Friday, March 5, 2010

The Ministry of the Word

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that in my Pastoral Counseling class, we answered the questions in the exam for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors as a class assignment. The following is an adapted answer from that assignment, which asked us what it meant to "minister the Word" (cf. Ac 6:4) in counseling. I think the answer has beneficial implications for all of pastoral ministry.

The Greek word translated “minister” in the New Testament is diakonéō, and essentially means to serve. In Acts 6, the famous passage in which the Apostles designate the priorities of the Christian ministry, the twelve make it known to the congregation that they will devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry (diakonía) of the word” (Ac 6:4). Interestingly, the same word is used in Acts 6:1, where we are told of the problem that prompted the Apostles’ response: the widows of the Hellenistic Jews “were being overlooked in the daily serving (diakonía) of food.” The word takes on this connotation frequently throughout Scripture. Peter’s mother-in-law began ministering (diakonéō) to Jesus after He healed her. What was her ministry? The NASB says, “…she got up and waited on Him” (Mt 8:15)
. Similarly, Martha complains to Jesus about Mary leaving her “to do all the serving (diakonéō) alone” (Lk 10:40). Here again, ministry takes on this connotation of waiter- or waitress-like service (see also Luke 12:37; 17:8).

This, then, must be the attitude that the Biblical counselor (or Biblical preacher, or Biblical missionary) adopts as he seeks to minister the Scriptures in the various contexts of Christian ministry. He is to be a servant, a waiter who supplies the food of the Word of God appropriately according to the various hunger pangs that the people of God experience as a result of their personal sin. “As a calling he must be a pastor/teacher who faithfully leads God’s flock in the paths of righteousness and feeds them upon ‘every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual, p. 11). He is not the chef; that is, he does not seek to advance his own ideas and theories as sufficient to meet the needs of his counselees. Rather, he recognizes that the Word of God alone is the true food that will satisfy the people of God.

May God be gracious and make me into a faithful waiter to serve His people the delicacies of His Word.

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