12/13/2017 in: Food for Thoughton
Ministry is not something that we do alone! Learn about team-oriented ministry from 1 Thessalonians. The content in this blog is taken directly from the Story of God Bible Commentary.
PAUL’S TEAM-ORIENTED MINISTRY
Paul’s opening in his letter to the Thessalonians demonstrates something important about ministry. It is never done by one person. Although Paul may be the primary person in this tripartite ministry team, there is much that he would have been unable to accomplish if he did not also have the support and assistance of Silas and Timothy, his fellow missionaries.
This type of support is evidenced in many of Paul’s letters where he mentions those who assist him — people like Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3), Urbanus (Rom 16:9), Timothy (Rom 16:21; 1 Thess 3:2), Apollos (1 Cor 3:5, 9), Silvanus (2 Cor 1:19), Titus (2 Cor 8:23), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), Eudoia, Syntyche, and Clement (Phil 4:2–3), Aristrachus, Mark, and Jesus Justus (Col 4:10–11), Demas, Luke, and Philemon (Phm 1, 24; see also Col 4:11).
When you take stock of the number of Paul’s ministry companions and all that he accomplished with them, you realize he had a lot of help.
THE DIFFICULTY OF LEADING A SMALL CHURCH
Most people who train to be pastors will never serve a large congregation. Unless there is someone who works in the church office, chances are they will be the only paid staff member. This means that a lot of responsibility for the ministry of the church falls to them. They are the ones doing the preaching, planning/leading the services, performing weddings and funerals, and visiting the congregation (to name a few).
Leaders feel it’s their job to know everything about everyone in the congregation and to be there for them. And to some degree this can’t be helped. The pastor is usually the one who has the calling and the training for ministry while those she or he serves are often working in jobs outside of the church. But the inherent danger here is that the pastor and congregation can enter into an unspoken agreement that all ministries are the purview of the pastor. The pastor cares and does so much that the congregation forgets or is unaware of its responsibility to bear one another’s burdens.
Ministry, however, is a community effort. It requires all of us to pitch in and do what the Lord bids.
DELEGATION IN MINISTRY
Helping a congregation participate in the ministry of the church can happen in small ways. Rather than do everything, a leader can delegate some responsibility to others in the church.
For example, the pastor doesn’t always need to be the one who opens and closes in prayer or says grace over the church dinners. There may be some who are more gifted in the area of mercy and compassion and have more time in their schedule to visit and minister to the sick.
Developing a lay ministry team within the church can help alleviate the leader of some responsibilities while at the same time training future leaders who will either serve that congregation or another one in some other location. I have met many a student who heard the call to ministry while serving as a volunteer in their home church.
PAUL’S EXAMPLE: TIMOTHY
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is an example of team-oriented ministry. Although Paul is the lead person, he is careful to talk about the apostles’ ministry in the plural (“we”).
The role of Timothy in this letter may seem a minor one as he acts as messenger. But this is a role he will serve in faithfully later as he travels on behalf of Paul to both Corinth (1 Cor 4:17) and Philippi (Phil 2:19–24). He is also listed as the coauthor to six of Paul’s letters (2 Corinthians; Philippians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Colossians; Philemon). In later life Timothy served the church at Ephesus, and instead of writing and delivering letters for Paul, he was receiving them from Paul (1 Tim 1:2).
Timothy is an excellent example of how team-oriented ministry not only helps the leader to be successful but also prepares them for a leadership role in the church.