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A Scriptural Look at the Role of a Minister

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What is the one most needed thing from a minister of the Gospel?

Many church members and even some ministers believe that one of the noblest qualities in a minister is that he is an effective preacher/speaker. I think we all agree that it is very important that a minister be able to communicate effectively. We all enjoy a message when a minister has developed talent in public speaking and demonstrates a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures. However some of the most well known motivational speakers of our time are not meeting the greatest needs of their audiences.

There are many people and many ministers who think that the most admirable thing in the life of a minister is that he is a people person. This is a quality that is easy to covet. It seems to be a tremendous advantage in the work of the ministry to be able to “connect” with people. However, there are many ungodly “people persons.” We could look at men like Hitler who were able to influence masses of people, yet failed to meet the greatest needs of their countrymen.

Just as popular in our time is an emphasis on knowledge. It is common to esteem those who have answers and are very learned in the deep issues of life. Most of our “Christian” neighbors could not comprehend or appreciate a man entering the ministry without seminary training. Most of us would not go so far, but we do put a high premium on learning and reading. It is the part of wisdom to depend heavily on those who are wiser and more experienced than ourselves. It is profitable to read and learn from the writings of others.

This can be a tremendous asset in the work of the ministry. However, it seems as though the more learned a man becomes, the more likely he is to deny the truth. Studies have shown that the percentage of atheism grows as the level of education increases. admittedly, these studies are conducted within the context of a secular system, but some of the most knowledgeable men in the history of society have been the weakest at meeting the needs of their fellow citizens.

Looking at the needs of the Church and society today, it becomes obvious that the most important quality needed in the life a minister is that he be a man who knows and walks with God. More than eloquence or social skills or even education, God’s people need to see men who walk in close fellowship, communion, and obedience to their Lord. This has everything to do with how a man will perform in carrying out the role of a minister.

We see this quality in the life of Timothy. Much of the clearest Biblical teaching on the role of a minister can be found in Paul’s writings to Timothy. Timothy was known as a man of “unfeigned faith” (2Ti 1:5). Paul considered Timothy to be his “own son in the faith” (1Ti 1:2). Paul felt confident in sending Timothy to Corinth because he was “faithful in the Lord” (1Co 4:17). Timothy was a man who walked with God. He does not seem to have been a man that people were naturally drawn to. We do not see him as one who was known by the early church as being a powerful and influential preacher. Timothy might have been one who struggled with being intimidated and perhaps struggled to have the courage and the aptness to carry out his responsibilities (1Co 16:10). Yet it is obvious that the apostle Paul leaned heavily on the support of this young minister. Again, the secret to Timothy’s success as a minister was that he was a man of God.

Timothy was a “minister of God” (1Th 3:2) unto the people. Timothy’s work was to carry out the will of God, not the will of men. He was not a minister of the people, but rather a minister of God who called Timothy to minister His will unto the people.

Because of this quality, Paul felt confident in Timothy’s ability to carry out the responsibility of being a minister. Through his writings to Timothy we find much insight into the role of a minister.

Maintain Sound Doctrine. (ITi 1:3-10)

One of the reasons that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus was so that there would be a man who was able to discern true doctrine from the false.

It appears as thought this was something that Timothy would need to address in the local congregation. He would need to confront those who taught a doctrine inconsistent with that which Timothy had learned of the Scriptures.

In 1 Timothy 4:6 we find that a “good minister...” will be “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” He would find this accomplished as he would “put the brethren in remembrance of these things.”

A minister must be a man of the Word. a man who knows the “real” so well that he can identify the counterfeit at a glance. He must “…give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” He must “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them…” It will be important to “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”

A minister must be a man who is willing to defend the true doctrine against those who would teach otherwise. This may mean admonishing andwarning those who divert from a proper understanding of Biblical truth.

Administrate the Concerns of His Elder/Bishop (1Ti 2:1-11)

Throughout the writings of Paul to Timothy we find that Paul looked at this relationship as one where Timothy would take his concerns and his direction and see that it was carried out in the local congregation.

Paul asks Timothy to do the leg work in relation to doctrine (1Ti 1:3), appearance (1Ti 2:9), women’s place in the church (1Ti 2:11-12), widows (1Ti 5:9), and the wealthy (1Ti 6:17). A minister must be willing to address practical issues in the lives of his congregation. In all likelihood, this was not an easy thing for Timothy to do. If he was like most men, he would have considered it much easier to let these issues ride, hoping that they would go away.

As a minister of the Gospel, Timothy may have feared sitting down with a wealthy man and warning him about high mindedness, or helping this brother to understand the immediate danger of trusting in his riches.

Timothy may have had some misgivings about telling the women in his congregation that they must be in silence.

A minister must not allow his fear of man or his desire for smooth sailing to keep him from addressing practical issues in the congregation. As the church gives direction, whether through standards or by the voice of the leaders, a minister must make it his duty to carry them out in the local congregation.

Must Live an Exemplary Life (1Ti 3:4:12)

It has often been said that leaders live in glass houses. Sometimes leaders resent this level of scrutiny. It is unfortunate when people try to justify their own misdeeds by pointing out supposed inconsistencies in the life of their minister.

On the other hand, God has told us that the leaders of his church are to live as examples to those around them. In fact in Hebrews 13:7 God’s people are encouraged to follow (mimic) the faith of their leaders.

This is not to suggest that ministers must live at a level above what they expect of their members. as ministers grow in their walk with God and His Word, they are to live as they desire all of God’s people to live.

Ministers are to shew (present) themselves “a pattern (a die, a model—for imitation) of good works” (Tit 2:7).

It is very critical that a minister direct himself and his family as he knows is expected of him and of others. as he serves in the congregation, he needs to be sure that his appearance is what it should be. He must be careful that the way he relates to doctrine, purity, finances, anger, devotional life and all areas of life, are consistent with what is expected of God’s people.

Teach and Exhort (1Ti 4:11, 6:2)

One of the primary roles of a minister according to Scripture and our Mennonite heritage is that of teaching and preaching the Word of God.

Paul told Timothy that he was to “command and teach” (1Ti 4:11). He mentions again that he was to “teach and exhort” (1Ti 6:2). Timothy was active in preaching the Gospel (2Co 1:19). He preached in many different places to varied audiences.

We are encouraged to “Remember them … who have spoken unto you the word of God:” (Heb 13:7). A faithful minister will give himself to the study and teaching of the Word of God.
He must not fall prey to the temptation of the easy road in sermon preparation. When we enter the pulpit, it should be with a burning zeal and a fervent desire to communicate God’s message in purity and power. The emphasis must not be “enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:” (1Co 2:4).

We are living in a time when the pressure of business and even the maintenance of our homes can easily distract a minister from giving study and sermon preparation the attention God expects of us. Would it be fair to modify an old adage to say, “your congregation will get out of your sermon what you put into it”? Do the hearers sense zeal in the preaching they receive each Sunday?

The work of the ministry at times seems very demanding. Every minister has had times when he felt as though he simply did not have what it takes to be a minister. This is another reason it is important that ministers be men who are walking with the Lord.

If a minister’s prayer life and devotional life and his relationship with the Lord show an utter dependence on His enabling grace, he can be assured that he will find everything he needs to fulfill the role the Lord of the church has called him to in being a minister of God.

~North East, PA
January 2011