For the last few days, I’ve published a short series connecting mutuality and various forms of service for the same of the gospel: 1) itinerant (apostle) service, 2) teaching service, and 3) shepherding service. In each case, I stepped through the life of Jesus in the Gospels and the life of his followers in Acts and the various letters of the New Testament to show that these types of service were the work of all believers, not just the work of one or a few.
Now, I could have focused on any type of service. However, I picked these three because among the church people usually assume that only certain people carry out the work of itinerant service, teaching service, or shepherding service. Relegating these types of services to only one or few damages the health of the church.
Before I go much further, I want to point out that I DO believe that only some people are gifted as apostles (itinerant servants), or as shepherds, or as teachers, in the same way that only some people are gifted as encourages, or contributors, or helpers. However, just as all believers can encourage, give, or help, all believers can also serve in an itinerant fashion, or by shepherding, or by teaching. In fact, those gifted in certain ways should help all believers learn how to serve in that way. That is “equipping.”
This idea of mutual service (ministry) is carried over into the many, many “one another” passages of Scripture – some of those passages even include the same types of service as I’ve talked about here (i.e., “teaching one another”). The “one another” passages of Scripture point to a fellowship that we have with one another in the Holy Spirit. This fellowship is a sharing of life – sharing our life in Christ as we share our lives with one another.
In this kind of fellowship, “one way” service is out-of-place. Why? Because the service itself does not arise from within ourself but from the life of the Spirit within us. And, the Spirit is not ONLY in me. The Spirit is in each of us. The Spirit that gifts me and empowers me to serve in various manners is the same Spirit that gifts and empowers others to serve in various manners.
It is the Spirit in me that “qualifies” me to serve. (“Qualify” is the wrong word; but you understand what I mean.) But, in the same way, the Spirit “qualifies” others to serve as well. If I refuse to serve others as God directs me through his Spirit, then I am hindering the work of the Spirit. In the same way, if I refuse to accept the service of others as God directs them through his Spirit, then I am also hindering the work of the Spirit.
Just as Christ is my life, he is also our life together. As we share in Christ’s life, we also share in life together by the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit gifts us and empowers us and works through us to serve one another. This is the mutual life that we share in Christ together.
Series on Mutuality and Service
- Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel
- Mutuality and Teaching Service for the Gospel
- Mutuality and Shepherding Service for the Gospel
- Mutuality: Sharing Life in Christ Together