Just today, someone at the gym asked me "What church do you attend?" Not sure why he assumed that I attend a church, but I'm glad he did. Let's face it, church attendance is no longer in vogue. In fact, most children today did not grow up with church attendance as a family tradition. In addition, many who did grow up attending church can no longer seem to find the time nor the energy to attend church on a regular basis. The national average for regular ("weekly") church attendance is not encouraging -- it is only 37%. Check out the article on church attendance at http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/13/what-surveys-say-about-worship-attendance-and-why-some-stay-home/.
Today, most churches spend a significant amount of time and treasure marketing to the community and worship services are increasingly designed to meet the needs of newcomers in the hope that individuals and families will choose to attend. And yet, statistics show, the church is loosing the cultural battle for "church attendance".
So let me ask those of us who attend church on a regular basis another question, "What is your ministry?" Where are you serving? Do you serve in children's ministry or youth? Do you help with hospitality or lead a small group? Maybe God isn't calling us to just to attend, but to serve?
The Holy Spirit anoints for ministry (Luke 4:18-19)
In Luke's gospel, Jesus' public ministry begins with Jesus speaking about the Spirit's anointing for ministry (Luke 4:18-19). Luke tells us that Jesus was at a synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath when he stood up to read from Isaiah 61:1-2. He begins with the words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me . . ." Jesus was focused on ministry!
So let's start there . . . What is ministry? The term for ministry in the Greek New Testament is diakonia meaning "service". The greek term is connected to our English word "Deacon" or "deaconess". This "service" includes "waiting on tables" (Acts 6:1), caring for the poor (2 For 9:12), or even proclaiming the gospel (Acts 20:24). So it is not a stretch to say that "ministry" is servant-leadership (Mark 9:33-37).
The ministry of Jesus teaches us a great deal about serving others. Without a doubt, he taught great things about God and salvation, he worked supernatural miracles, and he gave his life as the Savior of the world. But all of his life and his death was designed by Father God to be a life of loving service to others (John 13). Ministry is servant-leadership! So what is your ministry? Who are you serving?
When Jesus declared, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me", he stood in a long line of priests, prophets, and kings. We know from the Old Testament that the Holy Spirit customarily came upon specific people for special assignments given by God.
Just as Jesus fulfilled his ministry in the power of the Spirit, so can we serve others as the Spirit of the Lord empowers us and anoints us!
Let's wrap up, with one more question, "What is the anointing?"
In the Old Testament, "oil" was poured or smeared on a servant of God for a special assignment or leadership position. The oil represented the presence and power of God's Spirit. Kings were anointed (1 Sam 10:1), priests were anointed (Exodus 28:41), and prophets were anointed for service (1 Kings 19:16).
In the New Testament, we discover that not only is Jesus the "anointed one" (i.e. Messiah), but that all Christians are anointed agents of God (2 Cor. 1:21; and 1 John 2:20, 27). Remember that "Christ" means "anointed" in the greek. So when we say Jesus Christ, we are saying Jesus the anointed one. The term Christian, then implies "little anointed ones." For more information on the term "anointing", check out an article by one of my seminary professors, Roger Cotton (https://www.agts.edu/faculty/faculty_publications/articles/cotton_anointing.pdf).
As Jesus began his ministry, the Spirit God came upon him and anointed him to serve others. Let's follow his example of walking in the Spirit and receiving an anointing for service.
So what's your ministry? How will you serve? Don't worry, God will anointed you with his power and presence to accomplish the task.