By John McCoury
Roan Mountain, Tennessee
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
Paul is writing of the true view of ministry and ministers, and he does not mean by ministers only the apostles, or only a select group called the clergy, the pastors. This is a devilish idea that has possessed the church. It sees the clergy are different people, with a special pipeline to God. That idea is never found in Scripture. No, in Scripture all Christians are in the ministry, everyone without exception. All are given gifts by the Spirit. All are expected to have a function, a service that God uses. It does not have to be in the meeting of the church. It is out in the world, anywhere you are. But how are we to view one another? As big shots striving to see who can get the most recognition, as dignitaries with special dress to indicate our rank and style of life? Are we to be the heavies, the bosses, the brass? No, Paul says we are servants; that is all, everyone. We are servants of Christ. That is the highest rank possible in the church, and everybody has it to start with. Therefore, there is no need for competition or rivalry in any sense at all.
We are all servants of Christ. Jesus himself told us what our attitude is to be: The Son of Man, he said, came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and give himself a ransom for many, (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45 ). Now that is serving, it is not being ministered unto. How do you think of yourself when you come to church? What is your reason for coming to church? Is it to be ministered unto? Do you judge the purpose of our assembly together so that you might have a blessing, or is it that you might be a blessing? The attitude of a servant is always, What can I do for another? In the process, you will find yourself abundantly ministered unto. But we hear so much of this cult of self-life today that insists that everything has to meet my needs. That is pre-eminent. Now that is the world’s thinking, isn’t it?
The apostle is telling us that this thinking will be nothing but trouble in the church; it creates divisions and factions. We must come to see each other as servants of Christ, mutually living and ministering to one another as God gives opportunity. This is what the Lord Himself demonstrated for us. Are we in competition? No, says Paul, we’re in cooperation. I planted; Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. We are doing different things, but we need both of them. One of the glories of the church is that nobody does the same thing. Churches that try to turn out people that all look alike, dress alike, carry the same kind of notebook, and speak the same kind of language, are missing what God has in mind because we are all to be different, yet working together and needing one another. The evangelist plants, the Bible teacher waters. Well, which is more important, Bible teaching or evangelizing? Paul’s answer is Neither! God can do away with both of those. The important thing is not what either can do, but what God alone can do — take that truth and change lives with it. Evangelists cannot do that. Bible teachers cannot do that. Only God gives the increase. Only God opens the mind, changes the heart, and makes people different. That is the thing that ought to be emphasized then, instead of putting all this emphasis upon our methods, and our abilities to do this and that, and all the educational demands that some people want to make for training. That is all emphasizing the people, not the God who gives the increase.
Lord Jesus, I ask you to take my life and use me where I work, where I live, in my home. I know this is what you love to do, and I ask that you will grant me the grace to understand how to do this and yield myself to you. What is the highest rank possible in the Body of Christ? Does this leave room for competition, comparisons, or pedestals? Do we serve with an expectation of increased status? Whose power produces growth and fruit from serving?