Many of us have ideas about the way ministry ought to be. Perhaps as we reflect on ministry, we should begin by examining our own integrity.
You may know what it is to have the best intentions and yet be misunderstood. In 1 Corinthians 1:12-24, Paul explains why he did not come to Corinth as he originally intended. Because of the situation of the church in Corinth, he decided that it was best to not go to Corinth at this particular time. Now, some evidently have seized upon this occasion, to accuse him of being fickle, lacking in integrity, and saying “yes” one moment and “no” the next.
This gives him the opportunity to speak about his personal integrity as it relates to his ministry. He speaks of his personal holiness and sincerity that comes from God (1:12). His own integrity is grounded in the work of the triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1:18-22). For Paul, referring to God (as related to his ministry) is not a mere formality or a nice religious footnote. No, Paul understands that the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are critical to his ministry and the ministry of the body of Christ in that city.
What about ministry today?
Our personal integrity is no less important today. Note that Paul ties integrity to holiness and sincerity as being from God. Ministry is more than doing all the right things. It has to do with the holiness of my life-even when no one is looking. Why? God’s character and integrity shape our own character and integrity. Since God is faithful, everything about us must reflect such faithfulness.
This has many implications for ministry in the 21st century. Ultimately, I believe this suggests that our own integrity is very much tied to the character of God. Our churches and ministries can be creative, technologically savvy, and relevant to our culture. Something is wrong, however, if our lives do not reflect the character of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I love this quote by Gordon Fee ( God’s Empowering Presence, p. 289):
It should be noted, finally, that this is one of the most God-centered, God-focused paragraphs in the Pauline corpus. As such, it is a clear reflection of Paul’s essential theology and is even more telling because it is such an ‘off the cuff,’ non-reflective moment. Paul’s integrity-and their own existence in Christ that is so integrally tied up with that integrity-ultimately rests in the character of God (his trustworthiness, whose promises have been realized in Christ) and in the saving activity of God, which is but an overflow of his character.
1. Ministry cannot be divorced from one’s own personal integrity.
2. Our ministry is tied into the character and saving activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. God is faithful! What a difference this reality makes in the conduct and character of his people.
In what areas of life and/or ministry have believers sometimes done a poor job of reflecting the character of God? In what ways could believers take personal holiness more seriously?