Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Vocational Vitality for the Long Haul!

Reading time: two minutes. Paul explains the nature of Christian ministry to the Ephesians in chapter 4, concluding with the phrase, “…as each part does its work” (v. 16).  There is some work that only the pastor can do; there is some that is appropriately given to commissioned ministers.  The key to surviving and thriving in Christian ministry for the long haul is recognizing which aspects of Christian ministry are properly given to the members of the body. Although it is somewhat controversial and a matter for continuing exegetical debate, I personally would like to see the missing comma inserted into Ephesians 4:12, and I believe it does not compromise our belief in the priesthood of all believers.  Do you know which comma I mean? The NIV says we have pastors and teachers, “…to prepare God’s people for works of service…”  ESV says, “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry…”  The extra comma would read, “ equip the saints, for the work of ministry…”  The comma highlights the uniqueness of the role of called servants of the Word.  (Check out Thomas Winger in the Concordia Commentary on Ephesians.) A question for congregations and their church workers to continually pursue is this: “What is the work of ministry?  What are the things in congregational life that only the pastor can do?”  At a congregation I served, we whittled the list down from about 140 (Seriously!  I still have the job description)  to about 20.  I believed that about six or eight of those were legitimate, so we were still working on our list when I took a new call. The point is that for the sake of the ministry of the church and for the sake of the wellbeing of called workers and for the sake of the priesthood of all believers, we need to determine together what Paul meant by, “…as each part does its work.” That’s why it’s particularly important for church workers to know their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and giftedness, or as we call them on our retreats, their gettas and their gottas. Long, healthy, vibrant lives in ministry are characterized by servants of the Word who find joy in ministry by focusing on those areas of effort that bring the greatest rewards and satisfaction, and by finding and equipping others to come alongside to help with the parts that deplete us. The language of the body and the temple built of many stones is strong in Ephesians.  I hope it is in your ministry also, as each part does its work. May God bless you in your work of ministry, equipping the saints! Thanks for reading. Do you serve in a multiple staff setting in a church, Lutheran school, university or social service ministry?  Discover how a Ministry Team Wellness Workshop can help enhance your team ministry by building the unity, spiritual life and communication essential to partnership in ministry.  Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman for more information.