How to Do Christian Ministry, part 1
Most of us probably were raised in a certain church tradition, and that tradition is mostly what we know. If you are born into and raised in a particular church or denomination, the ministry of that church is what you know about church. How that church operates sets the expectation for what you think of as “normal.”
As we grow up and have further experiences in life, we come to realize that other churches differ dramatically. They believe and practice differently from you. And not only do we find that other churches do things differently, we also come to realize that some churches do things wrongfully, even sinfully.
I recently read that one branch of the Mennonite Church has decided to “repent” for their past treatment of LGBT people. They will now endorse and perform same sex weddings and allow LGBT membership. That decision is clearly wrong, and it marks out that church as liberal and apostate. That’s the wrong way to do Christian ministry, and I would advise anyone in that church to get out of it.
In the passage we’re looking at today, Paul warns us about the wrong way to do ministry and he sets a pattern for proper church ministry.
It’s been quite a while since we were in this text, so let’s review the basic structure of the book. The first seven chapters of 2 Corinthians focus on Paul’s character. The people there in Corinth had misunderstood why Paul was doing what he was doing, so Paul takes some time to describe and to explain his ministry. Then in chapters 8-9, he encourages his readers to participate generously in the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The final four chapters are a further vindication or explanation of Paul’s credentials and ministry, especially as compared to his opponents.
2 Cor 4 is part of Paul’s explanation and defense of his ministry. In 4:1, Paul says “we have this ministry,” and then he goes on to describe several things about how he and his colleagues do the ministry. He makes a comparison between the proper way to do ministry and an improper way to do it.
Most of us are not in the same kind of ministry that Paul and his colleagues were in. We are not traveling all over the place trying to establish churches. But there are many forms of Christian ministry. If you are serving in any capacity here at church, then you are involved in Christian ministry. Ministry is just service. If you are serving the Lord, then you are in the ministry. No matter what aspect of ministry you are in, you should be following the biblical pattern of ministry.
Let’s consider what Paul says about how to do Christian ministry.