Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spiritual Aprons

When did God’s 'servants' become ‘ministers’?

 I wonder if it corresponds to the same time ‘servants’ quit serving and started …. ‘Ministering’?  I think the term Minister is all but ruined. It no longer carries the same meaning it did when Christ spoke it.

 I am often amazed at the huge gap between the luscious fruit of first century Christianity ‘service’ to disciples and contemporary Christianity’s ‘ministry’ to wax apples. Perhaps some of the answer lies in seeing the difference between first century Christian ‘servants’ and present day Christianity’s ‘ministers’.

Have you ever looked up the original meaning of the word minister used in the New Testament? It’s quite interesting.

The word minister when used as a noun is … diakonos. (Strong’s #G1249). It comes from a word to describe someone who ran errands for others. It literally means to be a personal attendant to someone or a waiter. When used as a verb it is … diakoneo. (Strong’s #G1247). It means to attend someone like a personal servant.

Waiter, servant, attendant; these are the words used to describe first century ‘ministers’. That is according to the Strong’s Analytical Concordance, and it seems like they ought to know.

Now contrast the picture of being a waiter, servant, or attendant as opposed to the pictures of religious leaders in Christ’s time (Think Pharisees or Sadducees) or the contemporary showmanship ‘Ministers’ we have today. Are the pictures even remotely similar? I think not.

Whether today’s ministers are (or think they are) Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist Pastors or Teachers, it seems they are giving us the exact opposite picture of what Christ meant and what is scripturally portrayed.
Where are the servants of Christ that boast in their loss of image?

To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. (1Co 4:11-13)

Not much image enhancing stuff there. No special clothes, no special seats, no successful lifestyles, no special greetings either. Nothing that would impress anyone in the world at all. 

Many, not all, but many contemporary ‘ministers’ today want to portray someone who is big, important, loud, high and mighty. Especially the mega ones; though this tradition of pride is not limited to men who oversee large or wealthy congregations.

Interestingly enough big, important, loud, high, and mighty is a great picture of exactly what Christ taught us not to portray.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."              (Mat 20:25-28)

The word ‘great’ in verse 26 is … Megas. (Strong’s #G3173) It’s where we get the word Mega from; like Mega church, Mega church pastor, and Mega church building, etc. . . . It means; big, important, loud, high and mighty.

The word ‘first’ or ‘chief’ in verse 27 is… protos. (Strongs#G4413) It means to be foremost in importance.

It is of note that Christ took the form of a slave or a servant; not big, important, loud, high and mighty. Instead of building up His reputation, He discarded it. We are told by the Holy Spirit to think and act the same way….

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  (Philippians 2:5-8)

These commandment destroying prideful traditions of men have been painfully evident during my stay in Kenya. Many preachers here have one goal in their minds… increase the numbers. They try to do so by enhancing their personal image through; wearing the most expensive suits they can afford, having rock concert, ear splitting volume while they preach, theatrics in their presentations, searching and hoping for bigger buildings, measuring their growth by how much money comes in, and hoping one day they would be recognized on TV.  

These are not the things Christ said His people or their leaders would or should be recognized by.

Our country is not any different. In fact, I believe that most of these unscriptural traditions of men and the mindsets that produced them originated in my country.

I am relatively sure by now, there will be some saying…. that’s all nice, but that’s just your own negative opinion!

They are partly right; it is my opinion and God can judge whether its negative or not, but one thing is for sure; it’s not just my opinion. The scriptures teach the same opinion.  

 Christ made it clear that He didn’t come here to be served or enhance His image. He taught that the desire (much less the actions) to be ‘foremost in importance’ is wrong. If we follow Him, shouldn’t our mindset reflect His?

And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mat 20:27-28)
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

In fact didn’t Christ command us not to seek honor from men by wearing special clothes, taking the best seats, and receiving acclamation from prestigious titles?

"But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments" .
Wearing clothes to testify of their importance.

"They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,"
Having special seats at events and in church meetings that acknowledge their ‘position’.

"... greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi."   
Having titles that proclaim the differences between them and other disciples.

"But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant". (Matthew 23:5-11)   

Your servant. He said … the greatest shall be your servant; …. Like a personal attendant or a waiter serving food. This is how every ‘minister’ should aspire to be seen.

The only special clothes Christ used and that was perfectly in harmony with His teaching was... a towel.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:3-5)

So then if we wish to be distinguished as true servants of God in our worship with other disciples, perhaps we should put on a towel; …. Or maybe an apron.

Do you know what the 'servants' of God (the apostles) who were entrusted with the most important message in earth’s history started out wearing?

Probably aprons.

They waited tables… yep; they became waiters. Not a very image enhancing job. But it is one they would later say required big spiritual credentials to replace.

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; (Act 6:2-3)

They weren’t up to being revered as ‘ministers’; … they became someone else’s servants or waiters. They sure weren’t trying to enhance their ‘minister’ image. 

When they left those tables and started serving mankind the food of Eternal Life they served them as waiters and ... were probably were still wearing their spiritual aprons.

Hope we're spiritual enough to do the same.


  1. A reminder we all need. There's the obvious, awful stuff we see all the time, but I've been exposed to the not so obvious self-exaltation recently. Same spirit, but the exaltation is more hidden. It's attitude, being "in," the right jargon, and constantly giving advice, never receiving it. I was surprised to see how tempting even the more hidden self-exaltation was. Service only and the glorification of Christ only ... that's a goal worth striving for.

  2. This is what I have seen in Negash. He has consistently refused titles and positions within his denomination (and for that matter a nice salary too). He goes where he feels the Spirit leading him, and he serves the people. He preaches the Gospel. He provides for physical needs. He prays for the sick, and he casts out demons. Although he has no official title or position he has the respect of a growing army of disciples. He has repeatedly appointed leaders and points to them for local decision making. Clearly he has spiritual authority, but he has earned it and does not abuse it. I'm not saying he is a perfect man, but if you compare him to the real Apostles of scripture you will find a man who is a modern day apostle. They do still exist, but most would never call themselves that.

    I too have seen a growing number of self-proclaimed "apostles" in Ethiopia who are twice the sons of Hell of their American counterparts. I have also witnessed a growing number of Islamic fundamentalists that I believe are a reaction to Western "Christianity". How I wish that I could say it is a reaction to the Gospel, but most often it is a reaction to the decadence, "prosperity" and immodesty that is promoted by Western "Christians".