The ministry is not always a spiritual means, for some perished in the field of ministry, and others fell or faced difficulties. There is, for instance, the older son who did not rejoice at his brother’s return and would not go into the house. And when his father came out and pleaded with him, he said, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.” (Lk 15: 28-30)
Though he had been serving for many years, his will was not in conformity with the father’s will, nor his heart was sincere to his brother.
The angels of the seven churches are another example. They were pastors of those churches, but they needed to repent. Therefore to one of them the Lord said, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” And to another He said, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth,” To the third He said, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent.” (Rev 3:1, 16; 2: 4,5).
Same of St. Paul’s fellow-workers likewise perished completely.
About those he said, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction…” (Phil 3:18, 19) Demas perhaps was one of those. St. Paul once mentioned him before St. Luke, however, St. Paul afterwards said about him, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (2 Tim 4: 10)
Some fell and repented, but others perished; not because of the ministry, but because of forgetting their spirituality. What then are the conditions for the spiritual ministry?
The first condition for a successful ministry is love towards God and His kingdom, and towards people.
Love brings forth love, but if one serves against one’s will, or with grumbling, one will not benefit spiritually.
However, some people start their ministry without having a sound spiritual aim, but on seeing the needs of the others and their sufferings and trouble their hearts move with compassion and love. Here love is a result not a cause and will teach them to serve properly with love.
On the other hand, some people who serve the poor may get annoyed when some of the needy use lies and ways-out pressing hardly with much noise. The ministers may even treat them harshly and drive them away.
A loving heart can bear with such people, for “love bears all things.” (1 Cor 13: 7)
So, if you feel weary and began to be furious and harsh towards the poor who lie, towards a pupil who is obstinate and troublemaker, or who break order in the meetings, then you can be sure that there is some defect within you that needs correction.
Do not ascribe the defect to the ministry, for it is in you.
Say to yourself: I ought to be patient, longsuffering, and forbearing in spite of their behavior. I ought to be an example of indulgence. Or say: the ministry has revealed to me that the poor are not only in need of money, but also for spiritual work to lead them to repentance, to the knowledge of God, and to good behavior. In this way you will serve them financially and spiritually. The same applies to the troublemakers and those who beak good order.
· Longsuffering then is another condition for spiritual ministry.
Every ministry or rather every minister will receive his reward according to his own labor (1 Cor 3: 8). Remember that our father apostles labored much in their ministry as St. Paul says about his own and his fellow workers, “In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fasting … by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report.” (2 Cor 6: 4 – 8) And also, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; stuck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4: 8, 9) In brief he describes all this, saying “in labors more abundant.” (2 Cor 11: 23-29). And bearing all this he received crowns of longsuffering.
We also remember other characters of the Scripture who suffered much.
St. John the Evangelist, for instance, suffered exile on the island called Patmos where he wrote the Revelation starting with the words, “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation.”(Rev 1: 6) We also remember Daniel the Prophet who was cast in the lions’ den (Da 6), and the three young men cast in the furnace of fire (Da 3). And the Lord Christ says, “I send you out as sleep in the midst of wolves,” “They will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake … you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” (Mt 10: 16, 17, 22) The apostles actually suffered all this in patience.
· Steadfastness is another useful attribute for a minister.
You may face troubles in the ministry from outside or from brothers, as St. Paul says, “In perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles…,” (2 cor 11: 26) but you should not be annoyed, grumble, or flee from the ministry. You should hold out and go one, and you will receive power from high.
Remember how St. Athanasius the Apostolic withstood exile and unsettled life because of the Arians and their intrigues. The whole world was against him, but his steadfastness protected sound faith.
Moreover, steadfastness gives spiritual power to the minister and strengthens his hope and trust that the Lord will certainly interfere and correct everything. This will give the minister another virtue : waiting for the Lord (Ps 27: 14; 130: 6).
Let your ministry be deep and spiritual that it may be successful.
The ministry of some people may be a mere activity that exhausts their power but benefits them nothing spiritually. They are a flame of work but without spirit. On the contrary, such excessive activity may hinder spiritual work.
In Sunday Schools, for instance, a senior minister may be so involved in preparing lessons, in meetings and in activities that he cannot find time for his spirit. His life will become lukewarm, as will his ministry be, for it will include much regulations but without spirit. Such a ministry will be of no benefit to the minister or to the others, and will be mere administrative matters.
The same may apply to the social ministry, to the ministry of orphanages, homes for the aged or church Boards. In these fields discussions, disputes, noise screaming, competitions, and partiality may prevail, Spirituality in such an environment is lost for God did not take part in it, and it lacked prayer and practical implementation of the commandment.
Try then, in any field of ministry, to avoid routine and formality, and to let God in to bring the spiritual character to it. Even the administration should be in a spiritual way.
There should be a difference between the management of a man of God and that of a secular person.
In your ministry avoid spiritual faults.
Avoid giving commands and acquire humbleness and good way of treating the others, whether young or old. Never treat people haughtily, no matter how high is your power in the ministry. Do not have the spirit of domination, and remember the words of the Lord, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mt 23: 11; 20: 28)
Do not then let the ministry make you lose your meekness and humbleness.
If your voice began to rise and take a sharp tone, be on your guard. And if you began to praise yourself and your great work, beware lest vain glory robs whatever you sowed in the ministry. If you looked with disdain to the others holding comparison, know that pride has penetrated into you. Put then before you the words of the apostle: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine… in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Tim 4: 16) Say to yourself: I have not entered the field of ministry to fall in new sins, but rather to grow in the Spirit.
Beware also the ego best the ministry be a means of lifting yourself or giving you more dignity; for you are a mere servant to the Lord. You should say, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (Jn 3: 30) “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory.” (Ps 115 : 1) Furthermore beware the warning of the Lord against the shepherds who feed themselves and do not feed His flock (Ezek 34 : 8-10). Let your aim be God’s kingdom and the salvation of the people rather than your own self and dignity.
The spiritual useful ministry is that in which you forget the ego.
A minister who forgets the ego will also forget his own rest and time and will not be sorry for not receiving praise or dignity. Such a person prefers the others to himself in all matters of the ministry, “in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom 12:10) In this way a minister will gain the love of everybody and at the same time will not lose his humbleness.
The spiritual useful ministry is that which keeps away from policies.
Many of those who joined the ministry began after some time to be careless about themselves, then to make clashes with the priests, the Board, and the workers, criticizing everything and making of the faults of the others a subject of their talks and condemnation and even slander. Their excuse is defending the truth! How strange!
Under this pretext they fall in innumerable faults and in controversies and divisions. And to prevail they try to win the greatest number possible to their side in condemnation and slander. The whole environment will be disturbed and will lack spirituality, love, meekness, and simplicity. This minister does not stop to ask himself if this is the proper way to defend the truth. So many actually are they who are lost and caused others to be lost “in the ministry”!!
To benefit spiritually focus in your ministry on the positive work rather than on the passive.
Put before you the saying: “Instead of cursing darkness, light a candle”. Be a good example to everybody, for this is certainly a mission and a ministry. The positive work lasts for ever and will cause you no criticism nor lead you to sin. But being involved in passive matters will trouble your mind and spirit, will destroy you, and will lead you to many sins.
It is better not to minister than to minister in a way that leads to sin and makes you a stumbling block to others; for the Lord says, “Woe to him through whom they do come!” (Lk 17: 1).