In a church culture where there are many ministry models, the Apostle Paul stands out to me as an extremely Christ-centered man who serves as a great example to follow. He provides what I believe are some essentials of a Christ-centered ministry in his address to the Ephesian Elders in Acts 20:17-30. I trust we can take away the following principles of what marks an essential Christ-centered ministry. Here are five I came up with from the text to encourage pastors and church leaders:
1. Serve the Lord with humility and in trials (v19): Humility is a mark of a true servant of Christ since Christ our example was marked by a life of humility (Phil 2:1-11). Anyone who is in ministry and desires to be Christ-centered must be humble. Often God sharpens his leaders with certain trials that come their way to accomplish this work of humility.
2. Proclaim the necessity of faith and repentance/genuine conversion (vv20-21): Paul was a man of great gospel content. His message was nothing less than preaching faith and repentance, the marks of true conversion. In a day when preaching can be watered down to practical principles to live by, we need a reminder of what true gospel preaching is.
3. Sacrifice and endure for the sake of the gospel (v24): Again, Christ is the example of this as he sacrificed his life and endured the cross joyfully (Heb 12:2). Similarly, those who are devoted to gospel ministry are willing to make sacrifices and endure in order to see the work carry on. Paul’s goal was not to be comfortable or self-serving.
4. Be faithful to teach the whole counsel of God (v27): Paul did not ride a hobby horse in his teaching. Instead, he faithfully taught the whole counsel of God to show how God’s plans throughout the Scriptures unfold in Christ (see how Acts ends in 28:31). A main essential of a Christ-centered ministry of teaching is that Christ is taught in all of Scripture (Lk. 24:27).
5. Encourage faithful shepherding in the church (vv28-29): Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10). He died for the flock of God. As a Christ-centered minister, Paul had an intense love for Christ’s sheep. In light of this he encouraged faithful shepherding, knowing that there is an Enemy who is bent on destroying the flock. At the heart of a true Christ-centered ministry is a love for the flock, desiring what is best for them and keeping them from harm.
Much more can be added as to what constitutes a Christ-centered ministry, but I do think that these are some of the essentials of what it looks like from Paul’s own example of his life (Acts 20:18). It was Paul in his own words who said: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1).