Commentary by Walter Albritton


August 7, 2005


God Calls All Christians to the Ministry of Servanthood


Luke 4:16-24, 28-30


Key Verse: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  – Luke 4:18


During my senior year in high school I helped to arrange a youth revival that was sponsored by several churches in and around Wetumpka, Alabama, my hometown. Some of us were excited about Christ and we wanted to challenge other young people to accept Christ and be saved.

In some ways the revival is a dim memory now. I have no idea how many youth, if any, were saved that weekend. What I remember well is the night during the revival when I knelt at the altar rail and accepted the call to the ministry. I had not anticipated the Spirit to take hold of my heart. Over the years I have found find it amusing to recall this deeply emotional experience. I had gone to church to pray for others to be saved and I got called to preach. God is full of surprises!

The response of my family and friends was supportive, unlike the reaction Jesus received from those he had grown up with in Nazareth. For that I am thankful. I can hardly imagine the fear I would have felt had my friends become angry and tried to push me off the Bibb Graves Bridge. Those in the synagogue who heard Jesus were so enraged they wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff. Their rage was apparently prompted by Jesus telling them what they were actually thinking as he responded to their initial words of approval.

That Jesus could walk through the midst of the mob and escape is not difficult to understand. Anger affects our vision. Remember the old maxim: “He was so angry he could not see straight”? Those who wanted to kill Jesus were so angry that they could not see Jesus as he walked calmly away. The greater explanation, of course, is that the Father protected his Son from harm so that he could fulfill his mission as the Messiah.

Clearly Jesus understood his purpose in life. No doubt he learned patiently the carpenter’s skill in Joseph’s workshop. Legend has it that some of the yokes made by Jesus were the finest in the land. The time came, however, when Jesus had to leave the comforts of home and begin his brief ministry of healing, teaching, and preaching for the Kingdom was at hand!

Like many of my friends who were called to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, I struggled with uncertainty that God had actually “called” me. Who was I to make such a claim? Finally there was a breakthrough into blessed assurance and I began to give, as best I could, my utmost for His highest, to use a phrase from Oswald Chambers. Now, as I near the end of my ministry, I can testify to the great joy and inner peace God gives to those who answer his call to a life of ministry to others. His joy and peace are freely given to his servants despite the imperfections of their service, for none of us can serve him perfectly.

Along the way I ran into Elton Trueblood, the great Quaker preacher and philosopher. As much as any man, he helped me grasp the truth that every Christian is a minister. More than once I heard him say, “A non-serving Christian is a contradiction in terms.” To be a disciple of Jesus is to serve others in love, for God calls all Christians to a life of servanthood.

Trueblood did not mean, of course, that every Christian is a pastor or a preacher. By minister he meant a servant of Christ. So another way of saying it is this: Every Christian is a ministering servant of Jesus Christ.

Our generation has not fully grasped this meaning of discipleship. We have kept alive the dichotomy of the secular and the sacred. In God’s eyes life is not divided into the secular and the sacred. All of life is sacred and what we call secular is sacred to God.

Once we embrace this concept, then we can understand that God “calls” school teachers to serve Christ as they teach the young. The same is true for Christians whose vocation places them in all the other arenas of life, whether medicine, law, social service, or any other field. Wherever there are people with needs, God calls his disciples to see their work as a calling to serve Christ.

Work may be gloriously dignified when we see it as a ministry. An attorney, a homemaker, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a carpenter, a waitress, a plumber – each one can see his or her work as “a ministry” in which Christ is honored by the way people are treated. A “job” can be boring when it is done simply for money. A “ministry” can be exciting when it is done to the glory of God!

Elton Trueblood once defined a Christian in a way that helps clarify the truth that all Christians are called to ministry. He said, “A Christian is a person who, in the midst of many voices clamoring for his attention, hears the Voice of Christ, and that one Voice wins his complete allegiance and he begins to know the dignity of his little life being used for a mighty purpose.”

When, no matter where our vocation has placed us, we begin to hear and obey the Voice of Christ calling us to ministry, then we can experience the joy of knowing that our little lives are being used for God’s mighty purposes. That is a joy that no salary could ever provide!

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