Ministry is not mere teaching, otherwise it will be just an intellectual work, nor a minister a mere teacher or a bearer of knowledge which he conveys to the ears and minds of students! What then is ministry?
1. Ministry is love:
It is love filling the heart of the minister towards God and His kingdom and towards people, especially the little. Such a minister loves God and desires that everybody loves Him, and loves people and desires to bring them to God. Such love in the heart is expressed through ministry, for ministry is the natural outcome of a greater thing, that is, LOVE.
If ministry is void of love, it will be a dry and routine work done automatically without spirit. It will turn into mere teaching or mere scholar or social activity! On the other hand if we love those whom we minister to the same as God loves them or loves us, then we will reach an ideal ministry. But if we cannot attain such a level of love, let us try to have our hearts filled with love towards those to whom we minister, as far as our hearts can hold such love.
The Lord Christ's ministry is mainly based on love, for we read that He loved His own who were in the world to the end (Jn 13: 1). This also is clear in the Redemption, for, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3: 16)
You cannot have a spiritual influence on a person unless there is exchanged love with that person. Through this love people may trust you and accept your words and open their heart to you. Then you will know their spiritual needs and can bring them to God and to His kingdom.
A minister of Sunday Schools therefore is a loving and loved person, who loves his pupils and is loved by them, and loves ministry with all his heart and mind. In such a case his ministry will be mingled with emotions.
When one of the pupils is absent this minister will be sorry for his absence, longing to see him. Even if there are 28 present he will long for the two absentees. His visits will not be formal but with love for God and for people. In every activity he will not focus on himself to appear as a good and honest minister, nor for fear of God, but in love for those whom he minister to.
In preparing a lesson for the ministry he tries to give all that he knows to his pupils. He brings some nice stories that may please them and gathers useful thoughts and interesting information, not with purpose to make his lesson an excellent and ideal one, but because in love he desires to make the others happy and benefit. All his labor is for their sake.
2. Ministry is giving to everybody:
Giving is the nature of the minister.
He does not force himself to give, nor compels his will to minister, but he does this automatically as something natural in him. He is like a tree which nature is to give shade, flower, or fruit to everybody, or like a spring which nature is to give water and irrigation to everybody. A minister likewise gives love, teaching, visitation, compassion and help to everybody.
A minister gives to every one on every occasion, and in every place, at home, within the family, in church, in club, amidst study or work colleagues, and everywhere. Like his Master he goes about doing good (Acts 10: 38). Whoever he meets or God puts in his way he tries to express his love to him even indirectly or does something to bring him to God.
Ministry is a moving good.
It is good moving towards people, pushing them towards God with all means: a word of benefit, a blessing, or help which moves the minister's heart towards all the hearts whom he meets. His life is not valuable to him and he does not focus on himself but sacrifices his life for the good of the others.
3. Ministry is the nourishment of the soul:
This nourishment the minister gives to the others to fill them with the good word of God, as the Lord says, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?" (Lk 12: 42) He gives them a rich meal of the Scripture, of meditations, saints' biographies, songs and hymns, theology and dogmatic subjects. He gives them all this in a simple spiritual way which pleases the soul and connects them with God and with His beautiful attributes. Here someone may inquire:
How can a minister present a rich spiritual meal to his children in one hour per week?
Actually the spiritual influence does not depend on the length of time but on the power of the word; the spiritual word which comes on the mouth of a spiritual person in whom the Spirit of God speaks; the powerful and effective word of God which is likened to a two-edged sword.
One word St. Anthony heard in the church changed his whole life and became a cause for an angelic life in all the church.
Ministry does not need much talk but only spiritual and effective words.
It needs words bearing the power of the Spirit, effective in convincing and in impact, and leading to action. On the contrary, the ministry which has no influence or spirit resembles seeds which are not alive, whereas ministry requires entering into the depths, moves the heart, does much, and is considered an incentive.
4. Ministry is holy zeal:
It is a blaze of fire within the heart, kindling it with love for the others and seeking their salvation, not calming down until it succeeds in leading them to God. That is why the Psalmist said, "Zeal for Your house has eaten me up." And St. Paul the Apostle says, "Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?" (2 Cor 11: 29) In fact whoever loves people and has zeal for their salvation will not confine his ministry to a certain group, but loves everybody and serves everybody, putting before his eyes the words of the apostle: "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor 9: 22) All this concerns ministers, what about God?
5. Ministry is the work of God Himself:
Ministry is a spiritual work, because it is the work of God Himself, the Good Shepherd (Jn 10: 11, 14), who said, "I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick." (Ez 34: 15, 16) David the Prophet likewise said, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." (Ps 23: 1)
It is relenting from God to let us take part in work and in caring about His children. He is capable of doing the work of care, but due to His humbleness He blessed be His name - granted us the honor of working with Him in the same field. Therefore St. Paul could say about himself and his colleague Apollos, "We are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor 3: 9)
Ministry then is communion with the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit who works for the edification of the kingdom, and we are but mere tools in His hands. He works within us, through us, and with us. He gives a word to the speakers and an impression to the listeners. A minister is a mere tool in the hand of the Spirit. But if the ministry is just a human activity it will be in vain and without benefit. That is why we say about the sermon: Let us listen to the word of the Lord on the mouth of so and so.
This is clear in the words of the Lord: "It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Mt 10: 20) And in the messages to the seven churches in Asia we read, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." "(Rev 2: 3) we rejoice at these words, for they give weight to the ministry:
6. Ministry is a bridge between God and people:
Be then a good bridge in your ministry, conveying what the Spirit says, for ministry is a bridge leading people to God, or a bridge on which God's gifts are conveyed to people. A spiritual minister receives from God, not from his own self, and gives His disciples, because the Lord commanded that no strange fire shall be offered on the altar but only the holy fire coming down from God.
Ministry is like the ladder of Jacob reaching between heaven and earth and the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Gen 28: 12). The angels go up with the people's requests and come down with God's response to them. This is represented in the words of the Lord, "ask and you will be given" (Mt 7: 7). The ministers are like God's angels lifting their prayers unto heaven that God may give them word on opening their mouths, and giving their children and pupils God's word.
7. Ministry is the mission of the angels and apostles:
St. Paul the Apostle said about the angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1: 14) And about himself and the other apostles he said, "God has given us the ministry of reconciliation Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 5: 18, 20)
The topic of the "Ministry" is a long subject which I shall complete in the following weeks, God willing.
8. Ministry is a debt we owe:
Ministry is part of the big debt due by us to the church that raised us, taught us, and guided us to the way of God, and gave us the Spirit for ministry. We should serve the church as she served us. Ministry even is a debt we owe God Himself who loved us all such love and gave us His knowledge and taught us His ways. We have to love Him in turn and to show this love to His children whom He left in our charge.
9. Ministry is a duty:
It is a spiritual duty required from everyone.
A person who loves God and loves people should serve, for no such person can suffer it to see people perishing before his eyes and stands silent and motionless. Likewise a person who has experienced God's love will always have an inner impetus to speak about such love.
When the Samaritan woman knew Christ, she went immediately to speak to the people about Him, saying, "Come, see " (Jn 4: 29). She turned from a sinner to a repenting person, or rather more to a preacher who loves Christ and speaks to people about Him!
The same happened with many of those who had been healed by Christ, for they went about speaking about Him.
Everybody can serve according to the variety of the gifts: some serve the poor in the field of charity; others serve the sick; others focus on solving problems or on teaching, in case the church gives them permission. Some people's ministry may be to give a good example.
Therefore who has no ministry has actually failed to fulfill his duty as far as his abilities allow him and has failed to serve his brothers. Such failure to offer a ministry should be mentioned as a confession in the ears of one's spiritual father, for this means that one's love for others, for God, for His Kingdom and for His children is incomplete.
10. Ministry is a debt, a talent, and a responsibility:
God will ask us about each of the children He left in our charge: what we have done for their spiritual edification. Ministry then is a serious responsibility before God and the church. Its seriousness may be briefed in that:
A minister may be the only source of religious education in the life of his students.
They perhaps may not find another source for their spiritual nourishment at home or in school or community. Besides, the church has left this responsibility in your hands and relied on you fulfilling it.
If the children do not find the spiritual nourishment in the church on the hands of its ministers, they will be lost due to such negligence on the part of the ministers!! We can say that the spiritual life of the youths of this generation depends on the faithfulness of the ministers: whether they can kindle their hearts with the love of God and fill their minds with the sound religious knowledge, or let them go empty and cry to God because of the emptiness they experience due to the lack of care on the part of their Sunday school teachers.
Will God then not say to the minister, "Give an account of your stewardship"(Lk 16: 2)? Stand therefore with fear before God, and remember always that ministry is not a mere activity, but rather a responsibility, a talent which we have to offer to God with its profits (Mt 25).
11. Ministry is an example and handing down:
Ministry is handing down rather than teaching.
It is handing down life to the others, i.e. handing down the divine image to them in the living example of the minister who should be a visual aid of the sound spiritual life with all its virtues.
Ministry then is the teacher rather than the lesson, or rather a life conveyed from on person to another or to others.
It is the case of a person who has tasted the sweetness of the Lord and likes to make the others taste it, saying to them, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34: 8) It is a life flowing from a great soul to other souls, or a life of a person who being filled with the Spirit flows from his fullness upon the other. The children are not in need of a teacher who may fill their minds with words or views, but they need a pure heart attached to God and can lead them to God and intercede for them with Him.
They are in need of an example to imitate, in whom they can see the true Christianity in practice.
There may be a Sunday school teacher who is eloquent as should be, but his knowledge is not rich. He has so great influence on the children that merely seeing him would implant in them the love of God. The way he speaks and deals, his spirituality, his cheerful and calm features, all this teaches them more than lessons may do.
They see God's image in such a minister, and they love God who works in that minister's life.
They like to be like him, their life like his, for the children like to imitate. Be then good examples to them, and know that their spirituality surpasses yours, their hearts are clearer, and their principles more sublime. They are white pages with nothing written by the world on them, so they need a high level to benefit from.
The Lord said, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18: 3) He did not mean that we return to childhood, but to grow up in innocence like children.
If you are not an example to them, at least do not be a stumbling block. In their simplicity they accept whatever you say and believe it, therefore let your words be the truth and the righteousness which they expect to know from you and see you doing. The offences, whether in teaching or life, have a great punishment, for the Lord says, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Mt 18: 6)
This good example is called silent ministry.
It is the ministry in which a person gives teaching without speaking. People learn from his life without preaching, for he himself is a sermon. But a person who does not give his life as a sermon, whatever words he may say about ministry will be useless and fruitless. He is a mere transmitter!
12. Ministry is life and spirit:
It is life rather than speech, not mere knowledge conveyed to the others. The words in it should turn into life, for the Lord Christ said, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (Jn 6: 63) Are our words in the ministry life leading the others to life? See what the Lord says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (Jn 10: 10)
Is the fruit of your ministry the change of the life of your listeners to the better? In your ministry, do you give them life? Or do you flow over them from your life? I fear that the saying that applies to you is: 'who lacks something cannot give it.'
Therefore you ought to have communion with Christ and a previous experience in spirituality so that you may be able to introduce God to people. There is a well known saying in the field of the ministry which says, 'None can flow except him who is filled."
13. Ministry is fullness and abundance:
One should first be filled that he may overflow. See the twelve apostles, as an example, how the Lord Christ prepared them for the ministry. They spent over three years absorbing life from Him, from the Good Master, the greatest and deepest Master the world has ever known. They received from Him His example, His pure teachings, from His practices and wonderful visual aids, signs and wonders and way of ministry. They received lessons every day and every hour, spending all their time with Him. However He said to them, "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high," (Lk 24) "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me." (Acts 1: 8) And when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the Day of Pentecost they started their ministry and flowed from their spirit on the whole world. Then the fullness of the Holy Spirit became a precondition for the election of the seven deacons (Acts 6: 3).
What about you my beloved children? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit so that the Lord may trust you with ministering to His children? You may inquire about the criteria for being filled. The answer is: at least when the fruit of the Spirit appear in your life (Gal 5: 22, 23). I cannot speak about the gifts of the Spirit, for these are a higher level which may not be for every one. The children may forget your words but will not forget your life. Are you a spring of life to them? Or have no influence? Or a spring of offences, God forbid?!
14. Ministry is life conveyed from one person to another:
Not only through giving the example and handing down, but there is also a wonderful example from the Holy Scripture about the ministry of the seventy elders who assisted Moses the Prophet in the ministry: the Lord said to Moses, "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel bring them to the tabernacle of meeting Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you." (Num 11: 16, 17) Believe me, I stood in wonder meditating on the verse "I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon you"!!
15. Ministry is an effective power:
It is the power of the Spirit working in the minister and in those to whom he ministers. It is the power of the word of God that does not return void (Isa 55: 11), like the life in the seed, when cast into the earth it does not stop work or growth but gives fruit some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred (Mt 13: 8).
16. Ministry is spirit rather than formalities:
Some may think that ministry is mere formality, a mere regular lesson preparation book, attendance sheet, visitation, explanation etc. and that is all, but ministry is spirit first of all.
It is the spirit of the minister which his spiritual children absorb from him, the spirit with which he delivers the lesson, and with which he deals with the children, it is the heart of the minister rather than his tongue, it is his heart fervor rather than means of education.
17. Ministry is a spiritual means for growth.
It is a spiritual means for the growth not only of the students but also of the teacher. A lesson which affects not the minister and has effectiveness in his life cannot have any influence on those to whom he ministers. The lesson then is a spiritual means for him by which he may grow spiritually and his children grow with him.
A teacher who thinks that the lesson is only for his children, is not an actual minister, for he should abide by the words he says to them and practice them.
We shall speak about the spiritual minister in the following weeks, God willing.
The Spiritual Minister, a good example & a blessing A whole life of ministry
Ministry is not words, but "spirit and life" (Jn 6), for a spiritual minister has the spirit which he turns into life in his disciples. They derive this life from him; they learn it from his life, and they imitate his character, so this life penetrates their souls, hearts, and minds.
The young people may not understand what the minister says, and if they understand they often forget. But they derive life from him; learn from his way of dealing and speaking, from his conduct, his looks, signals, and behavior. They pick all this up from him!
They may forget any teaching, but the way of life continues firm within them. If then all that you have is knowledge, they will take nothing from you except knowledge, without spirit or life! See then of what type is the life you lead which your children may absorb from you and which will leave a special impact on them.
I fear that some ministers have offences in their lives which may have a negative influence on their disciples, whereas the Scripture says: "Woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Mt 18: 7)
Such offences may be imitated by the others, causing them to lose their spirituality and ideals. God will request their blood from the minister. Sometimes the sins of the minister cause the others to criticize him and fall in the sin of judging the minister. In some cases the sins of the ministers lead the others to leave the church totally!
A minister is the salt of the earth, so, if the salt loses its flavor or is spoiled, what would happen? The Lord says: "It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." How hard are these words!
You ought then to blame yourself and say: 'When I was away from the ministry, my sins and weaknesses were confined to me and their effect and consequence falling on me alone. But now my sins cause offences to the others, make them fall in sins, and destroy them. So, if not for my own sake, at least for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth, as the Lord says (Jn 17: 19).'
A minister should examine and correct himself so as not to be a stumbling block but rather a good example. A spiritual minister has a good impact on whoever meets him, and leaves a spiritual impression on them that continues for a long time.
He does not need to give a sermon or speak on a spiritual subject, but whoever sees his cheerful and calm features full of peace, his meekness and how he receives the others and deals with them in a nice way, will be influenced spiritually and will say within: 'blessed are the moments in which I met so and so! A wonderful spiritual person indeed! Would that I be like him in his cheerfulness and good conduct which rebukes me for my sins and reminds me that I often receive the others without care or cheerful welcome or friendliness! Would that I change and become like him friendly, cheerful and meek!'
In this way the mere meeting with him is capable of leading the others to repentance.
A spiritual minister is not a mere teacher, but all his life is ministry. Therefore saying that so and so is a teacher in Sunday Schools implies deficiency in two points:
a) Teaching means giving lessons, not a life with an impact.
b) The Sunday Schools means a limited ministry, whereas a minister should serve in every field and not be confined to a certain place, that is the church, or to a certain time, one hour a week!!
Since ministry is a sign of love, it should not be confined to a mere class in Sunday Schools!!
A loving person overflows love on the others. Whoever meets with him will have a portion of his love. He is like his Master, desires all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2: 4).
A minister's special ministry may be the Sunday Schools, but this does not prevent other general services. Whoever comes into his way, or meets with him will certainly be subject to his spiritual influence, not as a mere teacher but as a spiritual life moving deeply and impacting the others automatically. When he speaks, God will be the focus of his talk in an interesting way.
The name of the Lord is sweet on his mouth; he likes to talk about Him in a way that may attract people to Him. The name of the Lord is on his mouth not only in the church but everywhere. He speaks about Him with deep love. He seizes every opportunity to tell stories about God's dealings full of love and wisdom. Even without speaking he offers to people a good example of life with God.
Some people think that Christian principles are ideals impossible to implement. But a spiritual minister presents these principles in practice. When people see him they become certain that life with God is possible and easy, and even successful. He is loved by everybody, for they long to lead a life like his, going about doing good: to one giving a word of benefit, to another love and cheerfulness, and to a third a good example.
Like the sun he shines wherever he goes.
The sun is illuminating by its nature, giving light, heat, and life to everybody. Spiritual ministers are the same to the others; they are the light of the world (Mt 5). Whoever sees them will be enlightened and will not walk in darkness. What about you? Are you light in your life and in your ministry? Is God glorified on the mouths of those who see you because of you? Does everyone gain a word of benefit when talking with you? Does everyone who meets with you give thanks to God for meeting with you that day and for the grace he acquired through you?
A spiritual minister is a blessing wherever he goes.
The Lord said to Abram the father of the fathers, on calling him, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing." (Gen 12: 2) Therefore a spiritual minister is required not only to be blessed by the Lord, but also to be a blessing.
Elijah was a blessing in the house of the widow of Zariphath of Sidon, and Joseph the Righteous was a blessing in all the land of Egypt; our father Noah was a blessing to the whole world by whom life was preserved and God did not destroy the earth and all that was on it. For Noah's sake human life continued and God smelt a sweet aroma. We became Noah's children as we had been Adam's children. Are you the same; a blessing wherever you go? Is your ministry a blessing to everybody you meet? Is your ministry blessed by God and fruitful, impacting everyone, and giving blessing to whoever your serve and they feel that you were a blessing in their lives and a gift from God to them?
A spiritual minister is considered by those whom he serves the man of God.
Elijah the Prophet was given that name, and was actually the man of God (1 Kgs). Do people see you in this image, as God's voice to their ears, sent to them, God's image before their eyes; your presence reminds them of God and His commandments and the holiness of life? Do they see in you the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22, 23), and the impact of the Spirit on your words, and that you are a blessing for them?
Do not think that because you gave some lessons in the church you have become a minister, but try to understand what the word "minister" means, and what the characteristics of a minister are.
A minister is supposed to have certain spiritual attributes,
foremost of which is humbleness, an important attribute as the Lord Christ
affirmed, saying to His disciples, "Learn from Me, for I am gentle and
lowly in heart." (Mt 11: 29)
The lord could have concentrated on many virtues that characterize His Holy Person, but He focused on humbleness and meekness. It is because a person who ministers is often fought with pride, seeing himself has turned from being served to a minister, an important person in the church whose opinion is sought for nominating or ordaining a new priest, and perhaps he himself is nominated for priesthood! So, we would like to give some remarks in this respect:.
1. A minister should not forget that he is a servant: It is a good title: a servant, not a master or preacher or teacher! His duty is to serve, not to rule or boast, for pride is not an attribute of a minister. The Lord Christ gave Himself this title although He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (rev 19: 16), and He bowed and washed the feet of His disciples to give them an example (Jn 13: 5, 15). He further said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mt 20: 28)
The angels likewise are called ministers in the Holy Scripture: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation." (Heb 1: 14) " who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire." (Ps 104: 4)
The apostles also are called ministers, for St. Paul said about himself and Apollos: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed?" (1 Cor 3: 5) And concerning his assistant Tychicus he said, "Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you." (Eph 6: 21) Also about Epaphras he said, "Epaphras who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf." (Col 1: 7) Even concerning St. Mark the Apostle, St. Paul said, "he is useful to me for ministry." (2 Tim 4: 11)
On their ministry in general, St. Paul said, "Our sufficiency is from God, who made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant." God "has given us the ministry of reconciliation we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 3: 5, 6; 18- 20) When selecting the seven deacons, the father apostles said, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6: 4) The apostles were ministers of the word and of reconciliation, and the father priests in general are ministers of the altar, and the word "deacon" means minister. Moreover the priest who serves the sacrifice is called "the ministering priest". Even the widow who served in the church was required to fulfill certain conditions: " well reported for good works if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet." (1 Tim 5: 10) Furthermore, care for the poor is called "Social Service", and the meeting of the Sunday Schools teachers is called "Ministers Meeting". So, brother, if you are a minister you ought to be humble and let not your heart be lifted up within. Keep in mind the true meaning of the title, so that it may not lose its significance. St. Augustine, praying for his flock, said, 'I ask You, O Lord, for my masters, Your servants '!
Also if you are a minister, you ought to be obedient to God and to your seniors in the ministry.
Some ministers do not respect the priest or obey him, and sometimes defy him, while claiming to be ministers!!! The same applies to a priest who does not obey his bishop!! And to the members of the church board who take action without consulting their church leadership!!
Do not think yourself a leader of pastoral work or of teaching in the church. Remember always that you are a minister and walk as proper for a minister, and be aware not to lose your humbleness, for as the Scripture says, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16: 18)
2. Discipleship is a way leading to humbleness: Some ministers wrongly think that once they became ministers they are no more disciples! But to keep your humbleness, continue to be a disciple. All Christians in the apostolic era were called disciples, and when the Lord Christ sent the eleven to preach, He said to them, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." (Mt 28: 19) And as preaching extended, "The word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly." (Acts 6: 7) Continue then to be a disciple to the Lord and to the church, and let not your heart be exalted. If you felt that you have become a master above discipleship, know then that you began to fall in pride.
I remember when we were ministers in Sunday Schools in St. Anthony Church, 45 years ago, every minister used to sit as a listener or a disciple in four meetings a week to learn humbly from the others. You also, say always to yourself that you are still learning and in need to know more, for a life of discipleship removes away arguments and discussions, and helps you to accept other views with a good spirit. On the contrary, the spirit of argument may lead to stubbornness and thinking oneself understands more than one's seniors or even is a senior.
Keep then your spiritual childhood, for the Lord says, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18: 3) Many saints actually led a life of discipleship:Joshua, for instance, continued as a disciple to Moses the Prophet all his life until the departure of Moses. And Elisha continued as a disciple to Elijah the Prophet until the latter ascended unto heaven, and Elisha bid him farewell, saying: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!" (2 Kgs 2: 12) St. Athanasius, although Pope of Alexandria, kept his discipleship to St. Anthony the Great, and said in the Saint's biography he wrote, 'I poured water on his hands', meaning that he served him.
Moreover, the disciples in the past used to sit at he feet of their masters, not beside or in front of them. The master sat on a chair and the disciples on the floor at his feet, as St. Paul the Apostle says, "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel." (Acts 22: 3) The master was not only a teacher to his disciples, but he disciplined them. Is it then reasonable for a minister who reads a book or to become proud, or to exalt himself over his father priests and impose his opinion on his father confessor, otherwise not obey him?! Such a minister has become wise in his own eyes though the Scripture warns us, saying, "Do not be wise in your own eyes," "lean not on your own understanding." (Prov 3: 7, 5)
Be always a humble disciple and seek knowledge from its sources.Be a disciple to your father confessor, to the church fathers, to the spiritual meetings, to the nature: the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and to reliable books. And though you grow never think yourself above the level of learning.
The church history preserves for us wonderful stories of humbleness of saints revealed in discipleship. Imagine how a great saint like Moses the Prophet sought a word of benefit from a boy called Zakariah, and when the boy felt confused and said, 'You are the pillar of the desert, and you ask me a word?' the saint said, 'Believe me my son, I knew from the Spirit in you that you have a word I need to know.
St. Macarius the Great likewise sought a word of benefit from a herdsman! The holy Fathers used to seek words of benefit although they were leading an angelic life which many desire to learn humbleness from it. Believe me, the most troublesome for the church these days is the lack of humbleness in the field of teaching. Any minister having a new idea, meditation, or commentary tries to make of it a doctrine and teach it to the others. Some authors, for instance, like to replace a prevailing concept with a new one, as if they have discovered something neither the church nor anyone knows!
The problem lies in introducing personal concepts far from the teaching and doctrines of the church. They try to argue and convince people that the prevailing concepts are wrong, and for this purpose some may criticize the church rituals and others modify the wording of the Holy Liturgy, or introduce unfamiliar translations for the Holy Scripture. Some others permit marriage cases against the church laws, and others use unfamiliar Liturgies in prayer. Each of those considers himself a source of teaching forming an independent front or a separate island in an ocean. And when the church interferes to correct such people they move heaven and earth and surround themselves with disciples to support them against the church, declaring that their teaching is the sound teaching and everybody else is wrong!
We may even find each Church Education branch adopting a special curriculum! The senior minister of the branch may modify the general curriculum or adopt a special one seeing it is better or more suitable! Therefore we shall give a unified curriculum God willing- after consulting the father priests and ministry leaders. We hope then that the ministers be humble and use it, without raising objections or rejection under the pretext of democracy in church!
The early church was distinguished for the one mind, because it was a humble church submitting to the views of its leaders. The Protestant Church on the other hand, advocating freedom of teaching and interpretation, has dispersed into over a hundred sects with different doctrines! A traditional church keeps the sound faith and does not permit individual concepts that my turn into dogmas, but advises its members to be humble. A humble minister does not boast of his knowledge, but provides teaching in a calm spiritual way, without complication or holding comparisons between a text and its translation in Greek, Hebrew or English. People may not be aware of such complications, and there may be no need for it as evidence. Sometimes even the references they use may be incorrect or adopting rationalism rather than spiritual method.
A humble minister descends to the level of those whom he serves instead of attempting to dazzle them with material above their level and which may not benefit them. The self should have no place in his mind but only the spiritual benefit of the people.
A humble minister is concerned with preparing his lessons.He does not rely on his previous knowledge or on his memory as some senior ministers do and their words come out weak, having trusted their own selves and capabilities over what they ought. A humble minister respects the mind of the listeners however little they may be and exerts every effort to provide them with rich words that fills them.
Humbleness and the ego: A humble minister denies himself. He hides so that the Lord may appear, as John Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3: 30) A minister who is not humble, on the contrary, builds himself in a wrong way. His concern is to rise not to raise the ministry, and may seek positions or fight with the church leaders, and gets used to giving orders and criticizing.
Such a minister may even boast of his ministry or of its length and standard. He may boast of being in the ministry for twenty years and generations have graduated through him. He wants to be obeyed not to obey, and rejects the systems and keeps telling about his past in haughtiness.
A humble minister is like a calm breeze. No one feels his coming in or out. He is gentle and meek in his dealings, never hurts anyone or cares about positions. He obeys, and is like his master, "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets." (Mt 12: 19) nor "think of himself more highly than he ought to think." (Rom 12: 3)
Beware lest ministry makes you lose your humbleness.Many had been humble before joining the ministry and changed afterwards. Do not be like them, because, "What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Mt 16: 26)
The spiritual minister by whom God works
God works always for the salvation and restoration of mankind. He works through and by His spiritual ministers. Who then is such a spiritual minister by whom and through whom God works?
It is that minister who cares about his own eternal life, not forgetting himself in the ministry or making of it the object of his focus for which he may sacrifice everything, even his spirituality. Whereas the Scripture teaches us that salvation of oneself should be in the first place, for St. Paul the Apostle says to his disciple Timothy, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." (1 Tim 4: 16) We notice here that St. Paul puts oneself and one's own salvation before teaching and salvation of the others. It is because a minister who cares about his own salvation shall be able to save the others as well.
On the contrary, a minister who cares not about his own spirituality will not be able to present spirituality to the others, because he who lacks something cannot give it to others. Moreover, the ministry is an expression of the love one bears towards God and towards the others, and one who loses such love is no more a minister.
Another fearful phrase we ought to put before us in the ministry is that said by St. Paul: "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." (1 Cor 9: 27) Strange indeed! Such a great saint who was caught up to the third heaven, into Paradise (2 Cor 12: 2, 4), who labored more abundantly than all the other apostles (1 Cor 15: 10), who worked signs, powers and wonders, such a saint says that he feared lest he become disqualified!! It means that there is fear lest any of those who preach others be rejected!! Caring about one's own salvation therefore is very important, and is requested by the Lord, as He said in His messages to the angels of the seven churches in Asia. How amazing are the Lord's words to the angel of the church in Sardis: "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and will not know what hour I will come upon you"! (Rev 3: 1- 3) and to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, the Lord said, "Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth." (Rev 3: 16) and to the angel of the church of Ephesus, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place unless you repent." (Rev 2: 4, 5)
So, if the Lord said this about those whom He called "angels" and "stars", and who were in His right hand (Rev 2: 1), what should we rather say about ourselves? Should we not be concerned about our own salvation?! This I say lest we fall in pride and think ourselves really ministers, or fall in vain glory, seeing that we have spiritual children or disciples, or have classes and a name in church, or are counted among the ministers or preachers!! Let us always remember the words of St. Paul: "Lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
If the great Paul needed strictness and
cautiousness, and needed to discipline his body and bring it into subjection,
how much rather we need it!
Therefore a minister is in need for deep humbleness of heart so as not to fall in pride and think himself a great person. Believe me, brothers, I feel greatly astonished when I meditate on a great saint like Peter the Apostle who was one of the three distinguished apostles who were in the Lord's company in His private meetings, who were described by St. Paul as "Pillars of the church" (Gal 2: 9), when the Lord says to him, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail." (Lk 22" 32) How serious are these words from the Lord! It would have been better if He had said, 'that your faith should not become weak'. But it is a lesson to us that we may watch and be on our guard, for sin is said to have cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by it were strong men (Prov 7: 26).
A spiritual minister ought to be on his guard, not only against small sins or unintentional faults, but also against the uncleanness that fight the beginners!! And though such a minister grows in spirituality he continues to consider himself a beginner not a minister teaching the others.
St. Arsanius who taught the kings' children and was known for his silence, prayers, tears and love of solitude, said about himself, 'I have not yet started. Grant me the ability, O Lord, to start.' Would that we take this saint as an example for our ministry!
A spiritual minister does not only consider himself a beginner in ministry, but also in spirituality as a whole. He considers the lesson he delivers is addressed to his own self before being addressed to the others. When he preaches he considers the words meant to him before the others, rather than consider himself preaching the others words that turn into life to them. He prays that God may give them His grace to benefit from his words or from the grace God gives them. He prays that God may give them something through him, not from him. He mixes his lesson with prayer, so that the Lord speaks and he listens among his disciples!
A spiritual minister never considers himself has
become a senior or a leader, for he puts before his eyes continually the Lord's
words: "Without Me you can do nothing." (Jn 15: 5)
He has to receive that he may give, and say to the Lord: 'I know nothing, O Lord, they have taken me and made me a minister, not knowing my shortcomings and weaknesses. You alone know, Lord, that I have not attained the level of being an example for the others to benefit from. I do not fulfill the commandments which I should say to the others. I fear that such words apply to me: "Physician, heal yourself!" (Lk 4: 23)
A spiritual minister meets with God before meeting
with those whom he will serve.
He says to Him, 'Do not prevent Your grace, O Lord, from those because of my weaknesses and personal faults or because I am far from Your Holy Spirit! What is their guilt?! Not for my sake You give them, but for Your love, because You are their Father who care about their eternal life. For their need give them through me or through anyone else, no matter who. Work within their heart when I speak to them, or even without me speaking. Let my ministry to them be a prayer, if not life, for I have no life to give them as an example, or a prayer to give them power. Do work in them for the love You have for them. I have no knowledge to present to them, and even if I have, knowledge alone is not sufficient to bring salvation. Our mother Eve knew the commandment, but she fell (Gen 3: 2- 6). If ministry were mere words, how easy are words, but what avails is the spirit that is in the words, for the Lord says, "The words I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (Jn 6: 63) What avails is the Spirit that impacts, gives the power to work. A word alone does not save if it is from us, but if from the Lord, "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit." (Heb 4: 12)
Our mission as ministers is to receive a word from God and give to the people, not to give them from our emptiness. We receive from Him fullness and flow with it on them, as the Scripture says the beautiful words, "Of His fullness we have all received." (Jn 1: 16)
A spiritual minister is not a mere horn issuing a
sound, but a spiritual life transferred to the others.
The students receive and absorb from the life of the teacher the way of dealing and behavior. The scribes and the Pharisees sat in Moses' seat (Mt 23: 2). People were astonished at the teaching of the Lord Christ, for He taught as one having authority (Mk 1: 22). His words had influence, power and authority. They were another type which they had never heard. When He spoke about partaking of His flesh and blood, some of them were bewildered and left Him. So, He said to His disciples, "Do you also want to go away?" But Peter said to Him, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (Jn 6: 68) What beautiful words! This is the required from the minister. This reminds us of the words of the angel to Cornelius about Peter the Apostle, "who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." (Acts 11: 14) It is the difference between one minister and the other: one says words that have influence and power, and the other not.
A spiritual ministers utters words by which the others may be saved and their life changed, by which they may feel cut to the heart like the Jews who listened to the sermon of Peter (Acts 2: 37). And when they feel cut to the heart, it will be hard for them to kick against the goads (Acts 9: 5). Even when they resist the word they will return to it, for there are goads in their hearts reminding them of it. Therefore the Lord said about His own word, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isa 55: 11) Indeed, the word of God never returns void, even if it did not bring forth fruit immediately. Believe me, even the word which the Lord said to Judas Iscariot did not return void, but it made Judas repent and return the money he had received, and said, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." (Mt 27: 4) The problem with him was that he fell in despair because of the remorse he felt, and he hung himself.
A spiritual minister should only say the word of
God, and to receive it from God he should have a life steadfast in Him.
He should have such a relationship with God that may enable him to receive from Him and to have familiarity with Him by which he can say to Him, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" (Gen 32: 26) Or, 'I will not let You go unless You give what I can give to those!' Such is the spiritual ministry in which God works, which are not mere words read in a book and repeated without any impact. The Lord commanded His disciples to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Lk 24: 49). Spiritual ministry needs such power, the power of God that works within us by His Holy Spirit.
A spiritual minister
Ministry is a necessity laid upon him
God is always working and we also have to work, as the Lord Christ glory to Him- says in (Jn 5: 17) "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."
He gives us a good example in continual and unceasing work for God's Kingdom. Therefore St. Paul the Apostle said to his disciple Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim 4: 2)
In this way the Lord Christ is working continually.
He worked all day long, till "the day began to wear away" as on the day of the Sermon on the Mount before working the miracle of the five loaves and two fish (Lk 9: 12). He cared about the nourishment of their bodies as well as of their souls.
He also worked by night, as when He met with Nicodemus by night (Jn 3: 2), and when He went to the disciples in the fourth watch of the night (Mt 14: 25), or in the second or third watch, or in midnight. He works while it is day (Jn 9: 4)
The Lord Christ worked everywhere.
He worked while on the way (Lk 19: 1- 5), as when He worked for Zacchaeus , for the Samaritan woman by the well (Jn 4: 6- 7), in the garden at Gethsemane with the three disciples (Mt 26), when He walked on the water as He did for Peter to train him and rescued him (Mt 14: 28- 31), while in the desert or amidst fields, on the river bank and by the lake, at home as in the house of Mary and Martha, and on the mount in His famous Sermon (Mt 5).
He worked all the time for everybody.
He cast His seeds everywhere: on the good land that gives thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold, and among the thorns, as well as on the stony land which has no depth, and on the way. By this He gave a chance for every one. He cast His bread upon the waters to find it afterwards (Eccl 11: 1). In brief, as the apostle said, "He went about doing good." (Acts 10: 38)
Even while on the cross He was working.
He did not only accomplish the Redemption while on the cross, for this was His main mission, but He also did many things. He asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him (Lk 23: 34), and entrusted John with His mother the Holy Virgin that he might take care of her, thus giving John the blessing of the Virgin's motherhood to him (Jn 12: 26- 27). He also gave the repenting thief the blessing of going into Paradise (Lk 23: 43).
He did good at the time of arrest.
At that time He healed the ear of Malchus the servant, for Peter had cut it (Lk 22: 50, 51). And he defended His disciples, and said to those who arrested Him, "Let these go their way", that the saying might be fulfilled, "Of those whom You gave Me, I have lost none." (Jn 18: 8, 9) Moreover, during the trial, He prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Lk 22: 32).
God often works in silence without us asking Him.
He judges for the oppressed and keeps the children. He rescued the young men from the furnace of fire (Da 6), and Daniel in the lions' den (Da 6), and sent His angel and rescued Peter from prison (Acts 12). He revealed to John in the Revelation wonders which never occurred to John's mind to ask for (Rev 4, 5), and caught Paul up to the third heaven though Paul had not thought or asked for that (2 Cor 12).
As God works continually, His angels likewise work continually.
David the Prophet said about the angels, "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word." (Ps 103: 20) And St. Paul the Apostle said, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1: 14) They convey the good news and God's commands to people, and carry out His orders whether for rescue or punishment, for the Scripture says, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them." (Ps 34: 7)
God also wants us the humans to work, and the work required from us is of various types:
1. Inner work:
It is the work within oneself, examining oneself, disciplining oneself and correcting one's defects. Another type of inner work is with God, expressing one's love and emotions for Him, reiterating in His statutes day and night. Such inner work is called (active monk).
Another type of work is reconciliation.
It is a spiritual act aimed at reconciling people with God, as St. Paul the Apostle said, "God has given us the ministry of reconciliation Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 5: 18- 20)
There is work to do in the ministry where we take part with God.
God works with us and through us, as St. Paul says about himself and Apollos, "We are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor 3: 9) God's Holy Spirit takes part with us in work, so we become partners with the Holy Spirit. Therefore we say in the Litany: 'Take par with Your servants in every good work.' And the Lord said to His disciples, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."(Mt 4: 19) We have to follow Him; we cast the net and He calls upon the fish to enter it. We do not fish alone, but He works with us. When Peter was fishing alone he toiled all night and caught nothing (Lk 5: 5)
When we work with God, He will see our work and reward us for it, for He said to each of the angels of the churches, "I know your works." (Rev 2, 3)
The shepherd of the church who labored much in ministry deserved the words of the Lord, "I know your works, your labor, your patience and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary." (Rev 2: 2, 3) Therefore the apostle says, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your work is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor 15: 58) "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Heb6: 10) Furthermore, whoever gives one of the little ones a cup of cold water, he shall be no means lose his reward (Mt 10: 42). Even those who come to the Lord at the eleventh hour of the day will receive his wages like the others.
A fearful word that has to be mentioned about the obligation to work is that of the apostle, "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (Jas 4: 17) Therefore, sin is not only abstaining from doing evil, but also a positive act of not doing good. It is like burying one's gift in dust (Mt 25: 24)
If a person says I do not know how to minister, I remind him with the words of Jeremiah the Prophet when he said to the Lord, "Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth," the Lord answered him, "Do not say, 'I am youth,' for you shall go to all to whom I send you." (Jer 1: 7) Also when Moses the Prophet said to God, "I am not eloquent I am slow of speech and slow of tongue," "I am of uncircumcised lips." (Ex 4: 10; 6: 30) God did not accept such excuses.
God knows the abilities He granted you: the mind, the time, the amount of knowledge, the gifts, and the available circumstances for you to minister. How then could you excuse yourself? How could you escape the words of (Jas 4: 17), while you know that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6: 23)?
God will hold you accountable for whatever knowledge He gave you and you did not use.
He says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." (Lk 12: 48) So, if you say, 'I have no talents,' He will say to you, 'Do as much as you I gave you of talents, one or two or five.' (Mt 25) But never stand still in the God's Kingdom! Why then God has created you? Why did He make you a member of His body? Can there be a member of the body without work?! You ought to work, however limited your talents may be, and if you have been faithful over a few things, He will make you ruler over many things (Mt 25: 23).
He will also say to you, "Enter into the joy of your Lord".
God does not care about the amount of work, little or much, but about your being faithful over what you have, working as far as you can. But you have to work, and He will complete the work. If you say, 'I have only a few minutes every day,' He will say to you, 'Do My work in them faithfully, and I will bless those minutes and make them fruitful. Do not say, 'I have only five stones for my fight with Goliath,' one stone only of them is enough. If you slung it I will direct it to the head of that valiant. And keep the other stones for another Goliath you may face in future.'
What then are the characteristics of the spiritual minister and his work:
1. A spiritual minister should be faithful as a wise and faithful steward whom the Lord entrusts to give His servants their food in due time (Lk 12: 42). This faithfulness should be until death that He may give you the crown of life (Rev 2: 10). "Until death", means to the extent of self sacrifice, and martyrdom. Faithfulness ought to extend to the kind of work done, the amount of work, the subject, and the people for whom you do such work, whatever effort or price such faithfulness may cost you.
2. You should do the Lord's work without slackness or deceit for the Scripture says such a person is cursed (Jer 48: 10). But rather work with enthusiasm, benefiting from whatever capabilities you have though they may be little, for God has chosen the foolish and the weak things of the world to put to shame the wise and the mighty (1 Cor 1: 27, 28). Work and God will work with you and through you. The stone by which David conquered Goliath remind us of the fishermen who stood against the philosophers of the world, the Roman Rulers, the elders of the Jews, and all the scribes and lawyers. You only have to work and to use all your capabilities however weak they may be in your eyes, and be sure that God will work through them.
3. Work with your spirit and heart, not as mere formality or as a duty entrusted you by the church, but work with all your heart and remember the words of the Lord, "My son, give Me your heart." (Prov 23:26) With all your emotions love the ministry and the people, and love the kingdom, and before everything else love God whom you serve.
4. Let your ministry in a spiritual way, for many people received big responsibilities in the church and failed, because they did not follow a spiritual way. They followed the way of management or the social or intellectual way. The ministry to them turned into mere activities, and the lessons into mere knowledge!
Therefore you ought to make your ministry spiritual in its aim and way.
5. Keep your ministry away from the ego, and say with the Psalmist, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory." (Ps 115: 1)
6. Let your ministry be full of hope, even though the fruit is late, and the hindrances are many. Do not fail or despair, but "cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." (Eccl 11: 1)
Measures & Success of Ministry
God's measures differ from people's, for God tests hearts and minds and knows the truth about everything. He alone can evaluate each one's ministry and knows how effective or routine it is, and the reality or the outward bearing of ministry. No doubt, in eternity there will be wonderful things never imagined. We may find there ministers whom we have never heard about!! And perhaps some of the ministers we know at present will not be there!! Indeed, for our measures are different from those of God. What then are the measures of people for the success of ministry? How God judges them? What are the wrong and the sound measures?
The first measure is the extent of responsibility shouldered:This is the measurer of people, yet God has different measures.
Take for instance Stephen the first deacon; he was a mere deacon. Can we measure his ministry by his rank? Certainly not; for the holy church includes his name among the congregation of saints before all the patriarchs. His ministry is measured by its depth, for he was full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and faith (Acts 6: 3, 5). He was full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6: 8). He stood before three synagogues, and before those from Cilicia and Asia, and "They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke." (Acts 6: 10) That is why after the laying on of hands on him for deaconate, "The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." (Acts 6: 7)
So effective was the ministry of this deacon that the Jews could not suffer it, and they arrested him and stoned him. While being stoned Stephen saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7: 56). They saw his face as the face of an angel (Acts 6: 15). It is evident that a minister is weighed before God, not by his outward qualities and positions, but by the depths of his work, heart, and ministry.
Another example is the holy Mar Aphram the Syrian.He is esteemed for the great efforts he exerted in the ministry and in resisting the Arians and defending faith even before being ordained Anagnostos (Reader) by St. Basil the great, a rank which tens of thousands of Sunday Schools Ministers nowadays receive, but Mar Aphram considered himself unworthy of.
Though a mere Reader, Mar Aphram was very esteemed by the Universal Church. Due to his wonderful deep poems and writings he was called "The Lyre of the Spirit" and "Melphan/Master". Shall we then measure his ministry by his rank as "Reader", or by its prominent impact on the ministry of faith and teaching, not only in his generation but also in so many generations until now?!
Another example is St. Athanasius, who was a mere deacon in the Holy Ecumenical Council of Nicaea that embodied 318 great father patriarchs and bishops representing the whole world. However, his ministry was not measured by his rank as a deacon, but by his resistance against Arius the heretic and strong refutation of his heresy with deep and sound theological understanding of the Scripture. While still a deacon, in the same Council of Nicaea, he formulated the Christian Creed which is now adopted by the churches all over the world. So, his ministry was measured by its impact and effectiveness rather than by his rank.
Another example is St. Simeon Al Kharraz. What was his rank? He was neither a priest, nor a deacon, nor even a reader, but was merely a laborer, perhaps of no value in the society or a position in the church. The value of his ministry lies in the depth of his work and prayers which saved the whole church by a miracle the miracle of moving Moquattam Mount in the days of Pope Abram Ibn Zaraa and in his presence. It is the quality of ministry not the rank that avails.
There is also the example of St. Reuiss. He was not a bishop, a priest, or a deacon. He had no official ministry in the church, yet the church considered him as one of the church fathers. God's hand appeared clearly in some of his services.
We also recall Ibraim Al Gohari. He was a layman holding an official position in the country. He was not consecrated for the Lord, but he had deep love for the church. His services for the construction of monasteries and churches and care for the poor are unforgettable and put him in the rank of ministers and even higher.
Michael Anglo is an example outside the church. He was an artist and his service in the field of church icons, especially the icons of St. Peter Cathedral of the Vatican, gave him a name in history. Shall we inquire here about his rank in the church, or rather look to his deep service?! Therefore millions of people know Michael Anglo though they perhaps do not know the name of the Pope of those days, or just mention him as contemporary to Michael Anglo!
Another point we highlight in the context of the wrong human measures for ministry is the greatness of the place of the ministry: The greatness of the minister may be ascribed wrongly to the importance and greatness of the place where one ministers, not to the depth or the quality of the ministry.
Take for instance St. Gregory of Nazianz: He became Bishop of Nazianz, which is not known to many except that it is a city of Caesarea Cappadocia which was served by St. Basil the Great. However St. Gregory did not acquire his fame from the greatness of that city, but from his theological lectures on the Holy Trinity and his own theological character, for which the church called him "the Theologian". He rather made that city famous.
A similar example is St. Augustine. He was Bishop of the city of Hippo, which is not known to many, except that it is affiliated to the diocese of Carthage north of Africa, presided at that time by St. Aurilios. That city would have been forgotten in history if it was not Augustine who gave it its fame. He was distinguished by his meditations, commentary, theology, and defense of faith against the Pelagians and Manechaeans.
Another example is St. Gregory of Nyssa. He is the brother of St. Basil the Great, and was ordained by his brother bishop of Nyssa which was only known as part of the diocese of Caesarea Cappadocia. Its name was first recorded in history by St. Gregory, who also wrote much against the Arians. He also had many meditations and a book on the Beatitudes.
Therefore let not anybody say: 'My ministry has lost its value because it is in an unknown town or village. Had I ministered in a big city I would have a great career'!!
The Lord Christ was born in a small village, Bethlehem, the least among Judah (Mt 2: 6). He was from Nazareth which some people wondered if anything good could come out of it (Jn 1:46)! Yet the Lord gave it fame in history and was called "Jesus of Nazareth" (Mt 26: 71), and He also gave fame to the village of Bethlehem making of it the greatest holy sanctuary.
Some ministers measure the greatness of their ministry by its long term.They are called "Senior Ministers", but this is not a correct measure, for some ministers may serve for shorter terms much more fruitful and effective ministry.
The Lord Christ Himself served only for three years and some months.He said about it to the Father, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." (Jn 17: 4) Indeed, He accomplished the Redemption, teaching, giving the good example, correcting the faults, and restoring the divine image to people.
John the Baptist ministered only one or two years. During this short period he could make ready a people prepared for the Lord, and go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah (Lk 1: 17).
Pope Kyrillos IV continued only for 8 years, yet he was called by the church "Father of Reform". This is due to the depth of the ministry he performed.
Time is lacking to speak also about some father priests, like:<BR> Priest Menessah Youhanna, of Malawi: He reposed when he was thirty, and through his short life he delivered thousands of sermons, besides some books, such as: "The Crucified Jesus"; "The Way to Heaven"; "Church History", which he compiled when he was still a deacon. He also had extensive spiritual influence in spite of the short period of ministry.
Priest Antonius Baki of Queens: He is the first priest we sent to the States in 1972. He ministered there only for five months, but this short ministry was crowned by the words said by the congregation to him: 'We knew the Lord the day we knew you!' Such is the deep ministry which avails.
There may come to the church a guest to deliver a sermon, which is his only ministry in that church, but that sermon and its impact might not be forgotten by the people there for long years afterwards, while someone else may have ministered at the same church for long years but his sermons had not the same impact. One day of St. Paul's ministry was certainly greater and deeper than long years of ministry by others.
Another wrong measure of ministry is the number of the persons ministered to. As the greatness of a commander in the army is measured by the number of those led by him, whether a hundred or a thousand, the success of the ministry likewise is measured according to some people by the number of those whom a minister serves. This measure may be true, but is not always absolute. What avails is not the number but the change which it caused in the lives of those, leading them to God.
The Lord Christ preached thousands before working the miracle of filling the multitude of five loaves and two fishes, but He had another ministry for the twelve disciples, for they were far more important than the thousands, because they were to attract to faith whole cities and countries afterwards. How beautiful are the words of the Scripture about the success of the ministry of those: "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2: 47) What avails then is not the number of the listeners, but the number of those who receive the word with joy and it brings forth fruit in them, leading them to repentance and to a life of holiness and perfection.
That is why we encouraged limited number Sunday School Classes to enable the minister to take care of every soul in every way. In the same way we divided the dioceses to limited zones so that a bishop may be able to take care of every city and village in his diocese, lest they are lost amidst the big responsibilities of the metropolitan when he was to take care of whole governorates!!
The Lord gave us many examples of caring about the one soul as He did for Zacchaeus (Lk 19), Nicodemus (Jn 3), the man born blind (Jn 9), and others.
Another wrong measure for the success of the ministry is the multiple produce. It is represented in the multiple number of services or founding a large number of branches or activities. some may get lost amidst all this and not succeed in managing them, or even appoint a number of ministers without preparation. In all this the ministry will lose its spirituality, due to its extension and lack of depths
What are the sound measures for the ministry, and the factors of strength? This we shall discuss
Last week we discussed some human measures for the success of ministry, which by analysis proved to be false. Today we shall speak about the aspects of power in ministry.
The importance of the ministry lies in what it implies of power and depth, of love and sacrifice, and of influence on people transforming them. What avails is not the size of responsibility, the fame of the place, the number of people receiving the ministry, the long period of ministry, nor any secondary things like that, but there are certain aspects of power of the ministry, which we shall discuss here in detail:
A word of influence:
This factor appeared in the ministry of the Lord Christ, glory to Him.
The Gospel says, "As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and said to hi, 'Follow Me.' and he arose and followed Him." (Mk 2: 14; Mt 9: 9) A mere word said by the Lord to someone sitting at a tax office made him leave his duty and follow Him without asking where!
The same influence of the word appears in the Lord's call to the four fishermen to be apostles: "As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, 'Come after Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' and immediately they left their net and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedeein the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him." (Mk 1: 16- 20)
Due to the power of the call they left everything, immediately.
They did not tarry nor hesitate or argue. They just left their father, the boat and the nets, the means of their living. Peter said to the Lord in brief, "See, we have left all and followed You." (Mt 19: 27) Because the call was powerful, it found response. It went directly through the heart, the mind and the will.
The call was powerful, as well as the preaching and teaching of the Lord.
When the Lord finished His Sermon on the Mount, "the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Mt 7: 28, 29) The same words are said about His teaching in Capernaum (Mk 1: 22).
The Lord's word had the same power in convincing those who argued with Him.
With wonderful logic and powerful evidence the Lord explained to the scribes and Pharisees the possibility of doing good on the Sabbath (Mt 12: 1- 12). Concerning belief on the resurrection, "He silenced the Sadducees" (Mt 22: 34), and after his strong replies to the lawyers and Pharisees, "No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore." (Mt 22: 46)
The word was also powerful in the love and emotion it implied.
This appears clear in the words of the Lord to Zacchaeus the tax-collector, "Make haste and comedown, for today I must stay at your house." These words full of love and humbleness led that sinful man to repentance and salvation to the whole house, for he said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." (Lk 19: 5- 9))
The power and influence of the word are also found in the ministry of our fathers the apostles.
One sermon only delivered by Peter the Apostle made the Jews cut to the heart, and resulted in the belief of about three thousand souls who also got baptized gladly (Acts 2: 37- 41)
The power of the word also appears in the ministry of Paul the Apostle. While in prison, being tried by Felix the Governor, St. Paul spoke to him about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid (Acts 24: 25)
Again while tried before King Agrippa, the king said to him, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." (Acts 26: 28)
The power of sacrificing:
Some ministers may prefer easy ministry that contains no labor or hardship, whereas the power of the ministry lies in its difficulty and in enduring such difficulties with joy and a spirit of sacrificing. Take for instance the ministry of St. Paul the Apostle. He said, " in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness," "in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea," "in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings." (2 Cor 11: 26, 27; 4: 6) However, in spite of all this, he says, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (2 Cor 6: 10)
Spiritual minister is labor for the Lord's sake, and labor and struggling for one's salvation, for the apostle says, "Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." (1 Cor 3: 8)
Such was the ministry of the father apostles. It started amidst persecutions from the Romans, intrigues from the Jews, oppositions and doubts from the heathen philosophers, sufferings, and martyrdom, and ministering in various places where there were no believers, no churches, no comfort, nor money or sacks.
Another example is the ministry of St. Mark the Apostle.
He came to Alexandria in poverty, with torn shoes, and found no Christians nor churches there, but rather various religions including the gods of the Romans under leadership of Jupiter, and the gods of the Greeks under leadership of Zeius, besides the Pharaoh worship led by god Amun and Ra. In additions to all this there was the Jewish Religion in two districts in Alexandria, and the Library of Alexandria which contained thousands of pagan books. He found no comfort at all, yet he struggled in patience until everybody was converted to Christianity.
What can we say about those who preached to countries which people were cannibals?!
A ministry in which a person sacrifices and labors is the true ministry, and the sacrifice and labor are basic measures of ministry. And examples of this is a minister who labors and endures for disciplining a naughty boy in the class or in taking care of a hard case, or in solving some family complicated problems.
Another measure is the depth of the ministry.
So many great works done by prophets and apostles for the ministry, but none of these resembled the obedience of our father Abraham in his willing to offer his only son as a burnt offering to the Lord (Gen 22). The depth of that act gave it special weight and value not in any other act, for it implied faith, sacrifice, and love for God exceeding his love for his only promised son.
So many people gave offerings to the house of God, but the two small coins of the widow surpassed them all, for she gave our of her needs (Lk 21: 4)
So many fought the Lord's wars strongly and conquered, but the stone which young David conquered Goliath who frightened the whole army was much more powerful. Who was in the front, fighting with deep faith that that battle is the Lord's and that the Lord Himself will deliver that valiant to his hands (1 Sam 16).
You may deliver a hundred lessons in Sunday Schools, but all of them will not as valuable as one lesson you give while you are sick or exhausted, preferring ministry to yourself and your rest; or as the time you go to ministry in the days of your exams though you are in need for every minute of your time. Such ministry has its special depth. God measures ministry with its depth and quality not with its multiplicity.
Another measure is the hidden ministry.
A hidden ministry is deeper and more powerful than the apparent ministry by which a minister may receive fame or praise, for this will not be wholly for God or for people.
People may admire a beautiful, high and well-designed building, but never speak about the strong hidden foundation that bears the whole building. They may admire the electric lamps with their dazzling lights, but they never think of the electric generator that provides the lamps with light, without which no light will come out. It is the main and most powerful factor. Likewise people may like a luxurious car but do not think about the motor engine that moves it.
The same applies to ministry, for some people admire a successful ministry and the effort exerted by the minister, but no one thinks about the prayers given for the success of that ministry. Such prayers are the powerful hidden ministry.
We remember the successful service which Eliezer of Damascus did for his master Abraham; he traveled a long way to bring a faithful wife to Isaac the son of Abraham. He succeeded in his mission and brought Rebekah. That faithful servant said to Rebekah's family, "Do not hinder me, since the Lord has prospered my way." That success was due to the prayers of Abraham who said to him, "The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way." (Gen 24: 56, 40)
Indeed, prayer is a hidden ministry.
St. Paul said to the Ephesians, " praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit fro all the saints and for me, that utterance may be given to me." (Eph 6: 18, 19) So, the words of a preacher is the apparent ministry, whereas the prayers are the hidden ministry. Similar to prayers is the visitation ministry, which brings people to church, or the ministry of organizing meetings.
Church Meetings are apparent ministry, but receiving confessions and leading sinners to repentance is hidden ministry
In one church there may be two priests, one preaching and many come to hear him, while the other spends long hours listening to confessions, guiding sinners, leading them to repentance, and praying for them. Such a priest's ministry is much deeper than the apparent ministry. The ministry of Hegumen Michael Ibrahim was of this type.
Individual work is another example of hidden ministry.
Ministering to large numbers is general and has a general impact that may not have follow up, but ministering to individuals is private and needs follow up, so it is deeper. (I hope to speak further about this type of ministry in the coming weeks)
Silent ministry is the good example, which is practical.
It does not need speaking about virtue and holiness, but requires providing a model or a practical example without any explanation or words. It is a deeper ministry. Who has this ministry is not considered a minister or a preacher, but is himself the lesson. People learn from his life, not from his words, or from his spiritual way of talking when he speaks. This reminds me of a certain father who did not ask St. Anthony a word of benefit, but said to the saint, 'It is enough for me to look at your face, father.'
From this type of ministry there appears the ministry of blessing.
The Lord said to our father Abraham, "I will bless you and you shall be a blessing." (Gen 12: 2) And Joseph the Righteous was a blessing in the land of Egypt, and before that in the house of Potiphar. Elijah likewise was a blessing in the house of the widow in Zarephath of Sidon, and Elisha the Prophet in the house of the Shunammite woman.
Now I leave you till we meet next week- God willing.
God is the main cause and goal of ministry, for He calls for it and works in it. However, so many ministers handle many subjects but mention nothing about God. They do not introduce Him to the hearts and minds of people! Their words are mere knowledge about things far from God, perhaps on virtues, history, famous characters, dogma, rituals, but in all that God is not apparent.1. Ministry reveals God's humbleness: Undoubtedly, God can do the whole work alone and turn the whole world into saints. He can manage the ministry through you or without you, for He needs no one. By His Holy Spirit He can change hearts and lead sinners to repentance. But in His humbleness He made us take part in His work, in communion with the Holy Spirit. He works with us and through us; He does everything and ascribes it to us!
Shall we then forget God in our ministry, or do like some ministers who take of the ministry a chance to build for themselves positions, fame or authority, and for this purpose adopt certain views and form special followers? The ministry becomes subject to divisions and fighting, and there appears Paul and Apollo. The ego takes the lead and the minister seeks his rights, his position and his dignity! The name of God disappears amidst all of this, though He is the core of ministry.
2. God calls for ministry: As the Lord Christ said to His disciples, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit." (Jn 15: 16) "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined." (Rom 8: 29) No one takes this honor to himself, "but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was." (Heb 5: 4) This applies to priesthood as well as to ministers in general, like the twelve and the seventy disciples (Lk 10: 1) The Lord Himself said to the Father, "As You sent Me to the world, I also have sent them into the world." (Jn 17: 18) Ministry then is a mission for which God chooses who He wills and sends them. Ministry is His work, and the vine is His, for which He sets stewards to work in it under His supervision.
3. God is the speaker in ministry: No one in ministry may speak of his own self, for even Balaam said, "The word that God puts in my mouth that I must speak." (Num 22: 38) A minister ought to speak that which the Lord puts in his mouth, take from God and give people. A minister ought to be a good conductor or a spokesman as Moses the Prophet was; for we read, "Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them " (Lev 1: 1, 2; 4: 1, 2; 7: 28, 29; 11: 1, 2). Moses had not the ability to speak before that, and he said to the Lord, "I am not eloquent neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." But the Lord said to him, "I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say." (Ex 4: 10, 12) The Lord Christ likewise said to His disciples, "It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Mt 10: 20) How beautiful to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2: 16), not speak of our own minds! St. Paul in spite of all his talents asks the Ephesians to pray for him with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit that utterance might be given to him when he opens his mouth (Eph 6: 19)! Let us learn this lesson from him and not rely on our intelligence, knowledge and experience; for it is God who gives strength and power to His people (Ps 68: 35). Therefore if you do not have words from God it will be dangerous to fill the minds of people with persuasive words of human wisdom (1 Cor 2: 4), rather than with God's. Therefore, pour yourself before God before going to minister that He may give you a suitable and useful word.
4. God gives power and influence: We ought to have power from the Holy Spirit before ministering, as the Lord commanded His disciples to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they are endued with power from on high (Lk 24: 49). With that power they were to receive power from the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to Him (Acts 1: 8).
Preparing ministers: Some may prepare ministers by providing them with curricula and lessons on Scripture, history, dogma, and rituals, besides practical training under supervision. All this is useful, but spiritual preparation is necessary. A minister needs to be filled with the Spirit, that he may receive from Him what he can give the others; not only words, but also power, spirit and influence, and deep love by which he can love and seek the salvation of those whom he serves. A word from Peter the Apostle on the Day of Pentecost made about three thousand souls believe, feel cut to the heart, and get baptized (Acts 2: 41). It was a word bearing power, spirit, and ability to fulfill. Some people say convincing words with skill, but do not give the listener the ability to act. So, when you prepare the lesson you have to prepare yourself spiritually in order to be filled with the grace which may give you the word of power and influence. Then you will be able to bring God with you into the class that He may speak on your mouth and work in the hearts and minds. The listeners will feel that it was God's word and that it moved their hearts and their emotions. A true minister is Theophorus, i.e. God's bearer, like St. Ignatius of Antioch. Such a minister brings God wherever he goes to everybody, for he has tasted communion with Him and wants the others to taste it, saying to them, "O taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34: 8)
Therefore, there is a difference between ministry and teaching. Teaching conveys knowledge from an experienced person to the others by teaching methods, whereas ministry is conveying people to God through a spiritual person who gives them spirit and love for God and His kingdom. Actually, many of those in the Sunday Schools are teachers not ministers! Many read much, know much, and are able to convey their knowledge to the others, but this is teaching not ministry. A minister loves people and carries to them God's love and Spirit. He is steadfast in God and in His love, for "God is love" (1 Jn 4: 16). Love is a main factor in the ministry, without which it turns into mere activity. If you have such love you will not able to rest unless you carry every soul to God's heart, otherwise you are unprepared for ministry. You ought to love people deeply as God loves them, because they are your brothers/sisters, God's children. So you love their salvation, love the church His body, and the kingdom where people will enjoy God. You wish everybody to love Him, for He first loved them (1 Jn 4: 19).
Ministry is not mere knowledge conveyed from one mind to another, but rather spirit and life absorbed from a minister bearing God. Poor is the minister who is away from God; he has nothing to offer to others; he has not experienced God. An example from the Holy Scripture is the seven stars and seven lamp stands: St. John saw the Lord in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands, with the seven stars in His right hand, i.e. the angels of the seven churches (Rev 2: 1; 1: 20). Indeed, for He said "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Mt 18: 20) This also is the image of the Tent of Meeting amidst the tents of the people. He is amidst His churches working, managing, strengthening, and giving word to speakers.
He is the true light that lighted the seven lamp stands. He is the holy oil that lights the lamp, or the sap of life flowing in the vine giving it life, growth, and fruit. He holds the ministers in His right hand, moving them where He wants, but people think them moving by themselves. They chant while in His hand, "The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted." (Ps 118: 15, 16) A minister who is in God's hand cannot deviate or get lost, for God's hand moves him.
If you are not in God's right hand, you cannot minister.Preparing a minister then is putting him in God's hand to be an obedient tool in His hand, like the soft clay in the hands of the potter making from it a vessel for honor (Rom 9: 21). Such is the successful and effective ministry. A minister has to derive power from God renewable everyday. He has to pray continually for himself and for those whom he serves that God may give them power to overcome the various types of corruption in the world that attract people. He has to pray that God may give him word and wisdom and keep him lest he be a stumbling block to anyone; that God may guide him and them, teach and take care of him and them, and lead them all to green pastures and still waters! As St. Augustine said, 'I may seem to be a teacher, but I am like them a student in Your class. I may seem to be a shepherd, but I am among Your flock.' In this way you introduce God into your ministry, and the lesson will be from God to you and them in His love. God Himself will be the lesson and the teacher, and the ministry will be the action of the grace of God' in you for the others' sake, connecting both to God, or rather to the communion of the Holy Spirit.
What then is consecration? It is love, growing until the whole heart and time be God's, whether through talk or ministry. However, some ministers get involved in the ministry to the extent that they forget God! Those misunderstand ministry, thinking it mere knowledge or activity, or they focus on the means rather than on the goal, or on the ego rather than on the ministry itself. Knowledge was the first war against man, for when he desired to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he became ignorant, because he did not seek the knowledge of God. Therefore, we say in the Holy Liturgy, 'Give me the advantage of your knowledge.' The Lord Christ also said, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God." (Jn 17: 3) Actually, so many are scholars, and so few are saints! However, we want the knowledge of God and His ways, as the Psalmist says, "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths." (Ps 25: 4) We want humble knowledge that does not puff up (1 Cor 8: 1). To such human knowledge with which some may fill the minds of people there apply the words, "He who increases knowledge increases sorrow." (Eccl 1: 18)
See then what type is your knowledge. Is it mere ethics? Ethics is in philosophy like the stoic philosophy, or in primary religions like Henduism and Buddhism. Ethics is mere conduct, whereas spirituality is attachment to God. That is why there may be a decent person, but has no relationship with God. What degree is your ministry, mere knowledge, ethics, or spiritualities? Do you connect people to society or views, to yourself, or to God? Do you train them in holiness without which no one can see God, and in purity of heart through which they become the image of God? Virtues are necessary, so is knowledge, but they should not be separate from God. The same applies to the parents: Is their goal to bring up submissive decent children or children attached to God with love, obedience and belonging, by which they can be holy in mind, body and spirit, and their conduct be a fruit of their love for God? Do they bring them up to focus on eternity and on the Kingdom, their eternal abode?
An example of the curricula that ought to be included in church education includes:1. Holy Scripture: Do you give mere knowledge or the story of God with people: His love, care, and forbearance? Do you tell people stories from the Bible, or from civil history, or the history of God's dealings with people in His eternal love, power, and wisdom before creating them, reminding them that He is "Immanuel, God with us" (Mt 1: 23)?2. Speaking about sin and repentance: You should clarify that sin is not mere corruption but rather separation from God and disobedience. Repentance also is not mere correcting one's conduct but rather reconciliation with God and return to Him by which the way changes from worldly to God's way and love. In calling people let them know that in their being away from God they deprive themselves from His communion. Say to them with the Psalmist, "Taste and see that the Lord is good."3. Speaking about the biographies of saints: Is it mere presentation of their lives and works, or rather of how God prepared those souls until they attained such high levels and kept them, and how they loved Him from all the heart? It should be the story of God's work in those persons and the exchanged love between them and God, which Paul the Apostle summarized it in the words, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2: 20) Can you then speak about the saints biographies without mention of God' life in them, His gifts to them, their being led by God always in triumph in Christ (2 Cor 2: 14)?! It is the story of divine love, which you ought to convey to people, about which the spiritual elderly saint (Sheikh Rohani) said, 'God's love made me as stranger with mankind and every human thing.' 4. Speaking about the eternal bliss: Can there be eternal bliss away from God? Is it mere heaven, blessings, kingdom, and heavenly Jerusalem? Is it a mere garden? Or is rather enjoying the continual communion with God and with the saints who loved Him, and fulfillment of the divine words: "Where I am, there may be also" (Jn 14: 3)? It is "The tabernacle of God with men." (Rev 21: 3) 5. Teaching Theology, Dogma, and rituals: It should not be mere intellectual knowledge but interesting talk about God, by which people may feel that you are speaking divine words in an interesting and stimulating way. There is no more space for further talk. Let us continue in another article or a book, God willing
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