The Meredith J. Sprunger Archive
The Commission to Minister
5/14/81; Revised 10/24/97
The distinctive characteristic of the religion of the Spirit is the centrality of service and evangelism. Both Jesus and the authors of The Urantia Book point out that anyone who has experienced a dynamic personal relationship with God and has dedicated themselves to the demands of this relationship must do something about it. Genuine religion always motivates action and changes lives.
Many of us have received just enough of an inoculation of religion to have developed an immunity to the real thing. We can comfortably intellectualize and emote about it endlessly and thereby escape the fruit-bearing demands of action. Neither high sounding words, grandiose plans, nor good intentions are substitutes for service and ministry, for actually doing the Father's will.
The Centrality of Service
Jesus constantly emphasized the centrality of service and fruit-bearing in our relationship with the Father. Religionists have often side-stepped the demanding discipline of spiritual ministry by engaging in religious substitutes such as theologizing, in-group rule-making, legalism, defensive power struggles, dogmatic proclamation, and mystic contemplation. The basic teaching of Jesus can be summarized by three words: attitude, action, and outreach. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as our self.
We actualize this love in the concrete action of creative service; and this ministry is to be directed in an outreach to the ends of the earth.
Let us recall in more detail what Jesus has to say about this life of ministering to our fellows. In the parable of the Sower he illustrates the importance of sowing the seeds of truth. This seed will obviously fall on different types of soil. The sowing is our responsibility, but the results, to a large extent, are in greater hands. We are reminded on p. 557 of The Urantia Book that "The evolving soul is not made divine by what it does, but by what it strives to do." We ought to strive to whet the appetites of our associates for truth, but not be overly concerned about results.
The parable of the Two Sons points out that good intentions are not enough; actually doing the Father's will is required of all true sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. Or as Matthew phrases it, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21) To Peter he said, "Feed my sheep." (p. 2048)
The parables of the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin all emphasize the importance of reaching out to others. Cults and Study Groups tend to be centripetal, inward; their primary relationships and focus is with insiders. Knowledge is shared with in-group members and special guidance is often claimed by the select few. A mature religion or religionist is open and outgoing and seeks to bring ministry to all humankind. When we turn from our in-group preoccupations, we see that, indeed, the "fields are white for the harvest but the laborers are few." The world hungers for a vision of a larger understanding of the universe and of God. Our world is desperately in need of the enlarged reality paradigm of the Fifth Epochal Revelation.
Jesus admonishes us that we are responsible for amplifying and sharing the truth that has been given to us. On pages 1917-18 we read, "Truth is living; the Spirit of Truth is ever leading the children of light into new realms of spiritual reality and divine service. You are not given truth to crystallize into settled, safe, and honored forms. Your revelation of truth must be so enhanced by passing through your personal experience that new beauty and actual spiritual gains will be disclosed to all who behold your spiritual fruits and in consequence thereof are led to glorify the Father who is in heaven. Only those faithful servants who thus grow in the knowledge of the truth, and who thereby develop the capacity for divine appreciation of spiritual realities, can ever hope to ‘enter fully into the joy of their lord.' What a sorry sight for successive generations of the professed followers of Jesus to say regarding their stewardship of divine truth: ‘Here, Master, is the truth you committed to us a hundred or a thousand years ago. We have lost nothing; we have faithfully preserved all you gave us; we have allowed no changes to be made in that which you taught us; here is the truth you gave us.' But such a plea concerning spiritual indolence will not justify the barren steward of truth in the presence of the Master. In accordance with the truth committed to your hands will the Master of truth require reckoning."
A Clarion Call for Action
These ringing words of the authors of The Urantia Book are a clarion call for action and growth! Are we becoming missionary evangels or in-group comfort seekers? We are told on pages 279-80, "In the universal regime you are not reckoned as having possessed yourself of knowledge and truth until you have demonstrated your ability and your willingness to impart this knowledge to others."
The latest and greatest truth which the Master has committed into our hands is the Fifth Epochal Revelation. What fruits of the spirit show that you have done something creative in spreading this enlarged vision of truth in your community and in the world? Where have you sown this improved seed of truth? Are you cultivating personal and social soil and planting seeds with care; or, are you merely letting nature take its course and busying yourself with other things while the winds of chance broadcast the seeds at random? Are you content to admire this beautiful treasure of wisdom, drinking in its great truths, and circumspectly sharing them with a few initiates of your in-group and then returning the treasure again to its closet? Or are you putting this treasure to work in the world where it can enrich all of the peoples of the earth?
A mere handful of apostles and disciples of the Fourth Epochal Revelation turned the Roman world up-side-down. Although thousands of people are students of The Urantia Book most of them are "closet" followers of the Fifth Epochal Revelation. After over forty years of preparing for the time when we will have an intentional outreach program, the world, generally, is oblivious of its existence. I think the time has come to initiate a wise, but open, outreach ministry to the world. Obviously, this will not be easy. "The religion of the spirit means effort, struggle, conflict, faith, determination, love, loyalty, and progress." (p. 1729)
The Key Function of Laypersons
I would remind you that virtually all of the major spiritual advances of history were spearheaded by laypersons. The religious professionals not only are the stewards of vested interests, but their spiritual vision has been shaped and circumscribed by institutional forms and theological structures. After forty years of trying to interest the most progressive mainline ministers in The Urantia Book, I have regrettably come to realize that the paradigm shift to a new revelation is just too great for them. It was perfectly natural for the priests living in Jerusalem to doubt that anything of real value could originate in Nazareth. This places an extraordinary responsibility in the hands of lay people for the initiation of a spiritual renaissance powered by the Fifth Epochal Revelation.
It is easy for new spiritual movements to be captured by cult dynamics. The only escape from this cultocentric trap is to follow the ministry Jesus taught his apostles—that of engaging in an active outgoing proclamation of the good news. We can transcend the cultocentric predicament through a courageous attempt to share these great truths with all humankind. I am convinced that the base for such evangelistic activities must be religious institutions dedicated to outreach ministry. I would invite all serious students of the Fifth Epochal Revelation to become missionary evangels in some form of active outreach ministry.
This ministry can take many forms and each of us must discover which function or channel we find creative. We can serve the Universal Father in every vocation and through all of the arts and sciences. We need to seek the Father's guidance and direction in our service. All of us are not called to the same ministry. Courageously keep step with the music that you hear. Whether it be the call of the trumpets, the cadence of the drums, the melody of the woodwinds, the exquisite strains of the violins, or the quieting harmony of the harp—follow your own inner leading and so will the Father's symphony of service benefit all humankind.
There are three basic forms of service in which each of us is challenged to participate. First, we should strive to live the great truths given to us. This is elemental. Second, we ought to engage in various kinds of material service. We should aid the needy, work for social, economic, and legal justice, and foster the actualization of human well-being. Finally, and most importantly, we are called to engage in a spiritual ministry to the minds and souls of our fellows. This sharing and proclamation of the good news has, historically, effected the greatest transformation of human life and society of all of the forms of ministry. Spiritual ministry is the most vital and far-reaching way to share the great truths of revelation and experience.
The Unique Function of a New Spiritual Paradigm
After more than forty years of experimenting with ways to "bootleg" the teachings of the Fifth Epochal Revelation, I am convinced that only the unique cosmological reality paradigm of The Urantia Book itself has the potential to bring a spiritual renaissance to our planet. Most of the concepts of The Urantia Book are already in the thought patterns of Western Civilization. It is the unique integration of these ideas in a new cosmological setting presented in the Fifth Epochal Revelation that makes them effective. Many theologians, ministers, and educators are currently presenting the essential truths of The Urantia Book in their teaching. This is doing much good but it lacks the integrative spiritual vision and power of the Fifth Epochal Revelation. Only the coherent message of The Urantia Book itself has the dynamic to bring about a transformation of the contemporary human condition.
I recognize that such an open ministry is not for timid souls. It is difficult for people who are balanced, solid citizens in their communities to risk being viewed as "different" or belonging to some strange cult or movement. Pioneers always face difficulty and hardship. Spiritual pioneering is a rigorous and lonely path of service. Do not imagine that opposition and oppression are only aberrations of the past. New and enlarged presentations of truth have always been, and will always be, attack by religious traditionalists and fundamentalists.
Nevertheless, for those who have the courage, guided by wisdom, to bring a knowledge of the Fifth Epochal Revelation to the individuals and the institutions of our world are engaging in one of the most important ministries of our times. Such missionary evangels will open the door to a spiritual dynamic that will transform our planet in the next thousand years. An Archangel of Nebadon reminds us, "The weak indulge in resolutions, but the strong act. Life is but a days work—do it well. The act is ours; the consequences Gods." ( p. 556)
Principles of Ministry
Whatever form of outreach ministry you should choose to engage in, let me share some principles of ministry that may help to guide this service. I would invite you to adapt, internalize, and live by the following seven principles of ministry:
Let us now summarize what we have shared together. Jesus by example and teaching tells us the one thing necessary in our relationship with the Universal Father is to experience a personal fellowship with him, a living faith. This living faith activates three great spiritual truth responses:
These three great spiritual truth responses are augmented by seven principles of ministry: wisdom initiation, love radiation, philosophical discretion, evolutionary consideration, commonplace participation, humor realization, and joyful consummation.
Now may living faith, the one all-encompassing requirement of sonship, inspire us to actualize the great truth responses of love and service, guided and enhanced by the seven-fold principles of ministry. May each of us experience Godspeed and joy in the adventure of our commission to minister!
UPCOMING GATHERINGS & CONFERENCES