William Challis, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, urges us to look to Paul's letters to the Corinthians to learn what Christian ministry is all about...
‘What do Vicars do?’ – it’s the question I get asked from time to time – very reasonably as it’s my job to help people understand if God is calling them to be ordained. And I say, ‘Well, the short answer is that we tell people about Jesus.’
I get the answer from 1 Corinthians – what does Paul think he does? ‘We proclaim Christ…’ he says in 1 Cor 1 v.23 – in chapter one he talks about proclaiming Christ crucified; in chapter 15 he is talking about Christ risen. In between he shows where this takes us – if we tell people about Jesus, that involves worship – and Paul is concerned about how we worship God in Christ – and he talks at length about the conduct of worship and especially the sacraments of Baptism and Communion (1 Cor 10-11). Anglicans talk about ‘The Ministry of Word and Sacrament’ – and they’re right because they get that from 1 Corinthians.
"Ministry is not just about words, it’s a life – a life lived in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen."
However, you can’t stop at 1 Corinthians – as the Corinthians keep plying Paul with questions, he goes on in 2 Corinthians to talk about what this will mean for those involved in Christian ministry. If we tell people about Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, then we shall be caught up in his death and resurrection. Ministry is not just about words, it’s a life – a life lived in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen (2 Cor 1 v.3-9). The experience of ministry is inherently linked to the message of ministry (2 Cor 4 v.5-12). In Christian ministry we are called not just to tell people about Jesus but to live out Jesus’ life for others – we have to have both 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians in our lives – ‘for whenever I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor 12 v.10).