When we reflect on ministry in the church, we commonly focus on those who are serving in a full-time capacity, perhaps also being paid for their work. However, Scripture actually gives a little different picture than this.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:11–13 (ESV)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)
In this passage, Paul discusses gifts that the Lord has given to His church. In other places, he describes spiritual gifts that people receive, but that is not what he speaks of here. Instead, Paul speaks of the gifted people that are given to the church, and the reason the Lord has given them.
Gifted people are given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of service”. Other translations render this “training… for the work of ministry”. The point here is that these people are to be bringing the rest of the body into service. This is not the case of the few working to serve the many. Instead, it is a picture of everyone using their own God‐given gifts to minister. As Paul also wrote, To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV) Since everyone has gifts, each should use them in the Body. Through leadership, teaching, and as examples, the few are given to ensure that all serve.
The goal is not just to lighten everyone’s load, but rather to grow spiritually, both individually and corporately. Individually, this means growing in the knowledge of Jesus. But Biblical knowledge is the knowledge of experience. We may know Jesus enough for salvation, but we must experience Him in our lives as He works through us for the benefit of others, and through others for our benefit. This is full knowledge of the Son of God. When Paul wrote that spiritual gifts are to be used for the “common good”, the good that results is growth in Christ‐likeness. (Romans 8:28‐29)
For a church to be spiritually healthy, it’s necessary for all to grow and be involved. This is not because of work load ‐‐ organization and prioritization can fix that ‐‐ it’s because of the spiritual nature of our association: we are the Body of Christ, not a club. (1 Corinthians 12:11‐14)