“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2 NKJV).
One of the emphases of our training of Christian leaders in South Asia is responsibility which necessarily involves dependability. In many local settings there may be only one or two men with enough Bible knowledge and leadership ability to conduct Sunday worship assemblies.
We stress the importance of those assemblies, and of every program and work of the Church, and teach that those “in charge” must be absolutely reliable. No church can grow, nor can the Gospel be effectively preached, without consistent, dependable function. No church can be consistent in worship, fellowship, or ministry without faithful servants as leaders.
The apostle Paul understood well that need. Opponents in Corinth claimed higher authority for themselves and attacked Paul on charges of inconsistency, lack of speaking ability, and poor appearance (2 Corinthians 1:17; 10:10). Paul does not descend to the level of his opponents by trying to compare rank (leadership position or authority) with them. Rather he willingly accepts the title of servant.
He and Apollos (who was also attacked by these false teachers) should be considered as ministers (1 Corinthians 3:5) or as servants and stewards of the Gospel of Christ. These words are very similar in overall meaning. A minister was one who served. The Greek word so translated is that from which we get the word deacon. This is not an office with status in the New Testament. A deacon is simply one who is about the business of serving others.
The word for servant refers to a slave or bond-servant, not merely an employee or volunteer. The steward was often a slave who was placed in a managerial or over-seeing position. Each of these related terms describe one under obligation and duty. Paul denied that he or anyone who preached the Gospel of Christ had any right to claim status, privilege, or personal authority. They are simply servants (slaves) of Jesus Christ, bound to do his will.
This realization prompted Paul to mention the number one requirement for faithful service – faithfulness. No one will give responsibility to a steward who cannot be trusted. Though characteristics such as talent, education, experience, and material resources may enhance one’s ability to manage, none of these matter unless the steward is absolutely dependable.
We often think of our own abilities as poor and limited. We think, “God needs someone with far more talent than I have to do His work.” We turn to the Five Talent Man (Matthew 25:14-30) for the important tasks. The truth is however that God can use every one of us, if we will simply be faithful to do what we can do.
Each Christian has gifts (Romans 12:3-8). Every believer has a part to play in the Kingdom (Ephesians 4:13-16). God can and will use us all, and can do far more through us than we can imagine. But he must be able to rely upon us. We must be faithful. There is no substitute for dependability.
No one, regardless of gifts, can be productive if he or she cannot be depended upon, every time, no matter what. Let us be faithful stewards.