Not every Christian will be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher (Eph 4:11), but the New Testament is clear that all believers are to be involved in ministry. This truth is brought out in passages such as Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4.
It is equally clear from Scripture that ministry is not always easy. Jesus did not have an easy time of it, neither did Paul; indeed challenges were regularly encountered by the early Christians. These challenges came from multiple sources. We, as twenty-first century believers in Jesus, face the same realities.
When we encounter challenges we can lose our “cutting edge” to minister for the Lord. At these times it is helpful to have someone to encourage us, to urge us on. In his epistle to the Colossians, we find the apostle Paul doing just that for a man named Archippus. In Colossians 4:17, he writes, “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord’ (NIV)”. There are two things to note here. First, Paul did not say that ministry was not being done but rather that he was not completing it. Second, Paul does not tell us specifically why Archippus was not fulfilling his calling; he merely encourages him to do so. So, what are some things that might hinder a Christian from fulfilling their God-given calling? What would cause them to stop short? Scripture and human experience are helpful in answering these questions. Here is a list of challenges that could cause a believer to fail to fulfill their ministry and need the admonition that Paul gave to Archippus.
Busyness: Most people in ministry are very busy. This is true whether one is involved in traditional full-time ministry or not; ministry people are workers. There is nothing wrong with being busy as long as one is busy in the right things. Specifically, one needs to give him or herself to the things God values, and in particular to the things that God has called the individual to do. It is a matter of priorities. Jesus redirected Martha when she was focused on working rather than sitting at his feet (Luke 10). The apostles provide us with a good example in Acts 6. They did not allow themselves to get involved in the distribution to the widows. It was a good, biblical ministry that needed to be done, but not by them. They kept their focus on what God had called them to do, which was to give themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
Jesus redirected Martha when she was focused on working rather than sitting at his feet.
Fear: This is a common problem, even for people in ministry. This is evident from Scripture. The apostle Paul experienced fear (1 Cor 2:3) and Timothy too was acquainted with it (1 Cor 16:10 & 2 Tim 1:7). Fear can take many forms. One can be afraid of people and public speaking, or that there will be insufficient funds to carry out the ministry. In addition, a person may be afraid that they are not good enough, or that they have not really been called by God. These things, sometimes in combination with one another, can hinder ministry. Fear drains us of confidence; when fear takes root, momentum in ministry is lost.
Opposition: Opposition and persecution are to be expected in the Christian life. However, when a believer encounters resistance in ministry it can have a negative impact on their desire to go forward. This may be especially true if the opposition is longstanding. Opposition can come from outside of the church or inside of it. For example, a person seeking to evangelise unbelievers may encounter opposition as they share the message of Jesus. This resistance can take the form of theological objections or personal attacks. Opposition can also be experienced in the church. Proposing a new ministry or a new way of doing an existing ministry can be met with resistance. Sometimes this opposition can be quite severe.
Fruitlessness: Ministry is a taxing work. A person pours his or her time, heart, soul, prayers, and energy into their labour for the Lord. Even though they give their all, the desired results do not take place. Fruit frequently takes time to grow but the Christian worker feels frustrated or disappointed by the apparent lack of fruit. Nobody likes to feel as though they are labouring for nothing. It may be that the ministry is in the planting or watering stage (1 Cor 3:6) rather than the growing stage. Unrealised expectations can exert a negative pull on the heart of the Christian worker. The desire to press on can decrease.
If you have a spiritual leader, or friend in the body of Christ who truly cares for you and is reminding you of your calling, and urging you to fulfil it, be grateful!
Lack of supportive colleagues: A person in ministry may be working alone, or may feel as though s/he is working alone. Both of these situations can be demoralising at times, especially in times of opposition and discouragement. He or she may feel that their work and sacrifice are not recognised or appreciated, that people are not praying for them, or that nobody wants to join them in their work. We need other believers; we need the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, this is especially important as we engage in ministry.
HELP ONE ANOTHER
This list contains some things that can cause a person to fall short of fulfilling their God-given ministry. One of these things may or may not have been the specific challenge that affected Archippus. Due to the fact that these things trouble contemporary believers it is not unreasonable to think that one of them may have impacted him. But whatever the reason, thankfully he had the apostle Paul in his life. Paul cared enough about him and the work of God to call out the best in him, to urge him on to complete the work the Lord had given him to do. If you have a spiritual leader, or friend in the body of Christ who truly cares for you and is reminding you of your calling, and urging you to fulfil it, be grateful! They are being obedient to Scripture which tells us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24). The charge to “fulfil our ministries” is a much-needed word in the church today; many need this reminder and encouragement.