What most people need and long for as they face trials and encounter questions is simply the dedicated attention of someone who is a little bit further along, the listening ear and gentle voice of someone who is a few steps ahead on the path of life, or the path of ministry, or the path of suffering, or the path of parenting. Most are merely seeking someone who will informally mentor them from the perspective of their own successes and failures, their own experiences of good and bad, the godly wisdom they have accumulated along the way.
No church can survive solely upon the labors of its pastors. No church can thrive when the expectation is that all ministry must be formal and must originate from the front of the room. No church can remain healthy when it falls to the elders to give and the members to consume. Rather, the work of ministry within a local church is the privilege and responsibility of each of the people who makes that church their own.
One of the most important ministries that any Christian can engage in is also one of the most unheralded. One of the ministries that is key to the functioning of the local church and to advancement in the Christian life is also one of the most overlooked. It is the simplest of all ministries and the least formal, a ministry that each of us is equipped to carry out. It is the ministry of being just a little bit further along.
There is a place in the church and a place in life for expertise and formal training. But there is a much wider place for simple commitment and involvement. The great majority of the help people need as they navigate life’s trials, the great bulk of the counsel people seek as they encounter life’s questions, does not require the input of experts, but merely the attention of someone who knows God and who knows his Word.