Philosophy of Ministry
What is a Philosophy of Ministry?
“Why does the church exist?” and “What should a church do?” are questions that are not often seriously discussed. However, if one does not properly understand the purpose of the church’s existence and the biblical guidelines pertaining to the church, it is impossible to structure and manage the church in a manner that pleases the Lord. A “philosophy of ministry” must focus on these important questions, and clearly demonstrate what the Bible says regarding the purpose and work of the church.
A biblical philosophy of ministry identifies the essential biblical principles that guide every choice and decision involved in the work of the ministry.
We can know what these principles are by carefully studying the teachings and descriptions of the church that are written in the New Testament as well as the explicit teachings and implicit principles of the Bible regarding the work of the church today. With a clear philosophy of ministry that is based on what the Bible teaches regarding the church, we will not only be able to simply answer questions pertaining to the “why” but also biblically answer the “what” and “how” regarding the various aspects of the church’s existence and work.
“…upon this rock, I will build My church…”
Why the Church Exists
The church exists for the purpose of worshipping God by putting His glory on display in the world. This is done through the daily transformation of Christ’s followers into His image (equipping) and the coming to faith in the gospel of Christ and salvation of those who do not believe in Him (evangelism).
In Ephesians 1:4-6, Paul says, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” All creation exists for the purpose of displaying God’s glory, but the people who make up the church especially, by the grace and compassion of God, bear the responsibility of lavishly displaying the magnificence of God since they “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pet 2:9).
Worship is not just attending the church service or singing worship songs. Worship is the praise of God for His glory, a responsibility that every single person who belongs to the universal church must fulfill every day in every area of his or her life (1 Cor 10:31).
Those who are saved according to faith in Christ make up the body of Christ which has Christ as the head (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22-23; 4:12). Every individual of this body matures as he or she is transformed “from glory to glory” and becomes increasingly like Christ (2 Cor 3:18).
Just as Paul who worked to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28), the church also must work for the maturing of all believers.
God has given to every believer gifts of the Spirit and has planned to cultivate the growth of the entire body through the proper exercising of everyone’s gifts (Rom 12:1-9; Eph 4:7-16). Peter said that these gifts are to be utilized so that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Per 4:10-11). Without this, the church would not be able to fulfill the purpose of her existence, namely the worship of God, and while she is on earth the church bears the great responsibility of exercising these gifts.
The Great Commission which Jesus has given to believers is about “making disciples” but the first step in making disciples is evangelism. Evangelism is the work of making clear to people who are not worshipping God but in fact living in rebellion to God their sin and telling them about God’s wrath and judgment upon them and that Christ is the Savior who can save them from this wrath and judgment so that they will believe and follow Christ as Lord.
Though the salvation of man is a unilateral work of the grace of God and cannot be brought about by the work of believers, God has chosen to use the preaching of the gospel through the church for this work (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:12-15). Therefore, the church must worship God by fervently doing the work of evangelizing unbelievers, that great work of the God who justifies sinners.
The Foundational Principles of the Church
The church must devote herself to boldly making known the greatness of God through the careful explanation of the Word, mutual growth, and the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the local community. As the church puts this into practice, the most important thing is that every work of the church is done according to biblical principles. When considering what to do and how to do things, if we seek different methodologies, we will experience confusion and uncertainty. However, what is truly important is not the “what” or the “how.” The answer to the question “why should the church do this or that?” is what drives the “what” and the “how.” The four principles below provide the answer to this most important question.
To Glorify God
1 Cor 10:31
Believers must do everything for the glory of God. However, it is impossible to live this kind of life through human wisdom, strength, and effort. We can only know what kind of life glorifies God and how one can live that kind of life through a proper understanding of the Word. Also, we need to understand that if one does not have the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers, it would be impossible for that person to worship God.
To Know, Tell, and Live Out the Gospel
Eph 2:1–10; 1 Cor 15:3–5
The gospel was something that Paul “delivered…as of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3) and is central to the work of the church. The gospel is not simply something that is necessary for unbelievers to be saved; it also plays a vital role in the growth of the believer. When someone has a firm understanding of the truth of the gospel, that person will be able to understand salvation and have continual thankfulness, joy, peace, hope in God, as well as be faithful and obedient to God.
To Understand and Keep the Greatest Commandments
Jesus said that the two commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” are the greatest commandments. These are not just a summary of God’s Law, they are in themselves the greatest commandments for believers living in the church age. Loving the Lord is the greatest priority above all and only by loving God can we come to love one another as Christ loves us.
To Fulfill the Great Commission
Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” is a command that all Christians must obey. “Making disciples” involves building relationships and focusing on what can be done for someone to become more and more like Christ. This command includes both evangelism and equipping and both aspects of this command must be fulfilled without preference to one or the other.
What a Church Should Do
Based on the four principles above, at least six specific categories of work that the church should be engaged in can be derived.
The church is the body of Christ and is something that is built up by God. Therefore, the church must be formed according to the words of the Bible which is the God-given blueprint of the church. The truth of the Bible discerns right and wrong for every work of the church as well as the life of every individual and the way to make that truth clear is through expository preaching.
Expository preaching is preaching the Bible, not preaching about the Bible. Therefore, the expository preacher persistently gives his undivided attention to explaining to others what the Bible says alone. It is the work of correctly understanding the author’s original intent in the Bible and making that written truth plainly applicable to believers that is expository preaching. Properly communicating the author’s intent is not simply preaching the passages of the Bible in order or explaining the grammar and vocabulary that is used. Much less, it is not taking a passage, putting in your own ideas, and explaining that to others. The church must understand that preaching which takes the words of the Bible, imposes one’s own opinions on them as if they were the truth of God, and attacks others is something that God despises more than anything.
Since Jesus has left believers with the command “to make disciples” and has given an example through His training of the 12 Disciples, believers must be engaged in the work of discipleship. Discipleship involves teaching others to observe all that Jesus commanded. Paul commanded Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). Here, four generations of different categories of believers (Paul, Timothy, faithful men, those who are taught by the faithful men) are described. Also, Paul repeatedly said to believers such as those of the Corinthian and Philippian churches, “Be imitators of me” (1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6). By imitating the example of mature believers, immature believers can learn how to live a life of devotion to the Lord. This is what biblical discipleship is and with a correct understanding of the Bible’s doctrines, specific applications of doctrine can be properly made.
Biblical Organization of the Church
The church that the Bible talks about does not refer to a building but to the people who have been redeemed by God. The church can be divided into two categories: the invisible church (universal church) which refers to the collective of all believers who make up the body of Christ and the visible church (local church) on earth. The local church might include people who have professed faith but are not really saved but only people living in the church age who are truly saved can belong to the universal church.
The local church, just like the universal church, must have Christ as her head, be organized according to the teachings of the Bible, and fulfill the work that she was given. The Bible talks about how the local church should be organized. The local church should not just aim to be organized biblically; it must be formed according to the words of Scripture.
God created all things for the purpose of putting His glory on display. Man takes a special place within creation and because man is created in God’s image he can speak words, take actions, and have attitudes that display God’s glory. However, man, who because of his sin ceased to glorify God and even desire to live a life that glorifies Him, instead of worshipping the Creator God, following his lusts, created and worshipped gods of his own convenience. Christians are people who have been freed from their sin by Christ’s work of redemption and saved from the wrath of God. Because of this salvation, Christians are transformed into people who can, even in the midst of battling sin, desire from their hearts to worship God and live to glorify Him.
For the true believer, worship is not optional but something that must be done in daily life. In other words, worship is not simply participating in the Sunday worship service but living a life that praises God for His splendor in everyday life. Corporate worship that is held on Sundays is a reflection of the personal worship that occurs in the daily life of every individual believer.
Worship is something that is offered to God and never something that the believer receives. The believer is not to participate in worship for the purpose of fulfilling one’s own needs but to seek participation in worship where the Word of the Lord is studied, gifts are utilized for serving one another, and God is praised though songs of worship.
Since, as just described, the purpose of worship is to give praise to God, the Sunday worship service is not held with unbelievers as the target but is a time that is designated for true believers, people who have confessed Christ as their personal Savior and Lord and desire to love and obey God from their hearts. This does not at all mean that evangelistic elements are forbidden from the Sunday worship service but it is a demonstration of the fact that true worship is something that can only be done by believers. Therefore, the contents of the worship service must be considered with believers as the target.
Christ has commanded the church to keep two ordinances, baptism and communion (the Lord’s Supper).
The ordinance of baptism is a ceremony that symbolically demonstrates that someone who has come to faith has submitted to the authority of God and has been added to the body of Christ. Baptism, in accordance with the original meaning of its Greek word, must be done by immersion. Also, since this ceremony is for people who have come to faith, it should not be done for infants or young children. Baptism is not a requirement for salvation but as a symbol of having been granted salvation, this ordinance should be done once by all believers in obedience to Christ’s command and as a testimony of salvation.
Communion is a ceremony that is done regularly in the church for the remembrance of Christ’s work of redemption for everyone who repents and believes in the Lord. Communion is not something that should be taken lightly but instead be used by every individual as an opportunity to examine one’s own faith, confess unconfessed sin before the Lord, and give heartfelt thanks for the greatness of Christ’s work. Communion is done with the bread and cup. These symbolize Christ’s body and blood and with these symbols believers remember the Lord’s death on the cross and work of redemption. Since this is its meaning, communion is a ceremony that only believers can participate in and though unbelievers may be present at the ceremony they cannot participate in it.
One of the great responsibilities that the church has while on earth, as 1 Peter 2:9 (“…so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”) says, is proclaiming God’s work of salvation. This begins with the people who are closest to us such as family, friends, and neighbors. Therefore, the church must proactively do the work of local evangelism.
Also, evangelism is not something to be done just in the church’s local community. The church is also commanded to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). Therefore, the church must be concerned with both domestic and overseas evangelism and participate in giving necessary support to as well as doing the actual work of evangelism.