TOWARDS A BIBLICAL
'PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY'
Just as maps and signposts are essential in pointing one in the right direction, so too, a philosophy of ministry is essential for pointing church leaders and members in the direction that God and His Word would have them go. It is the church's philosophy of ministry that determines what they do, why they do it, and practically, how they do it. It is a purpose statement or a guide that clearly outlines the 'big picture' of ministry so that everyone in the church knows their own position and responsibilities.
A philosophy of ministry clearly defines the goals of ministry. The apostle Paul knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish in ministry. He had direction and purpose, 'I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air' (1 Cor. 9:26). A philosophy of ministry sharpens each members 'spiritual tools' in order to accomplish greater efficiency, 'If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength' (Eccles. 10:10).
This document will identify the purpose of the local church and seek to address, from both a theological and practical viewpoint, ways in which the principles can be implemented in the church.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF THE CHURCH: 'To Glorify God'
The ultimate goal of the church is to bring glory and honor to God. Scripture affirms that all of creation was created for God and his glory. Isaiah confirms this, 'Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made' (Is. 43:7). The apostle John in Revelation re-affirms this truth, 'Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; For Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created (Rev. 4:11). Peter in his letter to a group of early Christians encouraged them to use their gifts appropriately 'so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever' (1 Pet. 4:11). Paul reminded the Ephesians that in every aspect of church ministry 'to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations' (Eph. 3:21). Three times in the opening verses of this same epistle Paul records that believers are to be 'to the praise of his glory' (Eph. 1:6,12,14). In his extended discourse on how believers are not to cause a weaker to stumble, Paul highlighted the over arching principle that 'whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God' (1 Cor. 10:31). Finally, but certainly not having exhausted every Scripture, Jude sums this principle up with extreme clarity, 'Now to Him ... be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen' (Jude 24,25).
This raises the question, 'What does it mean to glorify God?' Dr Saucy in his article 'What is the Mission of the Church?' said this, 'The glory of God is nothing less than the nature of God revealed in His creation and actions. To speak of God's will for the church, then, as His glory, is simply to say that God intends to display Himself in and through His church.'
With this most important principle in place it is time to determine how we as a church are going to accomplish this ultimate goal. To do so, Scripture identifies a three-fold purpose, (1) to love God by exalting the Savior, (2) to love the church by edifying the saints, and (3) to love the lost by evangelizing sinners.. These three can not be separated from themselves because they form a unity. One is not more important than another neither can one be neglected in favor of another. All these aspects are crucial but must be seen as serving one great purpose, that is, 'God's glory'.
THE THREE-FOLD PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH
I. To Love God by Exalting the Savior (Exaltation)
This is the upward focus of the church. Christians are called to love, worship, and exalt God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. They are to prize and honor God above all else. In other words the church is to be a body of worshipers. The church does not meet for entertainment or fun purposes, nor does it meet to be relevant or meet 'felt needs', instead it meets together to love and worship God both individually and corporately as a body. The words of Jesus Himself testify to this, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment' (Mt. 22:37-38). Believers are called to submit their lives to God. Paul defined the role of a Christian when he said to the Philippians, 'for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh’. The Lord Jesus Christ must be the central figure of worship if the church is to build a biblical philosophy of ministry. Paul said, ‘I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2) and ‘For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Php. 1:21).
Worship under the new covenant no longer follows the requirements of the Old. Instead Jesus told the woman at the well, 'But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth' (John 4:23-24).
Worship of God can be defined in both a general and a specific way. First of all, in a general way, worship can not be divorced from every day life and activities. We are to 'present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship' (Rom. 12:1). On the other hand, the church gathers together to bring specific worship and adoration to God (1 Cor. 14).
♦Exaltation can be accomplished through Singing. Paul explained to the Ephesians that a Spirit filled believers would, 'speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord' (Eph. 5:19). Likewise those who have been saturated with the 'word of Christ' display the same tendencies of musical worship (Col. 3:16).
♦ Exaltation can be accomplished through the confession of sins. In the Old Testament, God exposed Achan's sin and instructed him to 'give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done' (Josh. 7:19). A confessing believer is a worshipping believer.
♦ Exaltation can be obtained through prayer. Prayer is an act of worship to the Lord as believers realize their power is not from themselves but God (Acts 12:5ff; 13:1-2).
♦ Exaltation can be accomplished through giving. Financial giving in the church is an act of worship. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give sacrificially and 'as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver' (2 Cor. 9:7).
♦ Exaltation is achieved through celebrating the Lord's Supper. Christ on the night he was betrayed instituted this feast for the purpose of proclaiming 'the Lord's death until He comes.' (1 Cor. 11:26). It is an act of worship to partake in this ordinance.
♦ Exaltation is achieved in the baptism of a believer. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward transformation. It is an act of obedience. Because Christ commissioned this act (Mt. 28:19-20) any observance of it is an act of obedience and therefore an act of worship.
♦ Exaltation is realized when Scripture is read in public. It was the practice of the Jews to reading Old Testament passages in the synagogue. So too, the New Testament became the source of much reading in the early church. Paul exhorted Timothy to 'give attention to the public reading of Scripture' (1 Tim. 4:13).
II. Love the Church by Edifying the Saints (Edification)
This is the inward focus of the church. Each member has the responsibility of building every other member to maturity in the faith, that is, to be Christ-like. The church is to encourage holiness and fellowship in the body. The primary responsibility is given to the Pastor to model this in his own life and in his proclamation of the Word. The letter to the Ephesians alludes to this principle, 'He gave some as .... pastor-teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ' (Eph. 4: 11-13). Paul described this process to the Colossians, 'We proclaim Him, admonishing every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ' (Col. 1:28). The Lord Jesus Himself commissioned his disciples to instruct and teach all those who followed Him, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you' (Matt. 28:19-20). The early church were exhorted by Peter to follow this pattern, 'As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God' (1 Pet. 4:10).
♦ Edification takes place by establishing discipleship groups. These groups are designed to apply God's truth. Although believers are ultimately accountable to God, discipleship groups are able to maintain some form of human accountability.
♦ Edification is accomplished by teaching the 'one anthers'. Scripture lists a great number of these statements which enhance the unity of believers if they are applied to the life of a believer.
♦ Edification is brought about by instructing the saints about God's Attributes. This is crucial in the life and ministry of the church. A high view of God produces a mature church.
♦ Edification takes place when Scripture is considered the absolute authority. God's Word is infallible in every single word (2 Tim. 3:16). It is the benchmark from which all of ministry is measured. It is totally sufficient to deal with any circumstance in life (2 Pet. 1:3). Constant nourishment on the 'milk' of God's Word will bring about eternal growth in a believer's life (1 Pet. 2:1-3). MacArthur makes the comment, 'Scripture is the only perfect blueprint for all true ministry, and those who build according to any other plan are erecting a structure that will be unacceptable to the Master Architect' (MacArthur, Our sufficiency in Christ, p. 120).
♦ Edification is accomplished when believers are called to a high standard of living. Paul gave to the early church qualifications by which a man must attain if he is to enter the ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Although these are specifically given for church leadership it is a worthy criteria for all the men in the church to aim for. Likewise, the woman should be instructed to fulfill their God-given roles as outlined in Titus 2:3-5.
♦ Edification is certain if each believer possessors the attitudes as outlined in the New Testament and especially in the fifth chapter of Galatians (Gal. 5:22-23).These include, love, joy, peace, patience, obedience, humility, thankfulness, forgiveness. flexibility and faithfulness.
♦ Edification takes place when God's children are taught Biblical doctrines. The doctrines of man, salvation, sin, the church, and so on, lay a solid foundation for any believer.
III. Love the Lost by Evangelizing Sinners (Evangelisation)
This is the outward focus of the church. The mission of the church is to bring the 'good news' to the lost. Believers are required to impart God's truth to unbelievers. Jesus instituted this emphatically just before He ascended to heaven, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations' (Matt. 28:19). He reiterated this requirement a short time later, 'you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth' (Acts 1:8). These were not great 'suggestions', they were divine instructions given to each and every person who desired to follow Christ. Evangelism is not an option to be accepted or rejected by God's people. Furthermore, God has called us to be His ambassadors in order that we might fulfill the 'ministry of reconciliation' (2 Cor. 5:18). Jesus said, 'For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost' (Luke 19:10). Christ modeled this purpose in his own life and ministry.
Evangelism should be a way of life for every Christian. It is not a once a week appointment, nor is it a once a month organized church event. It is a lifestyle! We are to be continually proclaiming the 'good news' that Jesus Christ forgives sins. The New Testament church gathered together primarily for the purpose of edification, and then scattered for the purpose of evangelism. The edification time during the corporate meetings were designed to build up, nourish, and train believers to go out and be effective witnesses in their homes, neighborhoods, jobs, and schools. Unbelievers should see and hear this message daily as we associate with them. Evangelism then, can be practiced in many ways in many places:
♦ Evangelism is done through a godly lifestyle: Peter exhorted his readers to 'keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles (unbelievers) so that ... as they observe them, they will glorify God in the day of visitation (salvation) (1 Pet. 2:12). He also instructed citizens, servants, and wives to maintain this good behaviour in order that some might 'be won without a word' (1 Pet. 3:2).
♦ Evangelism is realized through preaching: In the early days of the church the apostle Peter preached sermons that were energized by the Holy Spirit and resulted in many coming to faith in Christ, 'so then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls' (Acts 2:41). This method can be employed in a corporate setting or on a smaller scale in 'home groups' as practiced by the early church, 'and every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ' (Acts 5:42). As well as these occasions, special evangelistic meetings should be organised where the central focus is to bring unbelievers to hear the gospel message preached.
♦ Evangelism can be done door-to-door. Jesus said believers were to share the gospel with those in our own 'Jerusalem', that is, local vicinity (Acts 1:8). Door-to-door allows the church to accomplish this command.
♦ Evangelism can be done through Discipleship Evangelism (DE) classes. This program trains individuals to be confident in their understanding and sharing of the gospel in any and every situation. This program could follow-up the new visitors who have recently attended the church.
♦ Evangelism can be done by planting new churches. This would include both locally and internationally. Unreached communities need churches in their areas, as well as unreached countries. Jesus said we are to reach out 'to the remotest part of the earth' (Acts 1:8).
♦ Evangelism can be done on school campuses. This approach is to make yourself available to answer any students questions regarding 'Christianity'. A suitable way to accomplish this would be to have a table and a sign marked, 'Bible Questions and Answers'. This ministry would also involve questionnaires with the student with the ultimate goal of sharing Christ with them.
A FUNCTIONAL MODEL
Having examined the three-fold purpose of the church it will be helpful to display this purpose in a slightly different format. The objective of this structure is to highlight one of the most crucial aspects of ministry, that is, the salvation of souls. It is true that we need to exalt and worship God (exaltation), however, when God calls us to heaven we will be able to do that perfectly. Moreover, believers are to mature and become more Christ-like (edification), yet the fact of the matter is, all believers will be perfect when we arrive in glory. This leaves the purpose of evangelism as paramount for this age. As soon as Christ comes or we are taken to glory their will no longer be an opportunity for us to evangelize the lost, therefore, every believer must work hard at sharing the good news during this lifetime. The following model seeks to highlight the importance of this evangelistic thrust.
TEACHING DISCIPLING TRAINING SENDING GOAL
This is key to any church structure. Teaching is the fundamental requirement of passing on truth from one believers to another. This would apply to every teaching position in the church. Whether it be the Sunday morning service, the Sunday School classes or weekly fellowship groups. Paul exhorted Timothy to 'preach the Word' (2 Tim. 4:2) and required Titus to 'speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine' (Tit. 2:1). Biblical teaching of truth should be foundational in every church ministry.
This aspect of the method applies the truth that has been taught. Ideally this would be the installation of smaller groups that meet together to discuss how to apply the truth that they have been taught and learnt. Disciple making was a requirement given by Christ and includes not only the initial salvation of one's soul but also the sanctification process.
This area involves the leadership pro-actively training potential leaders who will be faithful to carry on the work of the ministry. Believers are to be in the reproductive business, 'And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will b able to teach others also.' (2 Tim. 2:2).
In this section individual Christians are encouraged to extend the truth to those who are in their daily circle of life. To some this may be a work-mate or to others this may mean international missions work in a foreign land. All Christians have received God's blessing in their lives and all Christians are to extend God's message to the lost. The teaching, discipling, and training sections are designed to equip each believer to pass on the good news to others.
Goal The ultimate goal of this model is to highlight the winning of souls for Christ. This is the ultimate mission of the church. God has left believers in this world for this great privilege. In light of this mission, we understand that it is God who sovereignly chooses those who will enter the kingdom, however, if we are to follow the New Testament church it is our responsibility to do all that we can to plead and convince our unsaved friends to turn to Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The apostle Paul and a passion and a desire that his fellow Jews would be saved (Rom. 10:1).
What about exaltation and edification in this model? Inherent in this process is the two key purposes of exaltation and edification. As the believer is taught, discipled, trained, and sent out it is automatically inherent that worship and sanctification are being accomplished.
This paper has sought to answer the questions, 'Why do we do what we do in the church?' and 'How do we do it'? We have discussed the ultimate goal of glorifying God in every aspect of our personal lives and ministry. To accomplish this goal, the three-fold purpose of the church was identified as, loving God by exalting the Savior, loving the church by edifying the saints, and loving the lost by evangelising sinners, with a special emphasis on evangelising the lost as seen in the 'functional model'. Although this document is not comprehensive and exhaustive of all that Scripture says on the matter it is hopefully a biblical beginning into the nuts and bolts of ministry.
It is the hope of this writer that having read this document you will have a great understanding and appreciation of what God's purpose for you is in the context of the local church. My intention is that you now know the fundamental principles of church ministry and have some workable goals to aim for. It has been often said, that a person who 'aims at nothing will hit it every time'. If you are willing to follow the principles that this document outlines it is my prayer that your target will be clearly identified and that you will hit it every time! Remember, we must do God's business, God's way!