Subscribe via RSS Feed

Who are “the Called”? Mission, Commission, and Accountability

Fenhagen calls this process a “system of accountability and recognition.”26 He suggests that both the person doing ministry and the ones participating in the process write down a plan for ministry. “In this way they are establishing the norms by which they are to be held accountable [and] … if a job isn’t done, there is a clear base on which to make changes, or if done well, to offer genuine recognition and appreciation … ”27 However, again, allow me to emphasize the beauty of simplicity and brevity. This “contract” does not have to be a treatise or a long, legal document. Often, just writing down on one sheet of paper one’s heart for a particular group or setting in terms of a call to ministry to them can reveal one’s passion and desire to please God and love those people. Grammar and punctuation don’t even have to be correct! All that really matters in this is the expression of one’s heart.

An important caveat must be inserted here. While it is very important for believers’ hearts to be heard about their call, it is also important to have godly wisdom in this whole process. Not everybody who has a heart for something actually should be doing that thing. Someone might have a heart to teach in the most difficult public school setting possible, but if he doesn’t have a college degree he just isn’t going to be able to do so. Another person might want to be a lawyer who advocates for the poor, but if she doesn’t have a law degree she isn’t going anywhere. A committee of mature laypeople with successful lay ministries can be established who then will provide feedback and counsel to those seeking confirmation of a sense of call and a public commissioning of their call. This committee can represent the congregation in assisting those whose hearts are burning to serve God. Confirmation of someone’s call by two or three mature witnesses is a good policy for any congregation to establish.

The point here is that in commissioning people for ministry the entire congregation accepts responsibility for ministry, not just the person being commissioned. When people fail to meet their responsibilities in ministry, the whole congregation should feel the disappointment and hurt that can occur. If a congregation accepts the credit for the fine work of one of its members, so it should share the blame for the failure of one of its members. The erring one needs the love and correction of the church community just as much as (or more than) the one who does well needs the approving embrace of the community.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

The distinctive doctrine of the Pentecostal church is that the spirit of God is available to all who ask God to be filled so that they may be effective servants of God. A strong tradition exists among these groups to rely on the strength of God by the Holy Spirit to do effective ministry. This work of the Spirit cannot be contained in programs developed by well-meaning and successful preachers or controlled by the efforts of well-meaning believers no matter how sincere they are. The spirit of God remains unrestrained, uncontrolled, and unharnessed by any human powers. Instead, the Spirit has been given as a gift and an expression of God’s love. Furnish has said,

… the quickening power of the Spirit is nothing else than the enlivening power of God’s love to which faith is the response and by which faith finds concrete expression in the believer’s life … If there is any doubt about the importance Paul places on diakonia as one of faith’s vital signs, that must finally be dispelled by his words in Galatians 5:13–14, where love’s service is presented as the essence of God’s law.28

All believers are called to submit to the unmanageable spirit of God so that they might go where the Spirit sends them and minister in love to those for whom Christ has died. No program, no matter how well conceived, could ever anticipate the nuances and subtleties encountered in the ministry of any believer or any one local church. Relying on the spirit of God will mean that believers are called to intercessory prayer, suffering for and with those to whom they are called, and believing with and for them that God might help them. It also means they must wrestle with the complexities of modern life and the mysterious work of the Spirit.

The commissioning service of laypeople can include a prayer for the Spirit’s empowerment for service and a reminder to the congregation that God is present in God’s servants and will help them in their work. The apostle’s command to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph 5:18) is expressed in the present active imperative tense in the Koine Greek text (i.e., “keep on being filled with the Spirit”). It is an ongoing process of being filled with the Holy Spirit daily that enables God’s servants to serve God faithfully and thus fulfill God’s call.

Spiritual formation is vital in developing successful lay ministry. Before the fruit of the Spirit can become evident in lay ministers, they will need to submit to the Spirit’s work in developing them into faithful servants of God. The Spirit’s work can be tedious, painful, and time consuming because of the pruning and purging that occurs when the Spirit enters lives. Believers might be eager to get on with their lay ministries only to discover that God wants to work on them deeply first before they can experience any significant success in their callings. Fanciful programs purchased at the local Christian bookstore might make promises of “instant” success; however, submission to the Spirit’s work will mean a long process of sanctification and growth rather than instant “success.”

It is one thing to be excited about being filled with the Spirit to serve God, especially in an emotional worship service; it is another thing to be faithful to God’s call in a tedious job when no worship band is playing and no inspirational singing can be heard. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given so that people might praise God appropriately, but also that they might become the people God wants them to be. How can lay ministers serve their coworkers when the coworkers may be hostile, backbiting, proud, and ambitious? It is by the Spirit’s work that believers overcome the obstacles in life.

Pastors and congregations should remember that the gift of the Spirit is available also in times of tedium, grief, and pain. Successful lay ministry—all ministries—will have times of great difficulty and strain. This does not mean the Spirit has departed; the gifts and callings of God have not been taken away. Believers will face hardships and difficulties, but in such times the Spirit helps them in their weakness and even intercedes for them with deep empathetic groaning (Rom 8:26–27).

What is meaningful is that the work of the Spirit in empathizing with weak believers through intercession and a sense of God’s presence can itself be an example to be followed. Believers so assisted by the gift of the Spirit can in turn empathize with their coworkers as they face their own difficulties, even—or especially—those coworkers who are difficult or hostile.

A former student of mine works for a large company whose regional headquarters are located in central Florida. He told me a story about a department headed by an avowed atheist. Just under him as his assistant was my former student, “Mike,” a committed Christian. Many of the other workers in the department were Christians who made known their faith by keeping to themselves during break time, having private Bible studies with each other during lunch, and prominently displaying religious trinkets on their desks. One of these coworkers contracted an aggressive form of cancer and passed away just six weeks after the diagnosis. The avowed atheist boss asked the other workers in the department for volunteers to gather on a Saturday to collect the deceased worker’s things at work and at her apartment to ship to her family in another state. When Saturday arrived, only “Mike” and the avowed atheist boss showed up. He made a point of asking “Mike” about the validity of the Christian faith of the other workers who had so publicly expressed their faith but were so notably absent from this organized attempt to help the family of the deceased coworker.

Pin It
Page 5 of 8« First...34567...Last »

Tags: , , ,

Category: Fall 2011, Ministry

About the Author: Steven M. Fettke, M.Div. (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Th.M., D.Min. (Columbia Theological Seminary), is Professor of Religion at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He was awarded the Delta Alpha Distinguished Educator Award by the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education in 2009. He is the author of Messages to a Nation in Crisis: An Introduction to the Prophecy of Jeremiah (1982).

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Invitation: Stories about transformation

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Studies in Acts

    Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but h...

    Will I Still Be Me After Death?