About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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 Relational Based Ministry  


Most western-world churches are organizational structures that define, administrate, and oversee its ministries with the hope their members will implement.  In this scenario, ministry originates from the organization.  In contrast, the apostle Paul promoted a form of ministry that evolves from supportive, personal relationships in the Body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12).  I call this form of ministry "relational based ministry."    


In 1 Corinthians 12:13 through 30 Paul defined church as individual believers, who by the Holy Spirit, have been immersed into each other's lives to form one unified functioning body.  He equated church with a human body, where each body part is joined to other body parts to meet the needs of the body and fulfill its mission.  In this scenario, ministry originates from supportive, personal relationships -  natural friendships that form within the Body of Christ, the church.   


When Paul, and those with him, entered a city, they did not create an ecclesiastical structure in the hope of conscripting people to fill its ministry needs.  Instead, they introduced individuals to Jesus, who once receiving the Holy Spirit into their lives, became an organic community of believers.  It was not until a later date when Paul sent men like Titus to implement structure into these communities by ordaining elders (Titus 1:5).  These elders, along with deacons, were qualified people who were exhibiting leadership skills within the community.  The implementation of structure presupposed the existence of a community of believers living in supportive, personal relationships from which elders and deacons were chosen.           


I understand the difficulties that today's church would incur when attempting to transition back to what Paul taught.  Nevertheless, as we move forward by recognizing and developing supportive, personal relationships in the local church that result in relational based ministry has its benefits.  It's beneficial because ministry is birthed, not just from the organization, but in the hearts of believers in these relationships who would naturally take ownership of their ministry.  Relational based ministry can be effective ministry because it is rooted in individual, God-created personalities, God-given talents, and God-chosen relationships.  When thinking of relational based ministry as it relates to the organized structure of church, ministry is overseen, but not micro-managed, by the structure.  I call this "ministerial autonomy within ecclesiastical oversight."     


Relational based ministry is an organic form of ministry that is born from the Holy Spirit led hearts of those in supportive, personal relationships that fulfill the needs and mission of the local expression of church.  It is what the Body of Christ is all about, and is worth restoring to today's church. 


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