“How do I know if I’m ready to counsel for baptism?” a teenage girl in my congregation asked me.
My advice was to talk to our minister about it—and she froze. “Oh no, I couldn’t do that,” she responded, “until I know I’m ready for counsel.”
But she was asking for counsel; she just wasn’t asking her minister. Like many people—young and old alike—she was afraid to go to someone in authority.
It is in our nature to fear authority (Romans 8:7). That same enmity that the natural, carnal mind has for God the Father extends out to His ministry—and really, to any authority figure.
Have you been in a situation where you were unsure of the right decision? Is this movie appropriate? Should I attend this dance? Should I go skydiving? Is playing paintball OK? God has given us people in our lives who can help us address any issue we might encounter: parents, grandparents and ministers.
But for them to help, we have to confide in them.
Contact with God’s ministry should not be an ominous cloud hanging over our heads. One of the ministry’s primary functions is to increase our joy.
Helpers of our Joy
How did the Apostle Paul describe God’s ministers? 2 Corinthians 1:24.
The Apostle Paul did not call them policemen or taskmasters. He called them helpers of our joy! The word “helpers” comes from the Greek word synergos, the root word of our English word “synergy.” It is also translated as “fellow laborer,” “workfellow,” and “companion in labor” in the New Testament. The ministry are our fellow workers, companions right there alongside us! They too must overcome and battle Satan just as we do. What’s more, they are helpers of our joy. In their work, they strive to make us joyful!
What do God’s ministers have to be keenly aware of in helping us be joyful? Proverbs 29:18; John 13:17; 15:10-11.
Do you want to be happy? Do you want to have joy? Keep the commandments! This is the one requisite God gives us to be happy. And God’s ministers, as helpers of our joy, are available to guide and direct us on how to better keep God’s law—on how to be happy.
What kind of men has God chosen to be effective helpers of our joy? 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9.
In order to be wise, we have to walk with wise men (Proverbs 13:20). The better we get to know God’s ministry, the more of a positive impact they can have on us, and the better we can keep God’s law. And the better we keep God’s law, the happier we will be! This is how they help our joy.
God’s Beautiful Government
For His ministers to be effective helpers of our joy, God places them in authority over us. To follow God’s law and be happy, we need to submit to the government God puts in place over us.
As a man in authority, what role does a minister fulfill for those under him? Matthew 20:25-28.
A minister is not in his position of authority to be served. Rather, he is in his position to better serve others! Authority in God’s government must be service-oriented.
Are ministers appointed to their position by other leading ministers? John 15:16; 1 Corinthians 12:28.
No man can appoint himself a minister (James 3:1). Neither is the decision made by pastors, evangelists or even apostles. It is made by our High Priest—Jesus Christ—who reveals His decisions by and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Does God also ordain the hierarchy of offices within His government? 1 Corinthians 12:27-30.
The government in the Church is God-ordained, and it is a beautiful thing. If we submit to it, we allow God’s ministers to fulfill their roles as helpers of our joy.
If the government were ordained by men, then we would only be following a man—and anyone who follows a man is under a curse (Jeremiah 17:5). But when we seek counsel or accept correction from a man God is using, we are actually following God. Paul told the Corinthians to follow him only as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), who put him in his position.
The Source of Wisdom
What happens when young people do not have solid relationships with those who have more experience and wisdom? 1 Kings 12:6-14.
King Rehoboam had a decision to make. The Israelites complained about their steep taxes and asked him to lighten their load. The new king, Solomon’s son, went to the elders of Israel, who advised, “… If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.” Then Rehoboam went to his friends: “But he forsook the counsel of the old men … and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him …. And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men …” (verses 8, 13-14).
King Rehoboam listened to his peers rather than those with more experience, and what happened? The nation of Israel was split in two! Rehoboam had to flee to Jerusalem, and Jeroboam became king over Israel, leaving Rehoboam as king of only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and a large portion of Levi. The Israelites even stoned King Rehoboam’s tax collector.
What can we seek from the ministry to help us attain wisdom? Proverbs 19:20.
We receive instruction from the ministry at Sabbath services and Church literature, as well as the many articles, podcasts and Key of David episodes we can access. However, we can also have direct one-on-one counsel with the ministry—instruction specifically directed to us.
Pastor General Gerald Flurry has said that when you counsel with the ministry, your stock always goes up. If you find yourself debating whether or not to ask a minister a question, ask the minister what he thinks!
What benefit do we gain from correction? Hebrews 12:11.
Naturally, we all dislike correction. It beats down our vanity and crushes our pride. That hurts! No one wants to be wrong, yet we often are. But the positive benefits far outweigh the momentary pain. That is why God tells us not to despise correction (verse 5). Remember that the ministry is on our side. Helping us overcome a problem is an expression of God’s love. And the correction we receive actually comes from God Himself!
Our Part in the Relationship
The ministry set a great example for us (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). Following it has long-term implications. After all, what position have we been called to fulfill in the World Tomorrow? Isaiah 30:20-21; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Hebrews 5:12; Revelation 5:10.
Relatively few will be ministers in this life. However, we are all called to be teachers in God’s Kingdom! We can follow the ministers’ example today to fulfill that role as a teacher, a priest, a minister, in the World Tomorrow.
God intends for us to have close relationships with the ministry. They are our friends, our brothers in spirit, our fellow laborers. They are also in positions over us to help us grow, which fulfills their responsibility as helpers of our joy.
But we have a part to play too! Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages, “Without the continual encouragement of lay members and those over them locally, those of us operating from headquarters could not bear up under the persecutions, oppositions, trials and frustrations. Also in reverse, the lay members need just as urgently the encouragement, teaching, counseling, and leadership from headquarters and local pastors.”
God’s end-time Elijah reminded us of how important our role is in this relationship. Just as we need the ministry’s guidance, teaching and leadership, so do they need our support, encouragement and prayers. They need positive relationships with all of us, and we need it too! No matter our age, no matter our position in the Church, whether baptized or unbaptized, we need God’s ministers.
In the February 2009 Philadelphia News, Mr. Flurry talked about an event where he did not get to spend as much time with some of the AC students as he would have liked. He emphasized how critical it is for young people to talk to those who can teach them about God: “Nobody plans to hide out, but if we are not careful, we can all get into the habit of drifting along. We can fall into a carnal comfort zone. More mature people can help to lift immature people out of that zone. … At times we have to be corrected and do things better. We may have fears, but we must overcome them!”
Mr. Flurry also talked about how important that sort of contact was in his own life: “At Ambassador College, I would have done anything to spend more time with Mr. Armstrong! I knew that spending time with those who knew the most about the Family of God was critical to my education.” If it was critical for him, it is certainly critical for you as well.
Opportunities to talk to the ministry in person may not come often. So when they do come, say hello. Get to know them, and let them get to know you. Of course, show proper respect. 1 Timothy 5:17 says the ministry should be “counted worthy of double honour.”
Find out firsthand what benefits you can receive from increased contact with the ministry. We all need instruction and wisdom from those with more experience. To accomplish that, God has provided us with an invaluable tool: His ministry—the helpers of our joy.