I think that ministry closely relates to a relay race. The race is dependent on each runner doing their best for their portion of the race then passing the baton to the next person. The results are a product of the team’s performance. This in many ways illustrates serving Jesus. The question I want to look at this week is “Have I taken the baton of ministry?”
This past Sunday we launched our new ministry year. Studying to bring a challenge to our congregation for the next 12 months, I was drawn to Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It is a passage that has drawn a lot attention from Bible students over the centuries. The biggest question here is what is the foundation of the church? The two most common views are it is Peter’s confession or his faith in Jesus being the Messiah or it was Peter himself. Let me point out three important observations on this verse. First, the church, only used two times in the Gospel (Matthew 18:17 is the other), refers to a community of believers. Second, Jesus’ work is to build this community of believers in numbers and maturity. And this brings us to the third observation that the rock is the person that Jesus would use for the next phase of the church’s development. Now this understanding of the rock does not deny that the Gospel is the foundation of Christianity. I also do not believe that Peter is the “founder” but rather the person that Jesus has tasked with the next stage of ministry. The following verses on authority and even the first half of the book of Acts reveal the key role that Peter played in the development of the church. What I see here is Jesus passing the ministry baton to Peter. Jesus offers a ministry baton to each of his followers in every generation. The challenge is will we take the baton and run with it.
Let me share three observations on taking the baton of ministry. First, Jesus is our example. He is the “lead off” runner in our illustration. He set the example for us. We read, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:3) To grasp the full impact of this verse you need to read the previous two verses. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to run, take the baton, just like faithful followers of Jesus have done before us. And our strength and motivation is found in following Jesus’ example.
Second, carrying the ministry baton is hard work. We gain a glimpse of that in the previous verse when we read, “so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” A reference to getting discouraged, overwhelmed and even giving up. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the challenge when after sharing his ministry focus of preaching, counselling and teaching to bring Jesus’ followers to maturity, He then reminds us, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29 )The word “toil” means to work to the point of exhaustion. The word struggling in the original language sounds like our word “agonizing.” Both words remind us that ministry is hard work. If you are struggling be encouraged. It means that you are in the race. The challenge is to keep carrying the baton!
And that brings me to a third observation. There is a reward coming for those that finish the race. Paul reminds the Galatian Christians, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) He also had these words for the believers in Corinth, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Jesus’ community of followers touch lives in every generation and culture because folks like you and me take the baton. It has been said, “When Jesus works there is a man or woman He is using.” The question is will you put yourself in that position by taking the ministry baton in your church?”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson