By Sophia Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Watching sports on the television is vastly different than participating in them. For example, the experience of worldwide spectators watching the 2021 Olympic games is quite unlike the experience of the participants, who must wear masks when not competing and miss the presence of their families at the games.
Even before the pandemic, people could easily recognize that watching a sport and being knowledgeable about gymnastics or soccer is not the same as actively participating and engaging in such sports.
Like the sports world, there are major differences in the church in being a spectator or a participant. Sadly, in the Western world, there is a tendency for Christians to be spectators at church rather than participants. In the mind of many people, church workers are those who do ministry while “churchgoers” are those who watch and observe.
This dichotomy even exists in everyday life, where Christianity and spirituality belong in church on Sunday while the rest of life exists in the secular realm. Based on the Bible, however, all believers are called to ministry as members of the priesthood and should view their entire lives in the context of service to God.
Christians Are the Church
While the church is often equated with a physical building and institution, the biblical definition of the church is that it is the Body of Christ, made up of believers (1 Corinthians 12:27). Specifically, when the church began on the day of Pentecost at the coming of the Holy Spirit, there were no physical buildings known as churches where the first Christians gathered (Acts 2:1-4).
Instead, believers would commonly meet in each other’s homes (Acts 20:20; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15). The meeting location was not the focus, but rather who attended is what mattered, since Christians gathered in various houses to worship Jesus.
Spectator church attendance would have been a foreign idea to the apostles and first-century Christians. Based on Scripture, all believers should participate in being the church, using their gifts for the edification of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 14:12).
By exercising their spiritual gifts, given by the Holy Spirit, they would serve as ministers to others. As 1 Peter 4:10 states, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (NKJV). Biblically, all believers are expected to serve in ministry as members of the church.
While there will be Christians who have the gift of pastoring and shepherding, which requires their job to be visible in the church, this does not mean that the laity is meant to sit on the sidelines. Part of a pastor’s job is to equip others for ministry in the church and in their everyday lives (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Like a shepherd, a pastor is expected to care for the “flock” of Christians he is overseeing to protect, guide, and urge them toward fruitfulness (1 Peter 5:1-4). The goal is not to make the pastor and pastoral staff do all the work of ministry, but rather to let their ministry of teaching and shepherding equip the rest of the congregation to serve and minister to others.
The Priesthood of Believers
In addition to being the church, all believers are also priests of God. This doctrine is known as the Priesthood of Believers, which teaches that all Christians have complete access to the Lord (Mark 15:38; Ephesians 3:12). Scripture declares that Christians “are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.
What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (1 Peter 2:5, NLT). Thus, there is no longer a need for an official mediatorial role in the church, for Christ is the final and perfect High Priest, who grants all believers access to the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16).
During Old Testament times, only the High Priest and Levites could serve God in the Tabernacle and Temple (Deuteronomy 18:1). Specifically, the High Priest mediated between man and God, as ultimately evidenced in the yearly sprinkling of blood in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7).
Because Jesus fulfilled the priestly duties and is in the eternal order of Melchizedek, there is no longer any need for a human mediator or priest between God and man, for Jesus is the believer’s Mediator (Hebrews 7:11-19).
Although the church during the medieval era lost sight of the truth of the priesthood of all believers, the Reformation reaffirmed this doctrine, eliminating the need for priests to authoritatively interpret the Bible or bestow forgiveness on congregants.
Because Christians have equal access to the Lord, can interact with Him, and read His Word, all believers can and should serve Him in ministry. While there is a place for authority in the church through pastors, elders, and deacons, this does not mean that the rest of the church cannot participate in ministry.
Because Scripture likens the church to a body, all believers need to be active in ministering for the body to function well (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Furthermore, every Christian is a “holy priest” and can serve the Lord freely.
The Danger of Compartmentalizing
Even if believers recognize the need to minister in the church because they are part of the Body of Christ and are “priests,” there is the danger of compartmentalizing ministry to what one does in church on Sunday.
Many Christians believe that only some “spiritual” people are meant to be involved in full-time ministry while the rest are only supposed to serve on Sundays. The truth is, however, that all believers are called to “full-time” ministry regardless of where they work.
Before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).
This verse applies to modern disciples just as much as it applied to the 11 disciples in the first century. Christ did not say, “Only vocational ministers and missionaries must go and make disciples.” Instead, He commanded all His followers to serve in ministry with the goal of making disciples.
In a practical sense, each Christian can serve in “full-time ministry” regardless of their job or life position. A waitress at a restaurant can view her whole life and job as a ministry just as much as a pastor serving at a church. Furthermore, a businessman whose job requires him to work in another country can use his job to evangelize and minister to others just as much as a missionary does on a field assignment.
From high school and college students to retired individuals, every believer can serve Jesus in their life. When an eternal mindset, focused on Christ, is taken by the believer (Colossians 3:1-2), every day, relationships, and jobs can be seen as an opportunity to minister in the name of Jesus.
All Are Called
Although spectators are common in sports, the church should not consist of individuals who are merely onlookers. Believers are the church and need to use their spiritual gifts to minister to one another and build up the Body of Christ.
In addition, according to the doctrine of the priesthood of believers, every Christian has direct access to the Lord, and all can serve Him as ministers. Whether believers are workers in the church or employees of the “secular” workplace, all Christians are called to serve in ministry because of Jesus’ command to go into the world and make disciples.
Instead of asking “who will serve” in ministry, the better question is: “How can I serve in my family, job, church, and life?”
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.