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Truth in Titles

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the “grey areas”.  Those activities that the Bible doesn’t talk about, but we debate whether or not they’re sinful.  Specifically, he’s talking about buying and eating meat that has been offered in a pagan sacrifice.

So far, he’s given us two principles.  The pagan temples have no power, so the meat itself is not sinful.  On the other hand, there are those who are weak and may feel guilty about it.  They must be protected.

Now Paul begins talking about a third principle.

Am I not free?  Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?  Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you!  For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:1-2

To begin this thought, Paul talks about his ministry.  He is free in Christ.  He has had an encounter with the risen Lord.  He works tirelessly for God, and the Corinthian church is a result of that ministry.

It is, however, important that we hear and understand what he says about this ministry.  Paul is very clear that he’s an apostle of Christ.  The important key is that being an apostle is a ministry and not merely a title.

I believe that there are too many people today with the title of “Apostle”.  Paul shows us that it’s the work you’re doing that confirms your apostleship.  If you’re not doing the ministry of an apostle, then you’re not an apostle.

There’s another, deeper issue that we need to see.  Paul didn’t go out and have business cards printed with the title, apostle.  He didn’t introduce himself as “Apostle Paul”.

You have to realize that you’re only an apostle to those who have been affected under your ministry.  Paul understood that he was not an apostle to everyone.  It wasn’t a title of honor, but a description of his ministry to certain churches.

We live in a generation where so many people are title conscious.  If you don’t have a title, then you have no credibility.

“Where did you go to school?  What’s your title?  Who conferred it on you?”

Do you understand that in the body of Christ none of these things make any difference?  Don’t tell me what you want to be called; show me what you’re doing for Christ.  That’s the bottom line.

As a pastor, I’ve submitted to the apostles that the Lord’s brought into my life.  They had an effect on me and my ministry.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their ministry.

The funny thing is that only one of them ever publically referred to himself as an apostle.  The one who did only used it in meetings where those under his ministry were present.

Instead of trying to impress people with our titles, we should be striving to advance the kingdom of God.  It’s the work that distinguishes you as an apostle or any other ministry gift.  It’s by their fruit that you recognize them.

Always keep this in mind as God advances you in your calling.  Let the results of your ministry be the proof of your credentials.  In that way, God receives the glory and not men.

Question: What happens when someone claims a ministry gift that isn’t proved by their walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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What’s Your View of Ministry

Sometimes you just need to get real with people.  I’ve found that in the ministry, that’s a hard thing to do.  Many people can’t handle the truth about it.

In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul bares his soul to them.  He hopes that it will cause them to open their hearts to the Word of God that he’s preaching.

He starts by comparing how they see themselves with their perceptions of him.

We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!
1 Corinthians 4:10

Paul is exposing their thoughts.

“Paul only shows up here to tell us what to do.”

“Paul and his team are morons for what they’re doing in Christ’s name.  We are sensitive and thoughtful in Christ.  They’re weak, but we’re powerful.  Our opinion carries a lot of weight, theirs is valueless.”

I wish that this was an isolated case; only the opinions of an ancient church that died out long ago.  However, I’ve found these attitudes in the church of today.  There are Christians who won’t listen to godly counsel.

“Pastor, you don’t understand real life.  I can’t live for Christ on your level.  You don’t understand the pressures I face.”

I have to laugh when I hear arguments like that.  I lived a Christian life as an Electrical Engineer for many years.  Even now in my part-time job and hobbies, I’m constantly interacting with non-Christians.  I’ve experienced the same pressures as everyone else.

Then, to top it off, the ministry itself has pressures that are not apparent to most believers.  Paul tries to get this across to the church.

To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands.  When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.  Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
1 Corinthians 4:11-13

Based on his other writings and the book of Acts, I don’t believe that Paul was talking about physical, material things here.  He was talking about the weight of the ministry.  The fact is, the more of God you encounter, the hungrier and thirstier for His Spirit you become.

The phrase in rags actually means naked.  That’s one of the worse pressures for a minister.  No one else feels more naked than a pastor.

Every aspect of his or her life is scrutinized under a magnifying glass.  Everything is inspected – their spouse, children, free-time activities, and how they dress.  Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professions not treated like that.

On top of that, no matter how badly we’re treated, we’re expected to portray the love of Christ to all people.  If we make one miss-step, we’re labeled as mean spirited.

No, I’m not griping about the ministry.  I wouldn’t choose any other calling.  The rewards far outweigh the challenges.  I’m simply pointing out the truth that Paul’s trying to get across to the church.

As believers, we need to understand the price that’s being paid for the Word that’s being preached to us.  Then we can receive that Word, knowing that it comes from a heart that seeks God’s best in those who are listening.

Question: What price has your pastor paid to bring God’s Word to you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Point of No Return

When it comes to Christian leadership, have you gone past the point of no return?  Have you gotten to the point where the call of God on your life is all that matters?  Paul talks about this in regards to himself.

I believe that the key point in our ministries should be faithfulness to God.  We must be faith-ful.  That means that someone can put his or her faith in us.

We always talk about having faith in the Lord.  Rightly so – there’s no other person in the universe more worthy than He is to receive our faith.  The problem is that we’re called to be just like Him.  We’re to be people who are faithful in the same way that He’s faithful.

I’ve found that faithfulness in the ministry is a rare commodity these days.  Please realize I’m not talking about faithful works, but faithfulness to the call that’s been placed before us.

It seems that many Christian leaders have bought into the myth that’s being fostered in corporate America.  They’re constantly updating their resume.  That way they’re able to jump ship at the first sign of trouble or whenever a “better opportunity” arises.

We, as leaders, have to come back to the realization that success in ministry is not climbing a ladder; it’s following the clear call and leading of Christ.

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.  We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
I Corinthians 4:9

More and more, I’m beginning to understand what Paul was writing about here.  He’s not griping about the problems he’s facing in the ministry.  On the contrary, he’s becoming aware of a fact that every minister must face.  He says that he feels like a man doomed to die in the arena.

He’s just like a professional fighter who knows that he’ll always fight until the day his life will end.  If you’re going to be an effective leader, you’ll have to come to grips with the fact that you’ve made it past the point of no return.  You need to know within yourself that there’s no going back.  This calling is for good – there’s no safety net – you’re going to “die in the arena” of ministry.

There are so many leaders today who have no concept of this.  I’ve heard statements like, “Well, if this falls through I can always sell life insurance.”  This kind of thinking has no place in the heart of a true minister.

At one point, I was going through a particularly stressful time in my ministry.  I was also teaching an hour a week in a school of ministry at a nearby church.  This church, which was much larger than the one I was pastoring, made me an offer to come on staff with them.  The pay and benefits would have been a lot better than where I was.

I related this to a young pastor friend of mine.  He assumed that surely I would send them my resume just to test the waters.  My reply to him was that since God hadn’t changed my calling to my present church, there was no water to test.

He then looked at me with an expression that I will never forget as he asked, “What do you mean by calling?”

This is just the surface symptom of a deep problem facing churches in America today – leaders who have absolutely no concept of calling.  Unless you have a clear understanding of the call of God upon your life, you’ll fall victim to the greatest cause of defeat in ministry today.

I firmly believe that you’re not only called to a position, but also to a location in the body of Christ.  Unless and until God changes your assignment, you would be a fool to move somewhere else.

Question: What’s the calling of God upon your life right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Judging Ourselves?

What comes to mind when you hear the words judge and judgment?  When reading Scripture, these definitions may not be adequate to help us in our understanding.  We need to know what type of judgment is being referred to.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to a church that was beginning to question his apostolic authority.  They thought that their way was better than the Word Paul was bringing them on God’s behalf.  Many of them were resisting his teaching.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4

It’s very important that we understand what Paul is saying here.  Many have taken it out of context in order to choose their own path rather than God’s plan.  It all comes down to what’s meant by judging.

It turns out that in the Greek language there are many words that are all translated by judge or judgment in English.  That makes for some confusion when reading certain parts of the Bible.

The word, judged, in this section means to interrogate or investigate in order to make a determination.  It’s a critical viewing of all the evidence with the purpose of coming up with a verdict.  That makes this an important concept for believers to grasp.

Paul is saying that what they’re determining about his ministry is not important.  They can do their surface investigation and observe all that he says and does.  But that’s not the end of the story.  God, Himself has the final say as to Paul’s faithfulness.

There were some people in Corinth who didn’t like the fact that Paul was bringing correction to the church.  It was uncomfortable.

“Paul should be more loving.  Why does he always tell us what we’re doing wrong?  He can’t be doing God’s work with that kind of attitude.”

There were certain parts of Paul’s ministry that they didn’t like.  So they were majoring on other teachers that they liked better.  Paul is clear that this type of judging is wrong.

As a matter of fact, it’s just as wrong to judge ourselves by these standards.  You can’t simply look at surface circumstances and events to determine if you’re in God’s will.

Paul states that even though he can’t think of anything he’s done wrong, that’s not what justifies him.  He has already been declared innocent by the blood of Christ.  What he does has no effect on that.

But, when it comes to a final determination of his ministry, there’s only One qualified Judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

There will be a final judgment for believers.  This judgment will not be a Heaven or hell decision.  That was already decided when I bowed my knee to Christ.  The judgment for believers is all about their rewards…or lack thereof.

The Lord’s judgment won’t be based upon what it looked like on the surface.  He’ll take into account the thoughts and intents of the heart.  God knows our motivations and our faithfulness even if they weren’t apparent to all those who were watching us.

Be careful not to make a determination about yourself based upon your apparent failures.  Let God have the final say.  Keep staying faithful to the Lord’s call upon your life.

Question: How have your motives not always lined up with the outcomes of your actions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Faithful at the Oars

We need godly leadership in the body of Christ.  But what’s the greatest character trait that a leader needs?  As we continue our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we see one that I think is high on the list.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2

The Apostle Paul wrote this section of Scripture to encourage spiritual leaders to be faithful to their calling.  He’s talking to those who work in the ministry.

The word, regard, means, to account or to take inventory.  In essence, we’re told that when other people take inventory of our lives as leaders, it should be obvious to them that we’re servants of Christ.  It should be just as obvious that we’ve been entrusted with the secret things of God.

Unfortunately, what should be is not always what happens in reality.  There’s some uncertainty in Paul’s writing because he uses the phrase men ought to.  This means that he faced the same problem in his generation that we have today.  There are many leaders who don’t live up to their high calling in Christ.

The issue should be as clear to those around us as it was to the members of the Sanhedrin in the book of Acts.  It says that when meeting with the apostles they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  The apostles talked, ministered, and acted like Jesus.

That should be our testimony as well.  It’s sad that in many parts of the church, the ministry has fallen short from this ideal.

But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32

In the context of this verse, Paul is teaching on the subject of the Lord’s Supper.  He makes it clear, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that if we would only take the time to judge ourselves we would not come under judgment.

When will we learn this simple lesson?  We wait for condemnation to come on us from the outside before we’ll take a long, hard, and honest look at ourselves.  Then, when we’re criticized for our failure to follow in the footsteps of Christ, it seems to be easier to get defensive than to take stock of our own lives.

We should be constantly comparing ourselves to the ministry of the Lord.  Only in that way can we be assured that we’re adequately portraying the role of a leader.

In the verse, from I Corinthians 4 above, Paul uses the word servant.  It actually refers to an under-oarsman.  Like those responsible for propelling the ship forward, we have a shared ministry with Christ.

Leaders need to be supplying vision to the people.  The church should have a forward momentum because of our commitment as those who lead.  In most cases, if a rowboat isn’t moving, the problem lies with the oarsman.

It’s up to us, as leadership in the body of Christ, to set the speed and direction as ordered by the Lord.

Questions: What are your areas of ministry?  How do you submit those areas to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Christ – The Foundation

In my last post, I talked about the way that the Lord rewards us for fulfilling our callings.  They’re based on what Christ has planned for us.  Paul then explains how his ministry relates to the church.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9

Paul understands that as a part of the 5-fold ministry, he can’t complete his calling by himself.  It will require supernatural assistance.  He sees himself as a co-worker with God.

But what’s the work which he and God are busy at?  He talks about two parts of church ministry.  The church is God’s field – that’s the production of fruit for the kingdom.  But the church is also God’s building.  I believe that’s talking about the growth of its structure.

We must have both if we’re going to be the witness the Lord wants us to be.  We must have both spiritual and numerical increase.

However, there’s one thing that Paul is very clear about.  It’s the basis of every function of the church.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11

We’ve turned our lives over to the Lordship of Christ.  We’re in His hands.  He’s our foundation.  Without that groundwork, nothing we build will succeed.  It has to be based upon the work of Christ in us.

But how many Christians are actually building?  And what exactly is it that we’re supposed to build?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

Wow!  That sounds like a daunting task.  But remember, we’re building.  It doesn’t come together in an instant.  It’s worked on over time.

I’ve seen many impressive buildings in some of the cities that I’ve visited.  Some of them took years of planning and construction to complete their structures.  Don’t get upset that you aren’t perfect yet.

The Greek word, add, in the above Scripture means to choreograph over.  I think that’s a pretty interesting way to put it.  How do we build?  By choreographing or lives in deeper and deeper patterns.

It’s like a dancer learning all the moves needed for their recital.  Faith – goodness – knowledge – self-control – perseverance – godliness – brotherly kindness – love.

We have to transform our lifestyle into a more intricate choreography.  This takes the wisdom and the strength of God, especially when it involves many people working together.  That’s why we need the proper foundation.

The work of this building process is beyond our limited capabilities.  We need to yield to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit within us.  That’s how we can begin building by faith.

In my next post, I’ll continue by talking about the final test of this spiritual building process.  If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of the articles.

Question: How far along in the building process are you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Different Callings – One Purpose

In my last post, Paul talked about the need for different types of ministries in order for God’s people to grow.  Now Paul continues with that thought.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.
1 Corinthians 3:7-8

This is one of those passages that gives me great joy as a minister of the Gospel.  It helps to keep me in line with God’s calling upon my life.

It tells me that all the various ministries in the body of Christ have one purpose.  That’s to make known the riches of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s good, but the second half is even better.  Everyone will be rewarded according to his own labor.  That’s a great statement.  I’m not going to be judged based on what you did, but my own unique calling.

We all have different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.  Praise God!!  He judges me as an individual.  That’s good news.  We’re each rewarded for our own work in Christ.

The Lord made mention of this with His disciples.  It was during the time when He met with the woman at the well.

Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’?  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.  Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
John 4:35-36

One question that needs to be asked when we read this verse is; who’s the reaper that’s receiving his wages?  The answer should be obvious – it’s Christ!

Usually, we think of this reward for our labor as in the future.  But we need to look carefully at what Jesus said.  The reaper IS RECEIVING His wages.  I HAVE food you don’t know about.  The sower and the reaper can be happy together.

It sounds to me like there’s a reward, in this life, for fulfilling the Lord’s will.  That’s something we need to think about.

Who was the sower that Jesus referenced?  I believe that He was talking about the woman.  Listen to what the townspeople said about her.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
John 4:39

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
John 4:42

What was her reward?  I don’t really know.  It might have been children or a stable family of her own.  We have to wait to find out about her in Heaven.

The fact is, that there’s no need to get jealous about ministry among God’s people.  It’s all about the Kingdom of God increasing.  Everything in our lives is all directly related to the principle of sowing and reaping.

The bottom line is that the Samaritans ultimately believed because they heard Jesus speak.  It’s our job to bring people to a personal encounter with Christ in the unique way God has called us to do it.  That’s where we receive great rewards.

Question: What are some Gospel seeds you have planted?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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