Can Every Jesus Follower Minister?
You bet! The Reformation reminded the church (ecclesiae), which had become extremely hierarchical, that the average pew sitter was just as much a priest as the “professional” priest was a priest. In short, it is called “the priesthood of all believers.” In protest to a sermon by John Tetzel, Luther drew up ninety-five theses for debate and posted them on the door of the Castle Church on October 31, 1517. His refusal to be silenced about his understanding of justification by faith brought pressure to the existing structure of the Roman version of the ecclesia. During the 1520s he wrote “Sermon on the Mass,” which taught the concept of the “priesthood of all believers.” This call has been stated in many ways. The late John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, once stated that in the Vineyard “everyone gets to play,” which restated for his generation the same idea that Luther had for his generation.
If one accepts the teaching that “everyone is a minister,” then one should want to discover some effective ways to carry out this responsibility. Ministry does not come naturally to us. It did not come naturally to the disciples of Jesus who were the ones that Jesus trained to minister with him. If that was true for his followers, it is true for all followers. Why is training so important in the local ecclesia? One reason is that in the ecclesia all of us come from different backgrounds, which have taught us, explicitly or implicitly, whether we should minister or not, and if we do, how we should accomplish that task. A training model that includes the following is useful to bring about ministry that is beneficial to those who are on the receiving end. First, folks need to understand that ministry is their call as a follower of Jesus. This could be called recruiting. Second, teaching should occur as a “show and tell” model. Modeling is an important ingredient of training. With these Training Jesus Follower sessions, you get one half of the training cycle: “tell.” Next, participation in ministry is helpful with interaction from the trainer. Finally, one is released to “sprout his or her own wings.” If you are part of a fellowship that is not using this “model,” you might encourage the leadership to think about using it for their training. If they reject your suggestion, find another ecclesia in which you can be a part. The life of Jesus followers is to short to be a pew-setter!
Healing Is The Name Of The Ministry Game!
Since sin has caused humankind to be broken, healing is the name of the ministry game! Often when we hear the word healing, we immediately think about physical healing. However, we want to stress that God is interested in the healing of the whole person. In our Western rational thinking pattern, we have been trained to think in fragments or parts, which is a disease from which we need to be healed! However, it is fair to say that the inspired word of Scripture is always interested in the whole of the human, rather than the parts that we often think make up the whole. This fragmented way of thinking came to us directly from Platonic philosophy, and unfortunately, became a dominant way of thinking. As an example, our medical practice has become a practice of specialists. Gone for the most part is the doctor who is a general practitioner. This is not bad; it’s just built on the Western fragmented way of thinking. It is important to note that God actually preceded Plato and produced a whole nation of people that thought about healing in quite a different way than we do. Of course, Jesus was a part of both the Godhead and the human family who thought of the whole as more important than some part.
The Salvation Of The Whole Person
The words that the original language of the Second Testament was written in (Greek) often speak about healing by using the same word that is used for salvation (sozo). This word’s basic definition is to be “saved from under the power of the devil and restored into God’s order which is wholeness and well-being.” Jesus brought this concept out in his teaching.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been raised and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. As he stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4.16-21)
Jesus was a popular teacher in his day, so when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth it would have been natural for him to visit the synagogue on the Sabbath and speak. The custom of that time frame in the synagogue was for the man who was reading Scripture to stand while reading and then to sit when he was going to explain the portion that he had read. That day in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus read from Isaiah 61.1-2 (as it is marked in our present translations. We must remember there were no chapters and verses in the scroll he was reading.) After he read the portion of Scripture, he sat down and explained that what Isaiah had said was fulfilled in the hearing of those present. The implication was clear. Jesus was claiming to be the special one sent from God who would bring God’s kingdom into being in this present evil age. He stopped without reading the last line of the words of Isaiah about God’s vengeance. In this coming of Jesus, his ministry was to proclaim that it was the time of God’s favor. In his next coming, it will be a time to proclaim the judgment of God. His teaching fascinated the people (Luke 4.20).
We may note in this passage that the ministry of Jesus was directed to those in need—the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed (vv. 18-19).
- He came to preach the gospel to the poor. The only gospel that Jesus preached was the gospel of the kingdom. This is the good news that the rule of God has come into the world in the words and works of Jesus.
- He came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. His ministry was filled with setting those who were captive to demons and false beliefs to a life of freedom from their bondage.
- He came to provide recovery of sight to the blind. This certainly means both physical healing of blind people, which he did on many occasions, as well as bringing people from darkness into the light.
- He came to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. God had arrived in Jesus and the power of his kingdom was alive in the world in a new, beneficial way.
If this was the ministry of Jesus, then it is our ministry as well. Our task is to learn as much about healing as we can and practice what we learn on every occasion that the Spirit calls us to deliver his “gift of healing” to some needy person. Get on the field. It’s time to play.
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- In what ways are you currently “getting to play” in the ecclesia you attend?
- How has your Western thinking pattern caused you to think about “healing?”
- Has that thinking pattern in any way caused you to sit on the sidelines and not fulfill your calling to “play?”
- Who are the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed in your area of life and what are you doing to minister to their needs?