The Spirit of the Christian Ministry
“Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.”—ROMANS 12:11.
1. How does an individual prove that he is a minister?
THERE is only one way that an individual can prove that he is a Christian minister—by his actions. We see this in the very meaning of the Greek word for minister, di·aʹko·nos. One authority says: “Di·aʹko·nos speaks of the servant in his activity for the work . . . The word speaks of one who executes the commands of another, especially, those of a master.” (Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest) The writer here stresses that to be a minister is not so much to occupy a position as to be active in doing something.
2. What proof was there that Timothy and Paul were genuine ministers of God?
2 For example, the apostle Paul said about Timothy: “But you know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.” (Philippians 2:22) Timothy worked hard in the ministry. Nobody who saw his selfless labor could have doubted that he was a genuine minister of God. Paul also wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “You yourselves are our letter [of recommendation], inscribed on our hearts and known and being read by all mankind. For you are shown to be a letter of Christ written by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink but with spirit of a living God.” (2 Corinthians 3:2, 3) Who, on seeing this thriving congregation and knowing that God had brought it into existence through Paul’s ministerial work, could have doubted that Paul was a minister of God?
3. Describe the spirit of a genuine Christian minister.
3 Remember, though, that being a minister is not just a token thing. We need to develop the spirit of the Christian ministry. Timothy “slaved” alongside Paul. The apostle himself said: “Woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) Additionally, he wrote: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties.” Yes, Paul manifested dedication, zeal, urgency and a willingness to endure whatever was necessary, even “the loss of all things,” in order to accomplish his ministry as a Christian. (2 Corinthians 6:3-10; Philippians 3:8) All genuine Christian ministers should have a similar spirit.—Luke 9:23, 24.
4. How can a person be a minister if he spends most of his time fulfilling other obligations?
4 As in the days of the apostles, some ministers today are family men or women with secular work. Others are students at school. How can they say that they are ministers? Well, they fulfill their other obligations and even enjoy a reasonable amount of relaxation. But their ministry is not less important to them than these other things. Neither do they merely fit it in as best they can around their relaxation nor do they spend just a little time in it each month as a kind of gesture. They “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.”—Matthew 6:33.
Pioneering and the Christian Ministry
5. What is a fine way to manifest the spirit of the Christian ministry?
5 Those manifesting such a spirit are genuine Christian ministers, even if they have family responsibilities or secular obligations. But some are able to manifest the spirit of the ministry in a particularly rewarding way. How? By pioneering (engaging in full-time preaching work), either for a limited period as auxiliary pioneers or for a longer time. They may even be able to work at one of the Watchtower Society’s branch offices or share in the missionary work or in the traveling ministry, visiting and building up different congregations.
6. What are some valid reasons why every witness of Jehovah who is in a position to do so should pioneer? (Luke 6:46-49)
6 Why do many of Jehovah’s Witnesses pioneer when, if they spent a little less time serving God, they could make life more comfortable for themselves? Because they want to praise Jehovah and tell others about his purposes. Also, they know that “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Sincerely believing this and God’s promises, they are anxious to spend as much time as possible telling the good news to others, so that those who respond can also do the will of God and gain everlasting life. Moreover, they know that we are living in the time when “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) They remember that Jesus told his followers: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37, 38) They realize that this prayer is even more appropriate today than it was in Jesus’ day. Yet how can they offer this prayer in sincerity if they themselves are holding back from having as full a share as possible in the Christian ministry?
7. What question should each Christian minister ask himself?
7 Really, every Christian minister should prayerfully consider whether he can pioneer or not. A South African couple who have pioneered for fifteen years said: “Why are we pioneering? Could we ever justify it before Jehovah if we did not?” Many who are not pioneers could well ask the related question: ‘Can I really justify before Jehovah the fact that I am not a pioneer?’
Using Our Gifts
8. Like Timothy, how might many young people be in a position to pioneer?
8 Timothy had a special spiritual gift that he was able to use to good effect in his ministry. (2 Timothy 1:6) Today we do not receive special gifts of the spirit, but we do have other gifts, and often these gifts open the way for pioneering. For example, young people graduating from school have gifts. They have education. Also, like Timothy, they have youth. They have health and strength, as well as a fresh and open attitude. Perhaps the greatest gift of all, they have time. Generally speaking, they are not burdened down with many responsibilities. So youth is an excellent time to consider pioneering.—Ecclesiastes 12:1.
9. What gifts might older people and others have that would enable them to pioneer?
9 Older people also have gifts. A couple whose children have grown up and who have retired from work may also have time that could be used in pioneering. Often they are financially stable, have acquired valuable experience in life and have built up a long record of faithful service. (Proverbs 16:31) All of this could well be used in pioneering. Others may have gifts too. Some housewives have the gift of organization, so that they can handle their family responsibilities and pioneer. Some family men with a similar gift are able to pioneer as well as support their families spiritually and materially. Are you gifted in speaking, teaching, or in getting along with people? Just think how much greater scope such gifts would have in the pioneer service.
10. (a) Why do some hold back from pioneering, but how did one young couple handle this problem? (b) How may pioneer service benefit a person that finds preaching difficult?
10 Some have held back from pioneering, wondering if they would be able to manage financially. An engaged couple discussed this fear together. “We decided that it was a lack of trust in Jehovah’s ability to provide,” they concluded. “After reviewing Matthew 6:25-33, where Jesus taught that if we seek first the kingdom all the necessities would be supplied, we made it our goal to be regular pioneers.” Soon afterward they were married, gave up well-paying jobs and became pioneers. Others find the preaching work itself difficult. Do you? If so, pioneering can help. In fact, the best way to become comfortable in the house-to-house ministry is to spend some time pioneering. One minister who shared in auxiliary pioneering said: “There was another blessing. I relaxed more in my door-to-door work. Instead of dreading each door, I began to look forward to talking to people.”—See Philippians 4:13.
Pioneering—A Family Affair
11. How was Timothy blessed in the training he received “from infancy”?
11 Timothy had been prepared for the ministry progressively “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) His mother and grandmother obviously had the spirit of the Christian ministry and instilled it in him. When Paul arrived in Lystra, Timothy, with nothing to stop him, was ready to join him in the full-time preaching activity.—Acts 16:1-5.
12. How have many parents shown that they have the spirit of the Christian ministry?
12 Today many Christians are happy that their parents have shown a similar spirit. Alice, a Ghanaian minister, said: “Almost all the Witnesses that came to stay in our home were full-time preachers. . . . What a privilege I had to grow up in such a theocratic home! My father instilled in all his children a desire for the full-time preaching work, pointing to, as examples, the brothers and sisters who are doing such work. It was only logical that after school I immediately enrolled as a regular pioneer.” Ed, a young minister in the United States, said: “I think what helped me a lot was the fact that both my parents were missionaries in South America for twelve years and they had been pioneers before that. So they always set before me the joys and privileges of pioneering, and the blessings that Jehovah pours out on pioneers. . . . This is something that all parents should do because it certainly helped me. They can encourage the young to serve Jehovah whole-souled and as much as possible.”
13. How are pioneers helped to surmount difficulties?
13 Pioneering may involve sacrifices, but genuine ministers are willing to make these because of their love for Jehovah. Besides, the rewards are great. Michael and Theresa, a married couple in the United States, expressed it this way: “If you want to get stronger spiritually, that is the place to be—in the pioneer work. You become more dependent on Jehovah and less dependent on yourself. Although we have had financial problems while pioneering, Jehovah has always provided for our needs. It is the safest place to be.”
14, 15. (a) How may parents of pioneers sometimes make sacrifices too? (b) What precedents do we have for this in Bible times? (c) How can parents show the spirit of the Christian ministry today?
14 Parents of pioneers may make sacrifices too. It may be hard for them to watch their children “leave the nest” and pioneer in some other locality, perhaps even in a foreign land. In some ways such parents are like Hannah and Elkanah, who sent their firstborn, Samuel, to serve Jehovah at the tabernacle in Shiloh. (1 Samuel 1:1-3, 24-28) Or we could compare them to Jephthah, who gave his only daughter to Jehovah’s service, thus sacrificing any prospect of seeing future grandchildren. (Judges 11:36-40) Jehovah surely remembers and rewards the unselfishness of such parents.
15 There may even be a financial sacrifice involved. In some lands parents rely on their children to look after them in their old age. However, parents who truly have the spirit of the Christian ministry do not hesitate on this account to encourage their children to pioneer. When a young Ghanaian man named Justice wanted to pioneer, his mother consented and agreed to look to Jehovah for support. Later, she told her son that Jehovah had wonderfully supported her since she had made that decision. This, too, is a way of ‘seeking God’s kingdom first,’ and Jehovah does not abandon those who do so.—Matthew 6:33, 34.
16. Why should those in the full-time service be encouraged to continue therein as long as circumstances permit?
16 It is sad to hear, from time to time, of parents who try to persuade their children to stop pioneering—not because they need their help, but because they feel that their children have been long enough in their assignments, and now it is time to come home, have a family and live a “normal” life. But these are not normal times, and as the end of this system gets closer, everyone’s life will become less and less normal. Pioneers, members of Bethel families, traveling ministers and missionaries should be encouraged to persevere.—Titus 2:12.
Manifesting the Spirit of the Ministry
17. (a) How does the work of pioneers and other full-time servants benefit the congregations? (b) How can all show that they have the spirit of the Christian ministry? (Hebrews 13:15, 16)
17 The apostle Paul wrote: “[God] gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11, 12) Today, there are traveling ministers, pioneers and missionaries who spend most of their time ‘evangelizing,’ as well as members of Bethel families whose ministerial work includes serving the congregations in other ways. These help in building up the congregations. (Compare Acts 16:4, 5.) Hence, all Christian ministers should be interested in the full-time service. If they are in a position to become pioneers they should do so. If they are unable to pioneer themselves they should encourage those who can.—Romans 12:11.
18. Why is the Christian ministry so vital today?
18 There is a great need for dedicated witnesses of Jehovah with such a spirit. Thousands are still responding to the preaching of the good news, even in areas that have received a frequent witness over the years. For these responsive ones the fact that a Christian minister took the time to visit them and tell them about God’s purposes opened up the opportunity for them to gain everlasting life. (Romans 10:13, 14; 1 Timothy 4:16) How many more are still waiting to hear? Whether we can share in the pioneer service or not, let us have a sense of urgency and the spirit of self-sacrifice. May we be willing to work hard in the Christian ministry.—Galatians 6:10.
Do you fully appreciate
□ What it means to have the spirit of the Christian ministry?
□ What a “token” ministry is, and what is wrong with this?
□ Why all Christian ministers should be interested in pioneering?
□ How all dedicated Witnesses may display a pioneer spirit?
□ Why the Christian ministry is vital today?
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All genuine Christian ministers have the spirit of Paul and Timothy