Waiting Table in God’s Household: A Personal Theology of Ministry -- By: Mark Hepner

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 37:0 (NA 2005)
Article: Waiting Table in God’s Household: A Personal Theology of Ministry
Author: Mark Hepner

Waiting Table in God’s Household:
A Personal Theology of Ministry

Mark Hepner

Mark Hepner (M.A.B.S.-N.T., ATS) is with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua, New Guinea.


This paper presents a preliminary statement of the author’s personal theology of ministry. “Waiting tables” refers to one of the basic senses of the primary “ministry” word group utilized throughout the books of the New Testament (diakoneō ‘to serve’, diakonia ‘service’, and diakonos ‘servant’)1 and this concept ‘serves’ as an apt metaphor for Christian ministry since it denotes the taking of resources provided by the Master of the house and distributing them to those gathered around the Master’s table to sustain the physical and spiritual health and well-being of the Master’s family. Though it is the ministry of the Christian church, engaged as it is in carrying out “the revealing and reconciling mission of Jesus”2 which is the topic of this paper, the phrase “theology of ministry” places the focus on God (it is after all a theology of ministry and not an anthropology of ministry) and thus “ministry” in this paper will be presented mainly in terms of service carried out at God’s direction and on God’s behalf, by God’s servants, for the continuous growth, health and joy of God’s people. From this perspective then, it is God, rather than his table guests, who determines the needs of the church—sets the menu so to speak—and who decides which person will serve what to whom and in what order and quantity.

The metaphor of ministry as waiting tables will be explored and applied more fully in the discussion below. Along the way, a Biblical foundation or model of ministry will be presented using the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians as the particular textual base from which several key components of a theology of ministry will be derived. Then, picking up on the repeated occurrences of the word diakonos “servant” in that chapter (Col. 1:7, 23, 25), the fundamental or characteristic quality of ministry will be developed via a brief study of the diakoneō / diakonia / diakonos word group referred to earlier. Finally, a brief discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit in equipping and empowering God’s people for ministry will round out the presentati...

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