Who is a Minister? -- By: George S. Spink
ATJ 4 (1971) p. 7
Who is a Minister?
When I announced my decision to leave the city church which I had served for ten years, many considered this act as “giving up the ministry.” It did not matter to these people that I would be teaching the eternal truths of Christianity to young college students. What was uppermost in their minds was the all-too-narrow concept of the Christian ministry as being solely centered in the pastor congregation relationship. I begin with this incident in order to point to the need for Christians to expand their concept of the term Christian “ministry.” The tendency of the American mind to pigeonhole or label concepts as if they have only one mode of interpretation applies to the average churchman in his church relationships as well as other sectors of American life. Far too many understand the expression “Christian ministry” as referring to the professionally trained clergyman and nothing else.
If one were to ask “Who is a minister?”, in general the answer would involve the idea of anyone who is trained and authorized to carry out the spiritual functions of a church, conduct worship, administer sacraments, preach and pastor a local congregation. It must be admitted that this idea is basically Christian and can be traced to the early church.1 However, to limit the meaning of Christian ministry to this concept is to miss the larger concept of “ministry” also set forth in the New Testament. The Greek word for “ministry” is diakonia. It is significant that this term was in New Testament times the most favored way of referring not only to specific church workers but also to all those who professed to be followers of Christ rendering service in his name.2 It is in this latter sense that Protestantism historically has used the expression “priesthood of all believers.”3 The New Testament refers to every believer in the generalized sense of his ministry under the terms saint, priest, and king. “All Christians,” says Luther, “are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says, we are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve the others. This is because we have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike;
ATJ 4 (1971) p. 8
for baptism, gospel and faith these alone make spiritual and Christian people.”4 This generalized idea of the ministry, apart from ordination to specific office in the church, places on every Christian a sacred responsibility to co-operate in the governme...
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