Are You in the Ministry?
By Dr. Ken Matto
(1 Tim 1:12 KJV) And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
1 Timothy 1:12 is an eye opening verse because Paul is telling us that the Lord Jesus Christ had put him in the ministry and was the one who was enabling him. The word “enabled” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “strengthening” and the word “putting” carries with it the meaning of “placing.” So we see that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who placed the Apostle Paul in the ministry.
One of the questions which is asked many times a day around the world of some Christians by other Christians is, “are you in the ministry?” The word ministry in 1 Timothy 1:12 can also be understood correctly as “service.” So now let us ask the question in a different manner. Are you in the service? The answer that every Christian should answer is a resounding, YES! As soon as a Christian becomes saved, they are now in the service of the Lord. Romans 12:1 teaches us that all Christians are in the service of the Lord. (Rom 12:1 KJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1 teaches us that we need to be living sacrifices. That is actually a spiritual oxymoron which can only be understood in the light of the Scriptures. First, of all a sacrifice was killed but we are told that we need to be living sacrifices. The teaching is that we need to be dead to ourselves but alive unto the things of God so we may be counted faithful to be placed into the ministry. A Christian who is dead to the things of the world and alive unto God makes a living sacrifice.
We read in 1 Timothy 1:12 that it is the Lord who places people into the ministry. He gives us spiritual gifts for the enabling of that ministry. So then why are there so few Christians in the ministry. One of the main reasons is that there is a great misunderstanding as to what the ministry is. The churches along with their pastoral staffs have taken the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and have arrogated it to themselves. Thereby leaving the sheep in the pews to wander aimlessly instead of being made a part of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems the churches have replaced Christ in placing people into the ministry which has resulted in a dearth of Christian workers.
In March 1775 the young Christian attorney Patrick Henry rode into the small town of Culpepper, Virginia. He was totally shocked by what he saw! There, in the middle of the town square was a minister tied to a whipping post, his back laid bare, and bloody with the bones of his ribs showing. He had been scourged mercilessly like Jesus, with whips laced with metal. Patrick Henry is quoted as saying: “When they stopped beating him, I could see the bones of his rib cage. I turned to someone and asked what the man had done to deserve such a beating as this.” The reply given him was that the man being scourged was a minister who refused to take a license. He was one of twelve locked in jail because they refused to take a license. A license turns a right into a privilege. This minister was finally scourged to death three days later.
What then does this tell us? It tells us plainly that the church had usurped the authority of Christ by killing those who were placed into the ministry. Is the church still doing this today? The answer is yes! No, they may not be scourging Christians to death but they are definitely restrictive in their encouraging of Christians to get into the ministry. Now one of the big problems is that there is a great misunderstanding as to what the ministry is. When one goes to church on a Sunday morning, we will see the Pastor preach a sermon, the Choir Director direct the choir, we will hear an Elder read the announcements, and we may hear the associate Pastor offer a prayer, etc. Basically what we are seeing on a Sunday morning constitutes the essence of the question, are you in the ministry? Somehow we seem to equate the ministry with those who are on the platform. While they are partaking of the ministry Christ has given them, they do not take the place of the ministry that Christ gives to every born again Christian.
The whole reason we go to church on Sunday is to get spiritually refreshed and network with other Christians. The two hours that is spent in church on Sunday does not guarantee our growth in the faith, nor does it guarantee our involvement in the church ministry. Every believer has a ministry but that does not mean that ministry is directly tied to the church. The results of ministry is to bring people to salvation and then bring them into the assembly of believers. If a church has 300 believers, then there should be 300 individual ministries. No Pastor or church leader should ever inhibit or discourage a Christian from engaging in a ministry. One of the big problems facing the church is pastoral jealousy. Too many of them fear that if people start getting involved in ministries, then they will not be either needed or looked up to as the church kingpin. All I can say is woe unto any church leaders who discourage a Christian from fulfilling the ministry which Christ gives them. Church leaders must stop viewing biblically literate Christians as a threat to them. They are not a threat but a great asset to any church. Let us take a look at four reasons why Christians misunderstand the ministry and there are no doubt many others but these give a pretty good picture of the dilemma in Christianity today.
They are uneducated
(Acts 4:13 KJV) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
One of the biggest misconceptions about ministry today is that unless a person holds a college and/or seminary degree, they are somehow less than prepared for the ministry. Here is a truth. The people that you will meet on the street or in work will know less than the newest believer. Oh yes, they may have their philosophies and their scientific knowledge but they will not have spiritual knowledge. Peter and John were ignorant and unlearned. Peter and John were fisherman and did not have time to spend many hours in studying the Scriptures. Look at the great ministry they had and what was the reason? “they had been with Jesus.” Now, where can we learn the thoughts of Jesus today? In the King James Bible. If you have one, then you have all that is needed to bring people to Christ. All other education that you receive will be peripheral knowledge, and there is nothing wrong about expanding your knowledge base. I personally read between 2 to 5 books per month, based on the length of the books. None of them usurps the authority of the Scriptures, instead I pick books which augment my understanding of the Scriptures and the times we live in. If you can’t get a formal education, you can definitely read yourself into a highly educated state. Remember Abraham Lincoln who taught himself to read and finally became President of the USA. You must be discerning and know your authors. Start with the Puritans.
When we look in the Scriptures, we find the Apostle Paul at the beginning of his ministry had departed to Arabia. (Gal 1:17-18 KJV) Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. {18} Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
It is believed that Paul had went to Arabia to study the Scriptures and learn of the Grace of God. Then in Galatians 2:1, we read that Paul had a fourteen year departure. (Gal 2:1 KJV) Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. It seems that Paul did not go directly into the ministry but had a seventeen year time period after his conversion before he began his ministry. Not everybody is going to need seventeen years to get their ministry going. If you would like to be a Bible teacher, missionary, or evangelist, then it is necessary for you to get a good understanding of the Scriptures. It takes time to learn the Scriptures and you must be able to understand the major doctrines of the Bible so you will be able to communicate them to others. However, at the outset of your ministry, you will have access to many tools of evangelism such as tracts. From the day you are saved you can hand out tracts. The problem is that too many Christians feel they must have an “official” ministry. This could not be farther from the truth. Let me share a principle with you.
(Acts 8:40 KJV) But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
The principle in the above verse is simple. We find Philip at Azotus and was on his way to Caesarea which was a distance of about 60 miles (97 km). Did Philip wait until he reached Caesarea before he started ministering? The answer is no! He preached in all the cities he stopped in on the way to Caesarea. Let’s bring this into modern terms. Philip handed out tracts and supported missions until the time the Lord gave him his official ministry. It is the same principle with us. The Lord will give us a specific ministry in proper time but until then we are not to sit back but rather we are to minister along the way. One way the Lord tests our faithfulness is to see how well we handle the little evangelistic events and if we are found faithful in these, then He can trust us and place a larger ministry upon us. You may not have a great understanding of the Scriptures but that does not prohibit from ministering with good gospel materials. In fact, you can partner with a mature Christian. You can ask them if they would be willing to answer any tough questions that may come along which you are not yet able to answer. This way, you will learn and the one you are ministering to will learn. Never let pride get in your way. Be honest if you do not know an answer. Tell them you will get back to them. Remember, the work of the Lord has eternal consequences and is nothing to fool around with nor has any place for pride.
Clergy and Laymen
(Eph 4:11 KJV) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
One of the most devastating events in church history was the division of the people into clergy and layman. This unbiblical stratification has been a problem since the Protestant Church annexed this idea from the Roman Catholic institution. There is no such thing in the body of true believers as a separate class of super-spiritual clergy. In fact, ordination is not found in the Scriptures but has been copied from the Roman Catholic institution. If we look at Ephesians 4:11 above, we will see that Pastors are given in the church as a spiritual gift equal to evangelists, prophets, and apostles. The prophets and apostles today are not like the ones of the first century. The prophet declares God’s words and the apostle is one who is sent. The gift of Pastor is not a gift to be exalted above all other Christians. Unfortunately, the church would rather copy a pagan institution than take their understanding from Scripture. This idea of ordination has led countless numbers of Christians to believe that unless you are ordained, you are not in the ministry. This means that millions of personal ministries have been aborted before they were even born. Talk about another abortion movement!
It is a sad truth, in the times we are living in, that the clergy has done more to ruin the local churches than any of the Christians in the pews. This is why many Christians leave churches and why solid Christians are tossed out because the Pastor will not tolerate any challenge to his agenda. The sorry part is that where Christians should be involved in personal ministries, they become frustrated because they must continue to look for a church, and this eats up their time. (Mark 16:15 KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. The Christians were given the Great Commission as we read in Mark 16:15. Nowhere do we read that we must first get the permission of clergy to obey the Lord. Every Christian is to be involved with ministry and if the Pastor of the church does not like the fact that many are involved in personal ministries, then let him give a reason to the congregation why he opposes the obeying of Christ’s command to go forth. Don’t let a self-deifying person quash your ministry, instead, put him on the carpet and let him explain his opposition to the commands of Scripture. Maybe he might need to be let go. If more churches would challenge these clergy, they might not think of themselves as so high and mighty. Here is a warning from Matthew Henry:
"The ministers of Christ must remember that they are not Christ and therefore must not usurp His powers and prerogatives, nor assume the praises due to Him only." - Matthew Henry
I am Inadequate
(2 Cor 10:12 KJV) For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
One of the biggest problems in those Christians who claim they are inadequate is they compare themselves to others, especially those who are in public ministry. They look at the gifts in others and then claim that they can never be like them. The reality is that you are not supposed to be like them. The Holy Spirit has given you a spiritual gift which is for you. You are not to look on the ministries of others and then claim you cannot be like them. Maybe God is leading you in a different ministry than the one you are comparing yourself to. Always keep in mind that you are a unique creation and God has a ministry strategically designed for you. (Eph 1:3 KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: Ephesians 1:3 states plainly that God has blessed His Children with “ALL” spiritual blessings. There is no such thing as an inadequate Christian. If God calls you to a certain ministry, then He will equip you for that ministry.
One of the reasons that Christians claim inadequacy is because they are lazy and do not wish to get involved. God did not save any Christian for the purpose of being lazy and uninvolved. Do not wait for your church leaders to encourage you to get involved, when you begin to search the Scriptures and then find that niche where you are beginning to feel comfortable, then you are on the road to finding your spiritual gift and your ministry. I preached my first sermon in 1982, while being nervous, I found I liked preaching the Word. Now in 2012, I am disabled with bad legs and a bad hip since August 2003 and no longer can verbally preach. Does that mean I should resign myself to watch TV? The answer is no. My spiritual gift is the gift of teaching and since November 20,1997, I have been using the Internet to reach more people for Christ than I would if I was still doing itinerant preaching. As of December 26, 2011 my website just passed 8.23 million page views. For example, you who may be reading this article may be in some country outside the USA and if not for the internet, we may never have crossed paths. So there is no such thing as an inadequate Christian. In the course of someone’s life, God may choose to change their direction by means of a new ministry, physical circumstances, or whatever. It does not matter, because if God changes your life and ministry, as He supplied for your previous one, He will supply for the present one. Also remember you are not in the ministry to imitate others. You are you and that is how God made you and He will empower you to do whatever ministry He has for you.
Lack of Ministry Opportunities
Another reason that Christians misunderstand the ministry is the belief that ministry only takes place in official settings. One of the great problems is that Christians become saved and then link themselves with a church and then unfortunately come to the conclusion that ministry can only take place in the church such as Sunday School teacher, etc. Christians must understand that ministry takes place outside the church in a much greater capacity. Ministry in the local church is fine but there are only a certain amount of openings leaving many without church based ministries. This is when the Christian must look for a ministry to become involved in. You can get a few of the believers together from your church and get involved in ministry. When I was a baby Christian back in 1981, the first ministry I was involved in was giving to ministries I heard on the radio or the TV. As I gave to these ministries, I would receive mailings from them and as I read them, it would tell me what their ministries were involved in and it gave me some ideas on how to build a home ministry. In the beginning, these ministries were starting to expand my ministry knowledge.
The idea that there is a lack of ministry opportunities out there is really false. One of the easiest ministries that any Christian can become involved in is street evangelism. I remember some years ago going out to the streets of Perth Amboy, NJ (my city of birth) and in an evening being able to hand out over 500 tracts in both Spanish and English. One of the best parts of that ministry was afterwards going to Baskin-Robbins and eating a nice size ice cream cone. The ministry of tract passing did not stop there. I was then able with the help of others to go to New York City. I remember setting up a soap box in Times Square where I stood up and preached while others handed out tracts to those passing by. On the heels of this ministry we also had gone to Nursing Homes and brought messages to the folks. When we first started going there, the folks were hard but as time passed, they warmed up to us.
You see ministry is like a volcano. Lava builds upon the previous lava and then eventually islands form where they can be lived upon. All you need to do is start doing some type of ministry and as you progress in your ministry, as basic as it may be, your ministry life will begin to blossom. The principle is that if you are willing to be involved in smaller phases of ministry, that ministry will grow and there is no telling how large your sphere of influence will be. You are reading this on my personal website and I never know where these studies will wind up. I have been told that my studies have been given out in prisons in Texas, California, and New Jersey. I have no idea who has been handing them out in Texas and California but the principle is laid out in the following verse. (Eccl 11:1 KJV) Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. If you cast bread upon the waters, you will not know where the pieces will wind up because of shifting currents and tides. It is the same with the Gospel. When you send the Gospel out into the world, you never know who it will affect and who will be benefiting from your ministry. There are many of my studies on many different websites and I have no idea how many of them are on various websites. That is the principle of casting your bread upon the water. Some of my studies have been translated into Spanish and German and handed out in churches in different countries. Now does this sound like a lack of ministry opportunities? There is no such thing in the Kingdom of God as lack of work or opportunity. Get busy because the reality is that we have only a certain amount of time on this earth. I became saved at the age of 27 and at the time of this writing I am 57. 30 years of my life has now gone by and all the unproductive time cannot be reclaimed. It goes by fast and if we continue to wait for opportunity to come to us, then we will find ourselves at the end of our lives very disappointed because we will have produced little or no fruit. (John 15:16 KJV) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. Just think of what the Lord has given to us, what will you give Him?
A Ministry to Think About
For those who do not think they are qualified for ministry, listen up! In 1976-77 in New York City a man roamed the streets looking for victims. He was known as the Son of Sam. He was arrested and pled guilty to the crimes in 1977. In 1987 while in Attica Prison, an inmate gave David a tract which had Psalm 34:6 in it. (Psa 34:6 KJV) This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. David read the tract and God saved him in his cell. Since then Psalm 34:6 became his ministry verse. I have come to know David personally and have visited him many times in the prison where he is now incarcerated. He has become a tremendous minister of the gospel to not only the inmates but to many youth all over the world. Here is a man whom God saved that was once a criminal but now has a ministry which covers the globe because God has given him a network of Christians to help him. All his ministry is being done from behind prison walls and yet his message goes out worldwide. (2 Tim 2:9 KJV) Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Paul knew that even though he was in bonds or prison, the word of God was not bound and this is the message that I want to convey through David’s ministry. He could sit in prison and do nothing but he chose to do ministry and he is not only valuable to the chaplain in the prison, but to all who read his materials including his book “My Prison Journals.” Here is a Christian that is reaching many in the world from behind prison walls and is no longer the Son of Sam but the Son of Hope. If you think that you cannot minister, look at the ministry of David who had no formal theological training except personal Bible study. He didn’t make excuses, he wanted his Christian life to count. Do you?
These are only four reasons why some Christians misunderstand the ministry. The reality is that the moment we become saved, we are in the ministry. There is no such thing as a sideline Christian. We are all engaged in spiritual warfare. The sooner we get involved with the Lord’s work, the sooner we will recognize spiritual warfare and how to deal with it. If we run from spiritual warfare, then we will live a defeated Christian life. The essence of the Christian life is to live above our circumstances and below them. Satan is the defeated foe and he may hinder us and attack us, but because we are Children of God by Jesus Christ, we can never be defeated unless we allow ourselves to be. The hour is late and Christians need to get seriously involved in the ministry. Satan loves nothing more than a Christian who has suffered a minor defeat to use it as an excuse to back away from future ministry. For those who have suffered defeat, may I suggest that you read the biography of John Paton who was a missionary to the New Hebrides in the 19th century and in the face of many setbacks was used mightily of the Lord to evangelize these islands of cannibals and headhunters who became saved because of his perseverance in ministry. I suggest the following edition which was written by Paton himself and not some abridged version.
John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides
So if you are a Christian and are wondering as to whether you are in the ministry, the answer to your query is that you are and the longer you squander the time the Lord has given you, the less you can accomplish for the Kingdom of God. Think about it! Will you serve the God of all might or accept the lame excuses of Satan?
Tract Outlets
Here are the websites of some good tracts for mass distribution:
Moments with the Book -
Chick Tracts -