Preparing for a life of ministry is a gradual process , and it requires the Lord to mature you in His time and as He chooses. However, there are some practical steps you can take to give Him opportunity to grow you. As you look ahead to your future life of ministry, and seek to do well in the ministry you are a part of right now, recognize that the Church should play a major role in your life.
The Universal Church
The church has two aspects to it: the universal Church and local church. The universal Church includes all believers from the time of Christ until now. We may never meet or interact with most Christians on this planet until eternity, but we are all bonded together in Christ, making us unified as one. This is referred to in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” In this case Jesus was not referring to an individual church, but to the Church as a whole, all those who would believe in Him.
The Local Church
More tangible to us is the local church, the assembly of believers physically near us. The local church is just one pocket of believers that belongs to the enormous entity of the universal Church. We are all part of the universal Church, but it is the local church that we will physically connect with. An example of the local church in Scripture is found in the different epistles. Though the principles of these book apply to all Christians, many of these New Testament letters were originally written to specific churches in specific cities, and not to the entire Church as a whole.
Preparing for a life of ministry is going to necessitate understanding your role within and your need for the local church.
It can be tempting to have a go-it-alone attitude when it comes to ministry, instead of joining forces with the believers around you. But God has designed us to need each other. He commands us to be involved in each others’s lives; we are to serve, love, give to, encourage, and urge each other to live holy lives. In fact, in Scripture, the Lord describes His church by using the analogy of a body—all the parts are connected to the other parts.
One Body, Many Parts
The human body is magnificently designed to work together and receive direction from the brain. Try walking, talking, chewing, sleeping, winking, or anything else without using your brain. It won’t work. Every function of your body is connected to the control center: your head. You cannot live without it. The Bible illustrates the relationship of the Church to Christ the same way. The Church is the body, and Christ is the head “….from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19).
Connected to Christ
The Church is vitally linked to and dependent upon the person of Jesus Christ.
And just like your brain tells your hand whether to scratch your leg or pick up your fork, Christ decides what to do with the parts of His Body, the Church. What He says goes. He has assigned each member of His Body a specific role in order to help it function smoothly as a whole.
Scripture also tells us that each part of the body needs the other parts. Hands wouldn’t be nearly as useful if your fingers didn’t work. Your body wouldn’t be balanced if you had only one foot. Inner organs all relate in their functions. The different aspects of the body work together, not individually. No part of the body can say they do not need another part. All intertwine and affect each other. And no believer can say that he doesn’t need another believer – we are all part of Christ’s body.
We Need You
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). The fact is if you are a believer, we, the Church, need you. You are part of us in Christ. We suffer when you are not doing your part, and we flourish more when you are.
To not have you serving, fellowshipping, and communing with us is to be missing a piece of ourselves.
Before Christ died, He prayed that we would be “one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21-23).
If we wish for the world to understand God’s love, we need to live out our unity in Christ.
The Tool God Has Chosen
Whether it always makes sense from our perspective or not, the Church is the tool by which God has chosen to do His work on this earth. Though we are just ordinary, faulty, and finite people, He desires to work through us as His vessels of grace. He has given believers worldwide the task to fulfill the Great Commission.
The local church is the manifestation of a part of the universal Church. Wherever you find yourself, it is your duty as a follower of Christ to partner with the local church in some capacity.
Remember that if you desire a life of ministry, you will need to be able to work alongside other believers. This means submitting to the authority of a local body, and being eager to serve and love our family, just as Christ does.