Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Look at Ministry

I have been looking at what the responsibility of our ministry in Taiwan really is. In doing that I have examined the role of the congregation of the church in ministering to others. The following is a Bible Study on the purpose and value of ministry. It is written from the perspective of a missionary endeavor.

The Missionary’s Purpose

If we look at Paul’s missionary journeys, we can see the goal and purpose of those journeys is to establish a church. Paul went into Ephesus and established a church; He went into Thessalonica and established a church etcetera. Every place he went he established a church and set a pastor over the church. Then he went to the next place and established another church.

This is he method of our fellowship. We go into a place, draw a group, establish a church, disciple men and then set a local man in the place of pastor, or send those men to other cities to duplicate what has been done in their city. The goal is always the establishment of a self-sustaining local church.

There are many missionary organizations that send people to a place to provide service to that community. These are not missionaries in the sense of Paul’s service. I’m not saying there is not a place for this, but I’m saying the goal of these organizations ought to be to feed the local church.

Recently at 木匠的家咖啡店 (Carpenter’s House Coffee Shop), where I volunteer on Fridays to teach English Bible Study, there was group from Australia who came and provided a number of musical presentations of the Gospel. They gave testimonies, preached a short Gospel sermon and then spent time talking and witnessing one-on-one to the people present at the event. This is only a part of the missionary’s responsibility. It is important that anyone who responds to the call of the Gospel, (There was no altar call at this event, so people were not given the opportunity to repent), be directed into a church where they can be discipled as a follower of Christ. A place where they can see the call of God on their lives facilitated.

The call on Christians is not just to preach the Gospel but to make disciples.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)
28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

As a missionary and a pastor it is my intention to raise up disciples. That is really the purpose of this letter and the purpose of Sunday’s sermon. A disciple is a learner, one who learns. But it is more than that; a disciple is one who desires to be like his teacher. I’ll give you an example; next to the Riverside church was a martial arts school. There was a group of young men there who were learning Kung Fu. One day I had a conversation with one of the young men and I was asking him a number of questions. To each question he began his answer with the words, “My teacher says…” As I talked with him I began to see how much he was influenced by his teacher so I asked, “You want to be just like your teacher, don’t you?” His response was, “Absolutely.” This young man is a disciple. He is learning the information he’s being taught, but more than that there is something that is being imparted into his life. He wants to be like his teacher. This is what being discipled means. There should be an impartation that takes place between us. Look at Paul’s call to his disciples:

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NKJV)
4:15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

The Purpose of Ministry

Acts 6:1-7 (NKJV)
6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Here is ministry as it takes place in the early church. The Greeks had a complaint that the Jews weren’t taking as good care of the Greek widows as they were the jewish widows. So they complained to the leaders. The leaders said, “We can’t do what God has given us to do and wait on tables. Therefore, pick out seven men and have them take on this responsibility.” This is the creation of lay ministry. It is the serving of people in a practical sense. We have a number of ministry opportunities that exist to provide service to the congregation.

Translation, worship service, setting up the church before service, follow-up, the church council and any other aspect of being a part of the functioning of the church. It is important that you understand that there are other purposes to ministry beyond the service that is provided. One other purpose is to provide a platform for men to be able to grow into preachers and pastors. Another is to bring growth to the church.

Ministry teaches us a great number of things.

How to work with other people
How to serve others
How to think in terms of going beyond the minimum expectation

Ministry is not a favor that you’re doing for the church. It’s not a favor you’re doing for me; it is a privilege to share in the work of building the church that Jesus founded. It is our opportunity to be a part of what Jesus is doing in Taoyuan City. It is a step in the discipleship of the people who follow Christ. We are learning to be more like him.

Have you ever thought about why Jesus washed the apostle’s feet? It was to demonstrate to them that He was here to serve…to be a servant. He was also teaching them that this was their place as well.

Matthew 20:28 (NKJV)
20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

If we want to be like Christ then we also must be servants. But there is something else here that is important: The purpose of ministry is to grow the church. Look at what happens in verse 7 of our text:

Acts 6:7 (NKJV)
6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

One of the goals is to multiply the disciples: In other words, to add more people to the church. This is what we are aiming for through ministry. That is a call that’s on every one of us. A group that preaches but doesn’t build the local church isn’t making disciples. We don’t draw men to ourselves we draw them to Jesus.

What is the essence of ministry? Look at the following scripture:

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV)
10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

This scripture holds the essence of ministry. Let us stir up good works. That’s what ministry is…good works. But it is also tied to church attendance. “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” Look at what we have people doing in our church:

Translation – making the word of God available to Chinese speakers
Worship Music – preparing hearts to hear from God
Service preparation – making it comfortable for people to come to church.

All of these things facilitate drawing people to Jesus. That’s the real purpose and goal of ministry.

The Standards of Ministry

Acts 6:3-5 (NKJV)
6:3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

The leaders gave instruction for choosing people to minister. The people who were chosen were to be men of good reputation. This means that they were to be examples. People that people could look up to: People that the people could learn how to be a Christian from. These are the ones who did the right thing…they attended church.

In those days they didn’t have the Bible to read like we do, the only way they could hear the word of God was by attending church. That’s also how faith is built.

Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

People ask me to send them sermon outlines. They want to be able to study ahead to prepare themselves to listen and understand in English. But other than those translating, I don’t like to do that. Because, I think what happens is that people get the sermon outlines then think they don’t have to attend church because they already have the information. But this is not about information I’m not really trying to teach you anything during the sermons, I’m trying to impart something into you. That comes from hearing; faith comes from hearing.

Romans 1:17 (NKJV)
1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

This scripture speaks of impartation, the transfer of faith from me to you. That’s how disciples are made, and making disciples is the goal of ministry. That transfer, or impartation only takes place in person. You can’t have faith imparted into you by reading sermon outlines, it only comes by being in church and hearing the words. Anyone that is involved in ministry needs that impartation so that you are equipped to impart it into someone else’s life. if you want to see people have the faith to believe in Jesus, you have to be equipped to transfer that faith though your faith. Church attendance is necessary for that. All ministers in the church should attend both services on Sunday. They are two different sermons, by design, to impart faith into your lives.

Those in ministry need to be an example to others in the church. Attending church faithfully is part of being an example. The problem is that people are watching how you live to understand how they should live as a Christian. When you have ministry you have credibility as a Christian. You’re a leader and people who want to live as good Christians will want to watch how you live, in order to know how to live.

Let me make one other point on this. What you do those who are watching you will do the same +1. What do I mean by that? Look at this illustration of that:

There is an interesting phenomenon that takes place among generations. We do what our parents do but take it one step further. Example: The drug of choice for my parent’s generation was alcohol. There were not many who were into other things. The drug of choice for my generation was Alcohol and Marijuana. We took it one step further the drug of choice for this generation is Methamphetamines (stimulants), Marijuana and Alcohol.

The same thing is true of people that come into the church. They watch what you do and take it one step further.

At our church ministry includes: Church Council, Worship group, translating, setting the church (Ushering), Follow-up, or any other aspect of being a part of the functioning of the church.

If you are a part of any of these ministries or want to be a part then you may want to follow the guidelines.

Attend Church faithfully – Be at both services on Sunday; Bible Study if possible
Live as an example – No drinking, cussing, smoking or other sin. No TV
Pray – pray daily, come to prayer on Saturday at 9:00 (Read your Bible)
Attend events and Revivals – Support your church
Tithe faithfully – financially support the church
Dress reverently at church services – Ties for the guys, dresses/skirts/dress slacks for the women (Think about Who you represent – Jesus)

These are the standards of ministry that we will be upholding. I hope that you will respect them. These are not requirements but good suggestions for those that only desire to attend church and are not involved in ministry.

Ministry Will Grow the Church

Your faithful involvement will draw others to Jesus. Let me give you an example of how it works: Someone comes into the church the church is clean and comfortable (cleaning crew & ushers), the worship group ushers in the spirit of God, (worship group), The sermon is preached and the altar call given, people respond to the altar call and we pray with them (everyone’s responsibility), the follow up people call them and invite them again, they make friends with them (follow-up) and those people come back as they feel like they have become a part of something.

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