscores a basic Christian obligation to perpetuate the apostolic witness (2:42). The early church recognized their inherent responsibility and accepted it with gladness. That some in the fellowship might be excused from service does not even occur as an option. All saw themselves as workers together with Christ in reconciling the world to God. It was the mobilization of this growing force of laborers that made the apostolic community so mighty in outreach. 

Application Today 

A church that brings this sense of mission into the everyday life of her people will change the world for good, for more and more redeemed sinners will live by the values of the world to come. Merely restructuring social programs without changing the perverted lifestyle of persons who participate in them does not produce righteousness or give people real peace and joy. The ultimate need of a lost society cannot be met apart from supernatural grace and the discipling of men and women in the narrow way of Christ. 

At this most basic level of human need the fellowship of believers share a common ministry. Everyone according to his or her gifts has a part in changing the course of history. Those in institutional leadership positions may have more influence in setting policy, but no more authority in making disciples. The Great Commission is a personal matter. How the programs of the church prepare members for this servanthood is the measure of their relevance. Meetings, committees, crusades, retreats, training sessions, parties, schools, service projects---everything must contribute to the mission for which we are sent into the world or it is an exercise in futility. 

If this criterion were applied to our present religious activity, I wonder how much of it would be worth the effort. Somewhere in our rush of services, I am afraid that we have substituted institutional programs for our own priesthood. Pomp and ceremony all too often have stifled creativity and individual expression. Tradition has taken precedence over the guidelines of Scripture. We must get back to the apostolic norm of ministry and mobilize the whole body of Christ for action. 

This is how the Gospel of the Kingdom will reach the ends of the earth. But the work will not be completed without personal sacrifices. To appreciate what this means, it is necessary to understand another vital principle in the life of the victorious church.