Unfortunately, they were not the only little faces I saw. Regularly, their parents would say, “I need to do a little shopping. They can play outside,” and leave their other children in our front yard, usually far longer than a half hour. I had been taught to respect my elders and couldn’t even imagine telling them no. I simply sat there and watched both the small pair of hands at the keyboard and the ever increasing number of children running around the maple tree, jumping up occasionally to open the door and quiet an argument or forestall an accident. How in the world did they ever expect me to do a good job at piano teaching?
Once I married and moved into my own home, the free babysitting stopped. I was an adult now, and it didn’t hurt a bit that my college professor helped us all fashion “studio policy letters” that spelled out what would and would not be tolerated. “You are a professional with a college degree (soon, anyway) so act like one and they will treat you like one,” we were taught. No longer was I a free babysitter for the siblings during piano lessons.
I wonder if our poor preachers and elders need to make a policy letter. Regularly, the members, who pride themselves on “knowing better” than the denominations about scriptural practices, expect “free babysitting” from the men God has given other duties to perform. Read Acts 20 with me this morning.
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him, v 17. Notice, we are talking about the elders. In the same context, speaking of and to the same men, Paul says, Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops (overseers), to feed (shepherd, pastor) the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood, v 28. Did you catch that? This is one of at least two passages where all the words for elder are used in the same context. An elder is a pastor is a bishop is an overseer, and there were always more than one in a church. The preacher is usually not a pastor and certainly not THE pastor of the church.
I bet you knew that, didn’t you? But guess what? He is not THE minister either. In fact, it’s a mighty sorry church that has only one minister in it. That word is diakonos and it is used a couple of ways in the New Testament. The word simply means “servant” but there was also an official position in the church, special “servants” who had specific duties and qualifications as well. To make the distinction between that role and the other aspect of service, something every Christian is required to do, the translators created a new English word. They Anglicized diakonos and made the new word “deacon.” So sometimes that word refers to those specially qualified individuals who took care of the physical needs of the saints and the church as a whole.
Yet far more often, that word, and certainly that concept, is used of each individual Christian, as we minister to one another and to the world. The problem is we don’t want to be ministers (servants). We want everyone, especially the leaders in the church, to serve us! How in the world can we expect them to do the job God really gave them when we want free babysitting as well?
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which you showed toward his name, in that you ministered unto the saints, and still do minister, Heb 6:9,10. The writer is not talking to preachers in this verse, and not talking about them in the next. You know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, 1 Cor 16:15. Could anyone accuse us of being “addicted” to serving?
Anyone who serves is a minister. Some seem to have special abilities and perhaps we could even say they have “a ministry.” And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, to our ministry; or he that teaches, to his teaching; or he that exhorts, to his exhorting: he that gives, with liberality; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Rom 12:6-8. Some have people in their homes more than others; some teach better than others; some have a special ability to relate to the young people; some seem to know exactly what to say when people are in trouble. Some of us just do what needs to be done when we see the need. All of us are supposed to be ministers in one way or another, and we should all reach the point that we don’t need a babysitter any longer.
When someone asks you who the minister in your church is, tell them it isn’t one man. It isn’t even someone else. It’s supposed to be YOU!
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt 20:25-28.