Thursday, July 02, 2009


When Paul Spoke of "this ministry" in 11 Corinthians 4:1 he was speaking of the transforming work of the Spirit in ALL believers as mentioned in 11 Corinthians 3:18. To Paul "the ministry" was not something God called him "to do." Rather it was something that was to reveal what God had done in him by His Grace through the Person of Christ.

It was the same for our Lord when He began a three year ministry. It wasn't that He had come to a time and place where He did something "for the Father." Jesus had come to the place where what Had been done in Him was now on public display and it was a ministry that was simply putting before the people what God was about in Him.

"The ministry" is always this only. It isn't, as we seem to think in our present day of professional ministry, a "decision" to go into the ministry. It is, rather, that ALL believers are possessors of the Treasure of Christ that is to be on display in frail human vessels. [11 Corinthians 4:7] Thus, all believers are ministers of the Kingdom news. [Gospel]

The significance of the vessel is never the vessel, whether it be one's age, race or gender. The significance of the vessel is the Treasure there-in.

The significance of preparation for ministry is never the qualifications through training [Seminary] or authority bestowed because of office. [Pastor] It is the significance of what has been done in the vessel [believer] by the Spirit that creates a Christ-consciousness in that vessel, whether man or woman, where He reigns as Lord, and the communication of that reality.

It was the devils who said "Jesus I know." It is THAT which becomes the authority of ministry and especially so when the Body of Christ gathers. We will "know it's Jesus" too. "Who are you?" SHOULD be the question asked by all, not just the devils, when someone tries to minister otherwise.

It is, in fact, the breaking down of the vessel, instead of the building up of the vessel, that is needed for true ministry to be performed which the troubles and difficulties that came to Paul reveal in 11 Corinthians 4:10-12. So a broken and flawed vessel is the place where the Treasure [Jesus] is actually magnified. This, contrary to present day popular opinion, is the true minister, not the one gifted, trained, talented, and capable of presenting truth in a spell binding fashion. It is, rather, the one broken, shattered, and exhibiting the true recovery of Grace that is seen as the true minister scripturally. All believers are to be that minister.

Each christian is that vessel. Each vessel is to reveal that Treasure. Each person is a minister when this is real and is happening. All believers are in "the ministry" though they may provide a living for themselves in many ways. Some may even be supported by a local assembly. But their authority is to only truly come in this way. Not because of an "office" they hold.

Paul Burleson


Aussie John said...


What a wise, thoughtful article, which needs to be read by all younger people in ministry.

Your years, and the experience of those years, as well as the wisdom which takes years to accumulate, is being revealed in your words.

The most important years of one's ministry comes at the latter end of it, after the bumps and bruises, the failures and the falls, after the tears of frustration and repentance, after much crying out to the Father who is there through it all.

It is only then that we learn one of the lessons where academia fails us most, in yours words: "The significance of the vessel is never the vessel, whether it be one's age, race or gender. The significance of the vessel is the Treasure there-in."

I remember, only too well when the process you spoke of was taking place in me, and still is, as you said,"It is, in fact, the breaking down of the vessel, instead of the building up of the vessel, that is needed for true ministry to be performed ....So a broken and flawed vessel is the place where the Treasure [Jesus] is actually magnified."

I pray that it is so in this very flawed vessel.

You've probably sung "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me". Brother! It is showing!

Chuck Andrews said...

Hey Paul

This is my text for this coming Sunday’s message. I wrote the following earlier in the week.

Ministry is an invention of God’s, not man’s. Ministry is not earned or deserved. It is received just like mercy. Mercy is not demanded or bought. Mercy is received. Ministry is not earned by education, position, or title. Ministry is not demanded because of action or time served. Ministry is not bought with money, motives, or management.

When it comes to our humanity; this physical body is the most amazingly complex, uniquely individual, comprehensively frustrating temporal earthen vessel that houses a treasure. Even though we are wonderfully and fearfully made; the majesty of this body is as wonderful as its mystery, the fact is, the most important thing is not the vessel but the treasure.

Paul knew where his confidence, adequacies, and ministry came from and because he did he did not lose heart. The purpose was Christ. The platform was Christ. The desired presence was Christ. The person he wanted them to see was Jesus. His defense was an opportunity to point to Jesus.

With your permission I’ll add a quote from you “It is, in fact, the breaking down of the vessel, instead of the building up of the vessel, that is needed for true ministry to be performed.”

Thanks for the article. It affirmed some things and taught me some other things. I definitely concur with Aussie John above.


Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

As usual, your comment is better than the post.


Sounds like a GREAT message will be delivered this next Suday. Of course you may use anyhing you choose and don't spend ANY time trying to credit anyone for it. I'll be anxious to hear how things go. Breakfast maybe?

traveller said...


Such great words. It is my firm belief that as hard as it is to live through, the breaking process is the natural way for us to become what God created us to be. It may be the only way. Very few followers of Jesus wish to discuss or experience this today. More often than not, when we do we fight against it and become bitter. May we all be broken in the right places.

Here are a couple of quotes that carry some of that meaning for me.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.”
Ernest Hemingway

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." C. S. Lewis "The Great Divorce"

Paul Burleson said...


EXCELLENT comment.

Aussie John said...


I truly appreciate your wise words and the opportunity to respond, and I apologise if there seems to be any attempt at one-up-manship.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

I don't believe you could even entertain a one-up-manship thought or motive much less write with that in mind. Besides, it's not a question of such when one just says things that make more sense in a comment than most people can deliver in an attempt at a full article.

It's NOT attempting to get the upper hand, it's just having the wisdom and heart that lives at a place in a journey with Jesus that most people only aspire to and, of all things, being able to express it. You truly inspire me.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for that reassurance,kind words,and the spirit in which they were given, as well as allowing me to be 'off topic'.

Chris Ryan said...


Very wise words, and I thank you for them. For the young, myself included, it becomes so easy to believe that we are something special (or soon will be). But rather, each of us are mere vessels of something, someone, truly great. We are not of worth beyond the worth given us by God. That is a great worth, indeed, and should be all we need.

It is our brokenness that reveals our worth, for it is in our brokenness that we are made complete. It is the revelation of the "true recovery of grace" which is the purpose of ministry. That revelation is offered both by the proclamation of the gospel, and by its living in we broken vessels.

Bryan Riley said...


I often ponder the missionary calling. Missionaries simply are those sent out, and the sender is the Holy Spirit. We are all sent out by teh Holy Spirit, just to different spheres, nations, domains. Some, I suppose, are called to do so through the support of others - I hope so since we raise support to do what we do. Others are sent into spheres and domains where they are paid to be there and therein represent Jesus Christ. But, regardless, they are missionaries.

Paul Burleson said...


I am sure some such as my sister and brother-in-law who were SBC missionaries for over thirty years in Chile would say there can be a special calling to a particular place to serve as missionaries. I would not deny that at all.

I also am sure that others go where they go supported however they are supported with that same sense of calling to what they are doing.

In fact, I served churches for over forty years as a pastor because of a belief in a calling to do so.I don't think any of this is wrong necessarily.

I do think, however, the older I get and the more stripped I become of tradition and culture based ideas about ministry, I'm beginning to think there may be only one TRUE calling and that is to follow our Lord as His servants whatever that entails by way of life that we may have chosen.

If I'm correct in this I would assume someone can be a missionary, pastor, or whatever, and later be in some totally different venue, at the placement of the Lord in Providence, and never have "left the Ministry" at all. All this because we are all in the ministry by virtue of being christians as we live life period.

I'm thinking this way and I'm reading your comment to say the same. What do you think?

Chris Ryan said...


Just wondering, how does the content of your last comment square with the more deterministic veiws of Calvinism?

Paul Burleson said...


LOL..Your question is a valid one for most Calvinists and they would have some answer I'm sure that would reflect some aspect of God's determinative purpose that they hold to.

But, for me, I let God be God and work as scripture indicates He does as the Sovereign God He is, but live in the freedom I have as a redeemed human being with Him as my Father, with me being responsible for my choices and their consequences.

The will of God for us revealed in scripture is based on our choices to follow in love and obedence. I accept that and leave all the hidden purposes and ultimate outcome of things to Him. It's an antinomy I can live with in joy.

Good question and thanks for asking.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

A very wise and appropriate for the day article. It just validates a mentor I had about 30 years ago who though very instructive in presenting me the fundamentals as mentor, drove home the importance of fellowship with the Master. It is because of this that I sought a life with the Master and the ministry took care of itself because the priority was in the right order. Don't seek a ministry, seek a life in Him first. Thanks again.

Steve in San Antonio

Paul Burleson said...


30 years ago. My stars, has it been that long ago?

You really took to heart what the Lord gave you back then through, perhaps, me and a ton of others I'm sure. You've sought the LORD, that LIFE, that WIFE, that FAMILY, those PEOPLE and have wound up having a REAL ministry of profound measure.

Blessings to you and thanks for it all.