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Ministry

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(עֲבוֹדָה , work; שָׁרֵת, attendance,; λειτουργία, waiting upon; διακονία , service). Besides the ordinary applications of this term to the common affairs of life, it is specially used in the Scriptures, chiefly those of the New Testament, to denote a devotion to the interests of God's cause, and, in a technical sense, the work of advancing the Redeemer's kingdom. It is in this sense, namely, of the Christian Ministry, that we propose here to treat of some features of this office, leaving to special titles other parts, such as the literary qualification for it, (See MINISTERIAL EDUCATION), and a more general view of its relations to the article PASTORAL THEOLOGY (See PASTORAL THEOLOGY) . The essential functions of evangelical ministry are the following:

I. Preaching. The duty of disseminating the Gospel is not confined to the ministry. A comparison of all the narratives relative to the event in the New Testament renders it clear that the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 was not delivered to the eleven apostles merely, but to the general body of the disciples then assembled (1 Corinthians 15:6). It is the great character of evangelization. In like manner it appears that, although the twelve apostles were originally sent out on a preaching tour of Galilee (Matthew 10), subsequently seventy others were despatched on a similar mission (Luke 10). So on the day of Pentecost the whole mass of believers at Jerusalem seem to have been inspired with preaching powers, and they actually exercised them (Acts 2:4). Nor was this an occasional though extraordinary instance; on the contrary, a similar practice is implied in all the later exhibitions of the then universal gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-47; Acts 19:6-7; 1 Corinthians 12, 14). Indeed, the technical distinction between clergy and laity in this particular is almost ignored in the New Testament, and we find members of the Church, whether official or private, male or female, freely exercising their liberty in proclaiming Jesus everywhere (Acts 6:8; Acts 8:4-8; Acts 9:20; Acts 18:24-28; Acts 21:9). This is in accordance with the universal impulse of the newly-converted soul to communicate the glad tidings of his own salvation to others, without waiting for any formal license or authorization. Such evangelization is the very essence of preaching, by whatever name it may be called, or by whatever conventionalities it may be surrounded. We may add that whoever loses this spirit of his early zeal, has lost, be his success or attainments in other respects what they may, the great divine seal of his call to preach. (See LAY PREACHING).

The call, as above defined, to preach the Gospel to the best of our ability and opportunity, is one that every Christian should recognise and obey. It is, however, a duty entirely distinct from, although in some cases closely related to, the general question of our vocation in life. It is precisely at this point that the thought of the ministry has probably occurred, sooner or later, to every considerate young man of the Church. If earnest and devoted, he is apt to infer the farther duty of giving himself exclusively as an avocation to the work of preaching. The idea having once been vividly presented to his imagination, is likely, in proportion to his conscientiousness, to fasten more and more deeply upon his convictions, while at the same time his judgment of his fitness, his inclinations, and his circumstances may be totally adverse to the course. Hence he is in a twofold danger of error; on the one hand he may mistake for a distinctive divine call his own general promptings to do anything, however uncongenial, for the sake of his Master; or, on the other, he may yield to a self-deprecating modesty and the force of obstacles, and neglect a real call. Under this balancing of arguments. perhaps the safest guides are two one internal, the other external. In the first place let him carefully examine his own heart, and see what motive secretly prompts him in this direction. If it be the love of applause, a desire for distinction, a vanity for public prominence, or a wish to gain a ready mode of subsistence, of course he must conclude himself to be unworthy and unfit for the holy office. If, again, he is chiefly drawn to the work under a mere sense of condemnation if he refuse, we apprehend he has not reached the highest intimation of an incentive to duty in this path. He, like every other believer, of course, must quiet his conscience by being willing to do any duty, even this, if clearly made known; but it does not follow that he is called upon to do any and every disagreeable thing, simply because it would be a cross to him. A better and more decisive, as well as consistent test, is to ask himself, "Do I seek this place, or consent to assume it, because I look upon it as the most exalted and useful one I could occupy? Is it one in which I feel that I can most effectually glorify God and serve my generation?" If he still have doubt in answering the question, then let him turn to the other outward test. Let him try it, and experiment will soon satisfy him whether his call is genuine or not. This experience will especially determine four points; namely,

1. His natural qualification or disqualification, in point of physical, mental, and spiritual adaptation;

2. His probable measure of success, as evinced by the fruit of his efforts;

3. His greatest lack, and consequently the points where, by study and care, he should more fully prepare himself in the future;

4. The providential indications, by way of opening, means, etc., for his farther progress. The Church, meanwhile, through his friends, fellow- members, and the pastor, will thus have an opportunity of judging on all these points, and then advice will not only be welcomed by him, but must in the end be conclusive.

Our result, therefore, under this head is, that while preaching the Gospel in some form, and as a specific work, is the general duty of all believers, it is the sole or exclusive duty of those only who, by undoubted internal and external marks, are divinely called to the office, and sanctioned in it by the Church at large. This last is the ultimate or determinative sign.

II. Ordination. The second great and peculiar function of the Christian ministry is the administration of the holy sacraments namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Other clerical offices such as officiating at marriages, funerals, chaplaincy, expounding the Scriptures, dispensing ritual duties, etc. are entirely subordinate and immaterial to these. The sacraments likewise may, no doubt, lawfully be administered by a lay unordained person, or even by a woman, in case of emergency or private celebration; but, for the sake of propriety and system, they should be a matter of Church order, and this is the meaning of the term "ordination." This, therefore, is a purely ecclesiastical distinction, which affects the ordained individual only as to certain churchly relations or functions appertaining to himself individually. For this reason it is performed but once, and as a ceremony. Whether it be executed by the bishop, a presbyter, or neighboring pastor, is entirely conventional. The true "apostolical succession" is maintained wherever the line is in accordance with the established Church usage in the case.

It will be observed that preaching and "orders" do not necessarily concur in the same person. Hence some churches have ordained elders who are not clergymen Hence, likewise. there are ordained local preachers and unordained travelling preachers. The election to clerical orders rests, in the Episcopal churches, with the bishop; in the Presbyterian churches, with the Presbyterial Synod; in Methodist churches, with the Annual Conference; among Congregationalists, Baptists, etc., with the congregation itself. III. The Pastorate. This is the last and crowning office of the Christian ministry. It does not necessarily involve the two preceding, for in all churches there are occasionally pastors who are not ordained men. In the Methodist Church there are at least sub-pastors, namely, class-leaders, who have no other clerical functions; and many of the Roman Catholic priests do not preach at all, On the other hand, there are numerous "evangelists" who, as local preachers, have no pastoral relations, nor any ordained status. The pastorate, moreover, differs from the preaching element of the ministry in its local and transferable character. The commission to preach is world-wide, long as mind and body last; but the pastoral jurisdiction is necessarily limited to a particular community and on stipulated terms. The appointment under it always implies a mutual understanding and consent between the pastor and his people; and it is a piece of clerical imposition when the latter are permitted to have no voice in its formation and dissolution; as it is an act of prelatical tyranny when the former is not consulted, or allowed to express his wishes and judgment.

We have said that the pastorate is the highest function of the ministry. It is so, because it combines in their most complete, regular, and effective form all the elements of the ministerial relation. A man who has the hearts of his people, and can sway them from. the pulpit, as well as touch them in the tender and intimate connections of his pastoral ministrations; who introduces their babes to Christ, and dispenses to them the symbols of the body and blood of their Lord, wields a power which kings might envy, and holds a place with which Gabriel's cannot vie. He is God's ambassador to a dying community, and his angel in the Church.

IV. To the foregoing ministerial functions many are disposed to add a fourth, namely, administration. This, so far as it applies to the execution of discipline in any particular Church, is merely a part of the pastorate; and even here it is very doubtful whether the pastor have legitimately any power beyond that of presiding in meetings, and guiding in a general way the affairs of the Church. His personal influence, of course, is very great; and if the people have confidence in his judgment, his advice will be freely sought and cheerfully followed. But the assumption of any dictatorial rights will quickly be resented and resisted as a "lording over God's heritage" equally unwarranted by Scripture or ecclesiastical law.

The extension of the clerical administration to the general Church, in distinction from the laity, is a prelatical usurpation characteristic only, and everywhere, of High-Churchism. It is the essence of popery, and is not the less offensive if advocated or practiced by a bishop in any Protestant Church. Even the Episcopal churches, strictly so called, do not hold this theory; the Methodist Church has lately discarded it, and the Presbyterians admit the lay elders to a full participation in the highest legislative assemblies.

Referring once more to our Lord's constitutional behest (Matthew 28:19-20), we find four duties enjoined upon his disciples: 1. Preaching that is, evangelization. 2. Discipling that is, enrolling as followers of Jesus. 3. Baptism that is, initiation by a public ordinance. 4. Instruction that is, inculcation of Christian doctrine in detail. Not one of these is the essential or peculiar, much less exclusive prerogative of the ministry; although the minister, as such, naturally takes the lead in them, devoting himself professionally to them, especially in the more public and formal relations.. Of all the really characteristic functions of the ministry, we have found to recapitulate that the true basis of authorization arises in the Church itself, as the final earthly judge of qualification and fidelity; and that she expresses her decision with respect to it through the preacher's own immediate brethren; while she signs his credentials to the second through the ecclesiastical organism which he thereby, enters; and she issues her mandate respecting the third through the local community which thus invites his care. See, besides the works quoted under MINISTER, Schaff, Hist. Apostol. Ch. page 495 sq.; Bearcroft, Thirteen Discourses on the Ministry; Boardman, On the Christian Ministry; Collings, Vindication of a Gospel Ministry; Crosthwaite, On the Christian Ministry; Edmonson, On the Christian Ministry; Fancourt, Nature and Expediency of a Ministry; Taylor, Institution and Necessity of the Ministry; Turner, The Christian Ministry Considered; Vinet, Theory of the Evangel. Ministry; Wallace, Guide to the Christian Ministry; Wayland (Francis), Letters on the Christian Ministry; Amer. Bible Repository, 9:64; Christian Exam. 5:101; 15:334; Christian Monthly Spectator, 3:401; 8:441; 9:487; Christian Observer, 14:13; 19:433; 20:533, 544; 22:329, 546; 28:137, 416; Christian Qu. Spect. 4:207; 6:542; 7:353; 8:411; Christian Rev. 1:15; 3:254, 576; 11:256; 13:501; 15:400; Edinb. Rev. 19:360; North Amer. Rev. 49:206; Kitto, Journ. of Sac. Lit. volume 29; Cumberl. Presb. Qu. October 1871. See also Poole, Index to Periodical Lit. s.v.; Malcom, Theol. Index, s.v.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ministry'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/ministry.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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