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Three types of ministry

Many years ago I heard someone give a word about attitudes to ministry which made an impression on me at the time and has stayed with me ever since. The essence of this word was that there are basically three types of ministries.  The first is chosen by God and anointed to do His work, but for many reasons it has become rigid and bound by tradition and custom, and the love that it should be displaying has become buried underneath all the resulting formality and respectability.  This sort of ministry is personified by King Saul, and, like him, gets jealous when it sees other ministries thriving yet its own bearing no fruit.

The second ministry type is likened to that of David, and contrasts with that above in that it has a living relationship with God that means that it is ready to do the new thing that the Holy Spirit reveals, no matter what the cost.  In practice this can manifest itself in a more fluid practical approach, where change is much more common and accepted, and people are prioritised above anything else, including buildings and services.  It can also feel more ‘messy’, although, if it is a genuine move of God, it should have clear aims and vision.

The third type of ministry described by this word is the one that has given me most cause to examine myself, perhaps because I was brought up in a certain branch of the Christian Church.  This is the ministry that sees the David ministries thriving, blesses them, but somehow can’t quite make the change from its roots in the past to something relevant for the day we live in.  Such ministries are personified by Jonathan, a man who loved David but was still the son of King Saul and was, as far as Saul was concerned, heir to the throne.  Unhappily for Jonathan, he was due to die on the same battlefield as his father.

I have thought about this word for many years.  At first I used to worry that I wasn’t a ‘David’, that at best I was a ‘Jonathan’, and in my worst moments could be likened to a ‘Saul’.  I think there is much to be gained by examining ourselves in the light of this, as there may be wisdom in its cutting analysis of motivation and practice, and not all inner exploration is bad.  Honesty with ourselves and before God is vital for spiritual health.  But I have also come to the conclusion that it is over-simplistic to assign ourselves or our churches to one of these ministry types to the exclusion of all others.  If we have been honest in our examination then we can see that it is possible to reflect all three in different aspects of our walk.

I am often reminded of that devastating little verse in John 13: 17 where Jesus says, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  It is not sufficient to identify areas in our lives and ministries that do not line up with the disarmingly simple yet profoundly life-changing laws of the kingdom of God and not to do something about it.  Yet many of us are left thinking, “Yes, but how?”  If this is you then I would remind you that you are already on the road of change, of holiness, of becoming more like Jesus.  The factor that really defines these three ministry types is heart attitude.  If your heart is right then God can open the way for the necessary changes to take place in His time and in His way, as we plead with Him in prayer for His will to be done.  Then, like the apostles, we need to pray for boldness, to walk through God’s doors of opportunity and obedience as they open before us.

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