I think one of the biggest problems we as Christians face today is the concept that the pastor is the main one who does the work of the ministry and the congregation is to simply support him. While it is true that pastors have special calling on the lives and are supernaturally equipped to do great things, we cannot hope to reach the world for Christ unless everyone fulfills the divine mission they were given.
Let me ask this question–in the New Testament, what occupation did the disciples hold? Were any rabbis? No; they were fishermen and tax collectors. In other words, the men Jesus chose to change the world came from secular backgrounds? But then the question is raised–didn’t the disciples have to leave secular employment for full-time ministry to be most effective? Yes and no. While it is true that Peter didn’t return to being a fisherman (apart from a short stint just before Pentecost), what was he doing in his ministry? In short, he was encouraging everyday people to be all that God had called them to be. He realized he couldn’t do it all and that the people weren’t just his backups; they were ministers as well and no less important.
I’d like to look at Peter’s epistles a little deeper. What would God have the man designated by Jesus to lead the Church share to the young believers?
First, he addresses them as strangers (1:1). This one word is key to our understanding of what it means to be a believer. We aren’t going to fit in. We are to be strangers and be different in a good kind of way, a way that reflects the love of Jesus. Second, we will face trials (1:6-7) but we are kept by God and can expect to be able to stand, trials only pointing us to God. Third, Peter encourages us to be holy in all manner of conversation (1:15).
So here we have Peter’s building blocks of effective Christian living: realize it’s OK to be different, stand firm through trials, and live holy. How is this different from what we hear in Christian circles today? Often we hear this: be relevant and blend in with the culture, God understands if we drift in our faith in adversity (doubting God is OK to many as a temporary phase) and holy living is legalistic.
My first challenge to the believer is this: are we content to sit back and let the pastor do the work of the ministry while our biggest concern is being “culturally aware?” Or can we do the work ourselves, using pastors as resources to pray with and mature our faith. Our answer may very well determine the eternal destiny of millions. In the next blog on this subject, we will dig deeper into Peter’s letters and look at what attitudes we must have in ministering to people.