Last week we discussed some human measures for the success of ministry, which by analysis proved to be false. Today we shall speak about the aspects of power in ministry.
The importance of the ministry lies in what it implies of power and depth, of love and sacrifice, and of influence on people transforming them. What avails is not the size of responsibility, the fame of the place, the number of people receiving the ministry, the long period of ministry, nor any secondary things like that, but there are certain aspects of power of the ministry, which we shall discuss here in detail:
A word of influence:
This factor appeared in the ministry of the Lord Christ, glory to Him.
• The Gospel says, "As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and said to hi, 'Follow Me.' and he arose and followed Him." (Mk 2: 14; Mt 9: 9) A mere word said by the Lord to someone sitting at a tax office made him leave his duty and follow Him without asking where!
• The same influence of the word appears in the Lord's call to the four fishermen to be apostles: "As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, 'Come after Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' and immediately they left their net and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedeein the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him." (Mk 1: 16- 20)
Due to the power of the call they left everything, immediately.
They did not tarry nor hesitate or argue. They just left their father, the boat and the nets, the means of their living. Peter said to the Lord in brief, "See, we have left all and followed You." (Mt 19: 27) Because the call was powerful, it found response. It went directly through the heart, the mind and the will.
The call was powerful, as well as the preaching and teaching of the Lord.
When the Lord finished His Sermon on the Mount, "the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Mt 7: 28, 29) The same words are said about His teaching in Capernaum (Mk 1: 22).
The Lord's word had the same power in convincing those who argued with Him.
With wonderful logic and powerful evidence the Lord explained to the scribes and Pharisees the possibility of doing good on the Sabbath (Mt 12: 1- 12). Concerning belief on the resurrection, "He silenced the Sadducees" (Mt 22: 34), and after his strong replies to the lawyers and Pharisees, "No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore." (Mt 22: 46)
The word was also powerful in the love and emotion it implied.
This appears clear in the words of the Lord to Zacchaeus the tax-collector, "Make haste and comedown, for today I must stay at your house." These words full of love and humbleness led that sinful man to repentance and salvation to the whole house, for he said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." (Lk 19: 5- 9))
The power and influence of the word are also found in the ministry of our fathers the apostles.
One sermon only delivered by Peter the Apostle made the Jews cut to the heart, and resulted in the belief of about three thousand souls who also got baptized gladly (Acts 2: 37- 41)
The power of the word also appears in the ministry of Paul the Apostle. While in prison, being tried by Felix the Governor, St. Paul spoke to him about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid (Acts 24: 25)
Again while tried before King Agrippa, the king said to him, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." (Acts 26: 28)
The power of sacrificing:
Some ministers may prefer easy ministry that contains no labor or hardship, whereas the power of the ministry lies in its difficulty and in enduring such difficulties with joy and a spirit of sacrificing. Take for instance the ministry of St. Paul the Apostle. He said, "… in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness," "in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea," "in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings." (2 Cor 11: 26, 27; 4: 6) However, in spite of all this, he says, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (2 Cor 6: 10)
Spiritual minister is labor for the Lord's sake, and labor and struggling for one's salvation, for the apostle says, "Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." (1 Cor 3: 8)
Such was the ministry of the father apostles. It started amidst persecutions from the Romans, intrigues from the Jews, oppositions and doubts from the heathen philosophers, sufferings, and martyrdom, and ministering in various places where there were no believers, no churches, no comfort, nor money or sacks.
Another example is the ministry of St. Mark the Apostle.
He came to Alexandria in poverty, with torn shoes, and found no Christians nor churches there, but rather various religions including the gods of the Romans under leadership of Jupiter, and the gods of the Greeks under leadership of Zeius, besides the Pharaoh worship led by god Amun and Ra. In additions to all this there was the Jewish Religion in two districts in Alexandria, and the Library of Alexandria which contained thousands of pagan books. He found no comfort at all, yet he struggled in patience until everybody was converted to Christianity.
What can we say about those who preached to countries which people were cannibals?!
A ministry in which a person sacrifices and labors is the true ministry, and the sacrifice and labor are basic measures of ministry. And examples of this is a minister who labors and endures for disciplining a naughty boy in the class or in taking care of a hard case, or in solving some family complicated problems.
Another measure is the depth of the ministry.
• So many great works done by prophets and apostles for the ministry, but none of these resembled the obedience of our father Abraham in his willing to offer his only son as a burnt offering to the Lord (Gen 22). The depth of that act gave it special weight and value not in any other act, for it implied faith, sacrifice, and love for God exceeding his love for his only promised son.
• So many people gave offerings to the house of God, but the two small coins of the widow surpassed them all, for she gave our of her needs (Lk 21: 4)
• So many fought the Lord's wars strongly and conquered, but the stone which young David conquered Goliath who frightened the whole army was much more powerful. Who was in the front, fighting with deep faith that that battle is the Lord's and that the Lord Himself will deliver that valiant to his hands (1 Sam 16).
• You may deliver a hundred lessons in Sunday Schools, but all of them will not as valuable as one lesson you give while you are sick or exhausted, preferring ministry to yourself and your rest; or as the time you go to ministry in the days of your exams though you are in need for every minute of your time. Such ministry has its special depth. God measures ministry with its depth and quality not with its multiplicity.
Another measure is the hidden ministry.
A hidden ministry is deeper and more powerful than the apparent ministry by which a minister may receive fame or praise, for this will not be wholly for God or for people.
People may admire a beautiful, high and well-designed building, but never speak about the strong hidden foundation that bears the whole building. They may admire the electric lamps with their dazzling lights, but they never think of the electric generator that provides the lamps with light, without which no light will come out. It is the main and most powerful factor. Likewise people may like a luxurious car but do not think about the motor engine that moves it.
The same applies to ministry, for some people admire a successful ministry and the effort exerted by the minister, but no one thinks about the prayers given for the success of that ministry. Such prayers are the powerful hidden ministry.
We remember the successful service which Eliezer of Damascus did for his master Abraham; he traveled a long way to bring a faithful wife to Isaac the son of Abraham. He succeeded in his mission and brought Rebekah. That faithful servant said to Rebekah's family, "Do not hinder me, since the Lord has prospered my way." That success was due to the prayers of Abraham who said to him, "The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way." (Gen 24: 56, 40)
Indeed, prayer is a hidden ministry.
St. Paul said to the Ephesians, "… praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit … fro all the saints and for me, that utterance may be given to me." (Eph 6: 18, 19) So, the words of a preacher is the apparent ministry, whereas the prayers are the hidden ministry. Similar to prayers is the visitation ministry, which brings people to church, or the ministry of organizing meetings.
Church Meetings are apparent ministry, but receiving confessions and leading sinners to repentance is hidden ministry
In one church there may be two priests, one preaching and many come to hear him, while the other spends long hours listening to confessions, guiding sinners, leading them to repentance, and praying for them. Such a priest's ministry is much deeper than the apparent ministry. The ministry of Hegumen Michael Ibrahim was of this type.
Individual work is another example of hidden ministry.
Ministering to large numbers is general and has a general impact that may not have follow up, but ministering to individuals is private and needs follow up, so it is deeper. (I hope to speak further about this type of ministry in the coming weeks)
Silent ministry is the good example, which is practical.
It does not need speaking about virtue and holiness, but requires providing a model or a practical example without any explanation or words. It is a deeper ministry. Who has this ministry is not considered a minister or a preacher, but is himself the lesson. People learn from his life, not from his words, or from his spiritual way of talking when he speaks. This reminds me of a certain father who did not ask St. Anthony a word of benefit, but said to the saint, 'It is enough for me to look at your face, father.'
From this type of ministry there appears the ministry of blessing.
The Lord said to our father Abraham, "I will bless you … and you shall be a blessing." (Gen 12: 2) And Joseph the Righteous was a blessing in the land of Egypt, and before that in the house of Potiphar. Elijah likewise was a blessing in the house of the widow in Zarephath of Sidon, and Elisha the Prophet in the house of the Shunammite woman.
Now I leave you till we meet next week- God willing.