The pastor was not too long into the sermon before declaring that he does not care about titles. It has been years since then, so I don’t remember what exactly led up to that part of the sermon culminating with that declaration.
All I can remember is that I was brimming with expectation.
“Finally,” I thought… a message from a preacher who knows his place in the story and in the presentation of that story; an earthen vessel entrusted by God with a treasure within (2 Corinthians 4:7).
I had visited that church on Sunday morning because the pastor of the church I was attending at the time recently died and the chaos that ensued caused me to go searching for another.
I visited different churches looking for one where the word of God was preached and taught; the Gospel was proclaimed and the glory of God was the undergirding and driving force behind EVERY message, EVERY event, and ALL that that church stood for.
Unfortunately, that Sunday, my pre-excitement for what I believed was going to be a Christ-centered message by a “humble messenger” soon dissipated. The pastor went on to reveal why he did not care about titles.
Instead of a display of humility, it was an extravaganza of hubris! He did not care about titles, as it were, because he “already had all of them under his belt.” The congregation enthusiastically cheered and clapped as he went on to list and talk about each and every one. Needless to say, …
I never went back to that church.
Maybe I was too quick to discontinue going, but being young in the faith back then, I desperately wanted and needed spiritual sustenance. Such messages were all too common for me as I found them nothing more than “mere fluff” that had absolutely no benefit for my spiritual growth.
Moreover, I did not see what benefit it had for anyone else who was in attendance that day… except, maybe for the pastor himself and the feeding of his ego.
God’s Glory: Principles for Ministry
Years later, reflecting back on that experience and on similar ones I have had since then, I ask myself how is it that some pastors and churches can so easily run afoul of being relevant to and for the kingdom of God?
Although there may be many answers to this question, one could argue that most instances could be summed up by this conclusion:
They have lost sight of the reason and purpose of ministry and doing ministry, that is, FOR GOD’S GLORY.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’s sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
He goes on to say in verse 7, “but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
From these verses, several principles emerge relating to the “glory of God” in church ministry. But before listing these principles, we need to explore what exactly is the meaning and definition of “glory” and if the phrase “the glory of God” can be used interchangeably with “God’s glory.”
Defining the Meaning of “Glory”
Doing a word search of the word “glory” in both the Old and New Testaments, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a precise and concise definition of what it means. The Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as ‘glory’ in our English versions of the Bible, our English ‘glory’ also has multiple meanings and nuances.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary attests to this.
Defining ‘glory’ as it relates to God and the Bible, is incumbent upon the reader to rely on the context of the verse in which the word appears.
For example, in Psalm 97:6 ‘glory’ could be rendered ‘power’ or ‘majesty’ while in Psalm 21:5, ‘praise’ seems to be a more suitable meaning.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 honor is in view while in 1 Timothy 3:16 the exalted, eternal state of heaven with all the magnificence of God’s presence is what one understands from the context.
Second, whether or not the phrases “the glory of God” and “God’s glory” can be used interchangeably, again, depends on the context of the verse. They may or they may not.
One thing is certain though, with all these varied meanings, the word ‘glory’ is somewhat of a kaleidoscope of man’s attempt to relate to and to understand God. The term Glory has an all-encompassing dynamic.
However, in relation to God and ministry, it is the gift, impetus, AND objective of ministry.
The Glory of God: The Gift, Impetus, and Objective of Ministry
The “glory of God” is the gift, impetus, and objective of ministry. These are the principles of church ministry that one gathers from 2 Corinthians 2:5-7. Paul says that God had shined in their hearts to give the light of the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
In context, ‘glory’ here is best understood as the total transformative power of Jesus Christ personified in and by the gospel. GLORY is the gift that must FIRST be received and be allowed to transform the one that God will use as the carrier and messenger of that gift.
It is this gift that God shined in Paul’s heart, which he received and was transformed from a persecutor of the Gospel to an Evangelist of that very gospel.
The Gospel was not only for Paul to keep for himself but for him to share with others… to give it. Going back to verse 1 of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says that this was his ministry. To “give” the message of “the glory of God,” that is, the transformative power of Jesus Christ, was Paul’s motivation for ministry and what propelled him forward regardless of any discouraging circumstances he found himself in (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).
Additionally, the “glory of God” is the objective of the ministry is made clear in verse 5 where Paul states that they do not preach themselves but “Christ Jesus the Lord.”
In this context, we get another application for the glory of God… In relation to preaching Jesus Christ the Lord, ‘glory’ in this sense is best understood as honor and Paul brings home this point in verse 15 where he writes, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
Knowing Our Place in the Story
The “glory of God” is the foundation of ministry. Whether or not we substitute any of the various meanings of the word ‘glory,’ it is still the central point of ministry. And only when we know our place in the story will our churches and our sermons remain relevant to the kingdom of God. We are servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5) and earthen vessels entrusted with the treasure of the “glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:7).