The Ministry of Enablement

“I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name” (1 Corinthians 1:14,15).

One of the things I miss most about pastoral ministry is water baptisms. I really enjoyed this particular church ordinance. Not only is it a joyful time to participate in this aspect of discipleship and obedience, but with over 25 years of pastoral service more than a few times I’ve had some funny experiences in water baptisms:

  • I recall a large rather simple-minded type believer (he was about six foot six and surely weighed over three hundred pounds). We were using a mountain stream in north central PA and as we stepped into the icy cold spring runoff I still tried to maintain some dignity to the service. But I can still hear that loud commanding and rather gravelly voice, “This ain’t gonna take very long is it Reverend?”
  • Or the man that I had out in a similar type stream with a deep pool. I didn’t ask him if he knew how to swim but just assumed he did. He had a bit of a fright as the current started to take him and he didn’t know how to swim. Thankfully I have Red Cross lifesaving, which should probably be a requirement for every pastor! I can literally speak of saving a man at his own baptism.
  • Finally there was the rather large, buoyant lady that I just couldn’t seem to plunge below the water line. This was in a church baptismal tank and care had to be taken regarding the amount of water placed in the tank prior to the baptism. Too little and I wouldn’t be able to completely submerge her. Too much, well, you can imagine the problem with all the displaced water!
Yes, water baptisms are a very rewarding part of pastoral ministry and I think most pastors would agree. That’s why the Apostle Paul’s statement in the daily text is so interesting. Now I would suppose that being baptized by the apostle Paul would be pretty neat and I believe he would have had plenty of requests. But he states, “I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius”. So what gives here? Why is he thankful that he did not do the baptizing?

In part it was due to his desire not to get a fan base or following. His interest was that people follow Christ, not man. There were divisions in the church in Corinth related to personalities. Paul was not interested in being the most popular, with the most followers. He wanted it to be known that he was a part of a ministry team.

Following our daily text Paul went on to state: “(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:16,17). The point is that his main mission was “to preach the gospel”. He was not discounting the importance of baptism but others could do it equally well.

Paul is also demonstrating a powerful quality of effective ministry called enablement. This is finding fulfillment as we enable others to carry on ministry that we ourselves could do. By having a ministry of enablement we see our ministry impact extended greatly. I consider the late Billy Graham and how many evangelists he encouraged and enabled. I just can’t imagine Billy worrying that someone he enabled was going to cut into his crowd size!

There is no room for selfish possessiveness in the Work of Christ. Great ministries are enabling ministries. Petty ministries seek to limit and control.

Let us rejoice when we see another believer finding fulfillment in ministry. We must avoid territorial control. We rejoice when a life is helped in Christ whether we are the direct instrument used of God or not. May the Lord help each of us to practice the ministry of enablement!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Tony Orji

Dr. Tony Orji is the founder and owner of Success Tonics Blog. He is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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