We are continuing our leadership series exploring the place of different methodological components of the local church. In the first section, we explored the different components of the main church services or meeting times. In this section, we are considering the different components of the local church’s overall ministry method. In this section, we are going to consider the Biblical place of specialized ministry or Bible studies. We will consider youth ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, children’s church, etc…
Need for specialized ministries
In 1 Corinthians 12, we see this amazing picture of God’s church. God gifts each person for service in the body. Consistently through the Scriptures, the church is described singularly. The local church is to be a picture of Christ’s one church. There is a single body of which we are all a part. This is the theological truth. If the local church is to be a picture of Christ’s body and each member is a part of Christ’s body, there is much that needs to be considered regarding specialized ministries in the church. There does seem to be a need, in this world, for specialized ministry within the local church. In Acts 6, deacons were elected to oversee the distribution of food so that no one was neglected and so that the apostles could focus on the ministry of the word. We are given explicit instruction for specialized ministry in the church as Paul writes to his student, Timothy:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:8-16).
The instruction that Paul gives stands in direct contrast to the consumerism of our day, that mentality in which churches will entice youth to come for pizza and cool music so that they can have a youth ministry. Paul’s instruction recognizes, instead, that God has so gifted His people that every member of the body is a servant so that the burden placed on the church (primarily the financial burden) is not so great. When we bear our own burdens, in this way, and take care of our family members, then the dollars of the church can be dedicated to the most pressing a genuine needs. The local church, then, stewards its finances to do 1) the ministry of the word and 2) the ministry of providing genuine needs. For those things which are extra or personal (yes, I am being a little vague on purpose), each person should bear his own financial burden so as not to place heavy burdens on the church body. This applies to many things, but especially the ministries of the local church. How many dollars are spent on extra things, adding more and more weight to the financial burden of the church and essentially limiting the genuine Biblical ministry of the local church?
All we can say biblically is this regarding the place of specialized ministry in the church. The church body should practice great wisdom. Does a ministry advance the word of God first? Second, does it help to provide genuine needs to those who cannot provide for themselves? A concurrent children’s church may either help or hinder the ministry of the word to children and their families. Youth attendance in the main service communicates a very clear message about their inclusion in Christ’s body. Having a youth service during the week at a time other than the main service may help or hinder the ministry of the word to preteens and teens. We must be wise. We must share a clear, biblical vision, and we must design ministries according to God’s instruction rather than that of consumerism.