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October 10, 2006

Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men… Ephesians 6:6-7

The Bible often represents sin as sickness, and healing as removal of the sinner from the dominion of sin to the dominion of grace: The man born blind, the leper, the Gerasene demoniac, Mary of Magdalene, beset with seven demons, &c. Others are healed from sickness but were apparently already removed from the dominion of sin: Eutychus, revived from death by Paul; Dorcas, revived from death by Peter, and Peter’s mother, whom the Lord Jesus healed from a fever. A Gentile centurion, whose faith the Lord found unmatched by any of Israel, asked for and received the healing of his servant. Peter and John brought about the healing of a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ. The man leaped up, stood, walked, entered the temple, and praised God before witnesses (Acts 3:1-9). Jesus healed ten lepers; one thanked him. The other nine evidently took the cookies and didn’t stay for the service.

Interestingly, none of these people, upon being restored or enabled, inaugurated a church committee. No one got a ladies’ auxiliary underway, or a coffee ministry, or a babysitting ministry. All either offered simple thanks and praise, or returned to their discreet and discrete capacities of simple service. Large undertakings, such as famine relief, were conducted by the whole church and shepherded by two clearly chosen leaders. The ever-expanding litany of “ministries” that keep busy people busier on the Lord’s day are absent from the Word of God. Spying out several multiple-ministry churches online appears to confirm my theory that the point of multiple ministries is “connectedness.” For some reason, it seems more “connected” in these settings to meet socially outside of church, along age, gender, and interest lines, than in church for worship and prayer.

Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother and her repair to her duty all take place in one sentence: And he touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and ministered unto him Mt 8:15. She ministered unto the Lord; evidently it was her routine to do so.

Martha wears herself out ministering to Jesus while her sister Mary simply sits at his feet and listens to him. Martha wants Jesus to reprimand Mary, but Jesus assures Martha that her sister is no slouch–and, in fact, has “the better part.”

It is positively necessary that things be done in a church, and it takes people to do them. It takes people, not ministries. Everything that must be done must, in its way, support the essential ministry: the ministry of the Word of God. There are no other ministries, only tasks before those who willingly undertake them.

The emphasis on so-called ministries–women’s, music, education, chair-setting–that engage as much participation as possible–is inversely proportional to the emphasis on the centrality of preaching. Not only are the ancillary ministries we see in so many growth-oriented churches today non-Biblical–they may be anti-Biblical.

These ministries are anti-Biblical when they lead focus away from worship and preaching, and onto individual importance for everyone, something known as “menpleasing” in the Bible (Ep 6:6). Service is essential, but is to be tempered by necessity and focus.

The simple blessing of undistracted religion is not enhanced by committee efforts.
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world James 1:27;

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and of prayers Acts 2:42.

To arise, to thank God for his mercy in delivering us from the reign of sin to the reign of grace, and to minister unto Christ with our minds and hearts and time is the explicit imperative of Scripture. We grow in grace hearing the Word preached. The Puritans, who held unembellished worship services inviting participation in nothing but the hearing of the Word, brought forth the greatest theologians and, consequentially, the best social and economic systems of all time. Purity of worship was tied to purity of doctrine. Both led to a competent social order.The downgrade that has led to more participatory worship has led to more participatory doctrine–which, ultimately, is no doctrine. Where worship and doctrine are weakened, social and economic conditions correspondingly weaken. When the church seeks to incorporate more ways of the world in its worship, the church degrades itself and the world. Relevance is a very erosive force.

In the final chapter of his epistle to the Romans, Paul recites names of servants of the early church who served outside the primary callings of teachers and deacons. These people risked their lives to transport letters across dangerous territory and served the Gospel under circumstances of extraordinary hardship. They were the first servants of the church. God chose to name them in his Word. They are special. They are important. No one since the closure of canon is special and important in the same way. Paul commends Aquila and Priscilla as a married couple; all others he commends as individuals. No committee or representative of a ministry is acknowledged.

The dominant feature on the landscape of many churches today is importance: everyone’s importance is what is important. God does not require us to be important. He sees through our silly schemes to try to make ourselves more important to him–as if he thought in petty human comparatives–and to each other. He does require us to know that he is important.

Be still and know that I am God Ps 46:10.

Posted by Mrs. B at 6:53 AM

Victorbravo said…
But how can I show my zeal if I don’t do something?

Oh, right, it’s not about me.

But we are to do those things nonetheless: in humility and, for people like me anyway, anonymity too.

Good observations.

9:08 AM
Mrs. B said…
I suppose it comes down to how–and where–one takes “Zeal for thy house hath eaten me up.” Starbucks, for instance, hosts many women’s ministry groups.

9:31 AM
Zack said…
I have a great zeal for starbucks. The female wanted me to say that she loved the last paragraph especially, and it is a good reminder to her. Of course she really is relatively unimportant. I on the other hand am always very important.

8:19 AM
Mrs. B said…
That you are, Zack. I wish I could send you a caramel macchiato and your female a lovely cafe au leche d’arroz.

8:46 AM
imagmom said…
I love this Mrs. B.

We don’t need to form committees to do “good works and meet urgent needs.” (Titus 3:14) We just need to DO the works of righteousness. But, granted, sometimes certain tasks require more bodies and organization.

The Regulative Principle of Worship is stated in Chapter 21 paragraph 1 in the Westminster Confession:

The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

This is what I find so helpful and refreshing about my (our) church. It is what I longed for for many many years and feared didn’t exist.

God as God even over how He is worshiped. There’s an idea! As victorbravo illudes to, worship is about God and not about us and what we “get out of a service.” How often church services I attended in my life were rated on an emotion Richter scale. The feel goods, the good music, how much you cried, laughed, or just generally FELT. But not on the soundness of the preaching. Or the theology of the hymns. Or the helpfulness of the scripture.

The simplicity of order in our service is peaceful and helps to concentrate on the important central reason for gathering. We seldom even have an announcement and we collect no offering. (We also have no debt or money problems.)

We read the scriptures, sing hymns, and hear the best preaching available to breathing man. (Thanks Tom!)

I thank God for my church EVERY DAY.

11:29 AM
Mrs. B said…
As do I, imagmom.

Thank you for your lovely and substantive comment.

11:51 AM


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