The Power of Bottom-up Ministry

Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 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, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

One outcome of the Protestant Reformation was the course correction that brought back the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9). We recaptured the understanding that saints were not special Christians but simply followers of Christ who were called to minister in His name under the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead of the professional clergy being tasked with doing the bulk of the ministry, they rediscovered that more can be done when the Holy Spirit is working through all believers. As pastors and elders given the responsibility to lead our church family, this verse is a guiding beacon that helps us to remember our important role to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. This approach brings glory to the Lord because it’s clear that He, not the church leader, is the common denominator in the various ministries that sprout up. It also creates a rich environment for believers to grow and mature in their walk with the Lord as they step out in faith and trust the Lord to use them.

The work of the Holy Spirit often connects a believer’s heart to a particular aspect of God’s heart. When this happens, a believer may develop a burden to see something done that would bring God’s presence into a situation of need. A person may have a strong conviction to fight for the right to life of unborn children. Another person may feel compelled to start a ministry that serves the poor. Some may feel moved to fight against racism or other forms of injustice. At Cornerstone, we love to see people living in their authority as a daughter or son of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

When a person feels moved to be involved in a kingdom-cause, the best approach is usually to find an organization that is effectively addressing that need because they have the necessary infrastructure and expertise. Sometimes, making a significant impact can best happen if many people get involved. This has been true of our efforts with raising awareness and financial support for Rescue Freedom (human trafficking) and Good Neighbor Teams (refugees). Both of these efforts have been in partnership with organizations and spearheaded by volunteers in our church family. The Serve/Salt & Light section of our app provides a few ministries where these and other grass roots, bottom-up ministry is happening.

Not only does this approach affirm the priesthood of all believers, it also expands the ministry reach of our church, because it allows the pastors and elders to focus on efforts directly related to making disciples and it prevents them from becoming bottlenecks to ministry. If the pastors and elders are asked/expected to be directly involved or lead the charge for every cause, we would always be constrained by their limited bandwidth. The infant church in Jerusalem faced the complex social issue of caring for poor widows that was compounded because of the unequal treatment of these widows, based on cultural preference at best or prejudice at worst. The matter was brought to the attention of the Apostles, yet seven godly men were selected to handle this situation (Acts 6:1-7). The wisdom of this approach was affirmed in that the Apostles could focus on their primary ministry of preaching the Word and prayer which led to the growth in the number of disciples. Had the Apostles been bogged down in the important yet not primary ministry of food distribution, the spreading of the gospel would have been stunted.

As we begin 2022, our hope is that our time of fasting and prayer will lead many people to sense God’s calling to step out in faith. Some will join an existing ministry and a few others may be called to mobilize and lead others to also capture the vision and get involved. This bottom-up approach to ministry will require much faith and sacrifice that becomes the fertile soil for a dynamic, growing, Christ-honoring, kingdom-building movement of the Lord!

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