Unity in the church is one of the most important themes in the New Testament. Ephesians, Romans, and 1 Corinthians are saturated with language about unity, and each book refers to the church as a body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12). These are just a few examples of the importance of unity within the diversity of the church.
Christians talk about unity with those who are a different race, gender, or economic status than us, and praise God for this. However, I fear that we are unaware of our tendency to cast shame upon those with different ministries than us.
I don’t think ministry shaming happens with blatant intention, yet I think it is more common than we realize. We may let our passion for our particular ministry color our speech about it in a way that paints a picture of superiority and makes others feel shame for their ministry. We may have certain ideas about what kind of ministry is the best use of our time, so we unknowingly assume that it is the best for others. God may have created us to be an eye, and we may be so passionate about the work of eyes that we make hands and ears feel less important (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).
Let me give some examples of what this might look like:
- I have, at times, spoken passionately about my desire to equip women to know the word of God, unaware that fellow women have felt shame because they do not share my desire to teach.
- We may speak about a call to foreign missions in a way that makes others feel shame that they do not share in that call.
- We may value the study of original biblical languages to the extent that those who do not have the opportunity to study feel that they can never know God’s word well enough.
- We may be stay-at-home moms who believe discipleship in the home with our children is so important that moms who must work to help provide for their families feel shame that they simply cannot stay at home.
Whatever it is that you love, whatever it is that you are called to, whatever part of the body you play, beware of ministry shaming.
1 Corinthians 12: 4-7 says “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of affects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
It is important to say here that any ministry done to the glory of God is worth doing (1 Corinthians 10:31). Nothing that I mentioned above is inherently sinful. Our passions and our callings are not wrong. Our forgetfulness to prioritize unity in the body when there is a diversity of ministry is the problem.
If we strive to build up one another in our ministries and tune into other people’s feelings, we can help the body of Christ feel unashamed for the call given to them by God. We must understand that God gave us many different roles “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 11-16).
So, instead of casting shame upon our fellow partners in the gospel, let's instead look for ways to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3)
Let us take every opportunity to build up the ministry of our brothers and sisters. Let us pray for God’s help to remember that no one’s ministry is underrated in His kingdom.
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:11).