As with any job, vocation, or ministry there is always more to do. There is extra effort that could be made. It could well be detrimental to the worker in a multitude of ways. Pushing on to do a little more, to spend just a few more hours to accomplish that special task perfectly, knowing inwardly perfection is often being unattainable. But ministers press on. They push, they strive, they persevere to do one more thing. It is the difference between average and the superior. For the minister of the Gospel is no less susceptible to this over stretching. The result is nothing is ever quite good enough. At least that is what ministers tell themselves and is often reinforced by casual innuendo and under breath remarks. Ministers try think at issue is the prioritization of what is most important. It becomes an exercise of time management. But that is an oxymoron. Time is beyond the control of anyone. The clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. So what is so important that all else must take back seat? What is the ministry’s greatest calling song? What is the calling’s most important thing? What is the priority for the high calling of minister?
In the church as it exists today in the twenty-first century some would say the church is a business. It has all the characteristics of industry. It has a purpose statement, it has board meetings, it has budgets, and accounting principles. Shouldn’t the first priority of the minister be administration. Let’s give our ministers classes on micro-economics and let some of the biblical history classes slide. The church needs an executive head. The wheels of industry need to be well oiled. Repairs to the bathrooms and classrooms need to be managed, orders of service created for Sunday’s, PowerPoint presentations must be created, and meetings must be held. Friction must be reduced to the lowest levels. Every portion of the mechanism must be scrutinized, inspected, examined and improved upon. That effort needs a leader. If you would use the parlance of the Old Testament this position would be called the King. The administration of the day to day workings of the church are vital. They have to be finely tweaked to measure up to the standards of the world. The Pastor as administer is important. But it is not the most important. I believe any minister who would set this priority first is missing the high calling to which God has called.
So what should the priority be? Another candidate for the high calling of the minister is priest. The official over the altar of worship. The spokesman of the people. The help to all those who need grace and peace in their lives. Priest provides the means of grace through ritual, public prayers, reading of scripture, baptisms, communions, baby dedications, funerals, weddings. The man of the people as they offer up their sacrifice of praise and supplication. He leads the congregation to the throne of grace. From his mouth come the concerns, hopes, desires, and pain of many hearts. He may not be talented in singing but it is the Priest that discerns the amount of singing. He may not be a part of an inspired music team, but he determines the character and amount of music in which the church will express its adoration and thanksgiving. He should be the ordained ministrant of the worship service. He leads the church to a place of peace, reverence, thanksgiving, praise, hope, joy, and worship. The priestly ministry is both difficult and critical to the church. Without a faithful understanding of this role and a dutiful action the Church will suffer. But again, if the priority of the minister is to be priest, the aim is just too low. The calling of God has to be more than an official of the sacraments. The calling of God is being lessoned by anyone called to be a minister who sets his priority to being a priest. It is just is not enough.
The minister’s priority could well be to be a shepherd. A shepherd, what a great picture. A protector of the sheep. A guide to the sheep. Someone who knows them all by name. A special person that becomes so well acquainted to each of his charge that the shepherd knows that one is missing. The shepherd minister knows the individual sheep’s disposition, needs and habits. The shepherd knows where the grass is greenest. He knows where the fodder grows the best in the different times of year. He knows where the water is the freshest. He knows who the enemies of the flock are and all their habits and forms of attack. He knows the weakest and the strongest of the flock. The ministry of shepherd is a mighty task. It makes the difference between life and death of the flock in his charge. To the church this is more important than everything else because it is all about them. Concern and shepherding is vital in the church. But it is not the most important.
Ministry to the world around him. To be the moral and religious leader of a community and to be the bastion to the world, could well be a priority. The minister has a responsibility not only to his own body of believers but to the community in which it dwells. Every street, every alley, every home, those without homes are all a part of the calling of the minister. He is a member of the Church universal. He should well be part of feeding the poor, lifting the downtrodden, a minister to the widow and the orphan. Uniting with churches of the community in efforts to do more than the local church can do is part and parcel of being part of the body of Christ. The minister as ambassador from the court of heaven to the court of earth is a lofty and worthy goal. But it is not the priority that is needed most.
Minister, do not choose to be come only a king or a shepherd or a priest or an ambassador. While each of these high offices are worthy of effort, they are not the highest calling. A king is but an administrator, a shepherd is just a protector, a priest is just a pointer, and an ambassador is just an assigned representative. There is one thing, only one profession greater that all these.
The minister as a prophet of God. A prophet is a minister that speaks for God. There is no higher calling. There is no greater task. There is no greater priority. Preaching is not some peripheral item in the program of the local church. It lies at the very heart of what is to be a minister of God. He is the truth teller and therefore must be a truth-seeker. The primary purpose of the minister as prophet is to speak for another. Like Moses, he must travel the high hills to the mountain of God and talk with Him. Talk to him face to face and then and only then can he come down and give the people the very revelations of God. Being a profit is pouring back in a flood what was received from an audience with God in a vapor.
What does a prophet do? What is his calling? A prophet shares God’s intent; what God expects, what God desires, what God is planning to do, and what God judges. A prophet shares God’s mind with those who want to hear and those who don’t. From the first prophet Moses to last Jesus, they all shared God’s proclamation that it is possible to align ourselves with God’s intent.
A Prophet shares God’s intent. But it is more than just an interpretation of the intent of God. In second Peter the prophet does not share based upon his own understanding or initiative. It is not just one person’s idea of God’s intent. It is not a compiled list of three points explaining in a precise way a personal understanding of God’s intent. It is a revelation from the Holy Spirit that pushes its way through the folly of man’s understanding and preaching. Visionary preaching does not come from studied works or commentaries. The tools of the study are not to be discounted; they are not bad things. The Visionary minister as Prophet is the mouth of God to a people who must hear from God to survive. Ministers should not throw intellectual rigor, research, personal values or planning out the window and expect God just to just fill his mind. These things just can become poor substitutes for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There is no aspartame substitute for the sweetness of God. The minister is the connection of God’s intent with God’s vehicles.
The offices of king, ambassador, shepherd, and priest are vital to the church, but without the word of God the church will suffer most. The minister may lead the church in the best practices, the minister may proclaim to the community this is a place of healing and hope, the minister my well lead the well-known and intimate sheep to the safest places, the minister may well point the body to the throne of grace, but without the words of God it avails the minister little. Each of these offices have great worth to the ongoing function of the Body of Christ. Never-the-less without the mind of God all else is not as important. The minister can shirk all his duties but that of preaching and still accomplish the work God has called him to do.
Preaching is the cornerstone of all ministry. Out of the mind of God, out of the knowledge of the intent of God comes the other ministries. A minister cannot be a leader to the church unless he knows God’s intent. A minister cannot be decision maker without knowing intimately the intent of God. A minister cannot reach the unloved and the lacking without knowing the very mind of God. An ambassador cannot proclaim the worth of his country without knowing the reason the homeland exists. The priest cannot point and guide the congregation to the throne of grace without knowing the intent of each ritual, event, or piece of music.
This writing is not to diminish these other ministries or even to underestimate necessity of them. The importance of efforts outside the holy desk can never be overstated. The concept here is not that you should ignore them, to make these ministries as nothing more than pearls thrown before the swine, but to elevate the one most important and relevant to the church, to the community, to the world, and to God.