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Ministry multipliers likened to ‘the boy with the bread and fish’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–LifeWay’s ministry multipliers have something in common with the boy who gave his bread and fish to Jesus to feed the 5,000, a theology professor said.

“You may minister in anonymity, but not in obscurity,” said Ergun Caner, professor of theology and church history at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

“Ministry multipliers” are people with expertise in church-related areas such as administration, pastoral care, Christian education, children’s ministry, discipleship and recreation. Ministry multipliers lead conferences and conduct workshops across the country for LifeWay Christian Resources. Caner spoke to the group during a Dec. 1-3 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

While the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of barley bread and two fish is told in each of the Gospels, only in the Gospel of John is there mention of the food belonging to a boy. “Apparently none of the other writers noticed the boy,” Caner said. “But Jesus noticed him.”

The boy was probably a young teenager, past the age of his Jewish bar mitzvah coming-of-age ceremony, but not old enough to marry.

Preachers have used this text for 2,000 years, Caner said, but no one has ever known the boy’s name. All this time he has been anonymous, but certainly not unimportant. “Think of the number of lives that have been touched by this boy’s story.”

Caner said the word “here” used in the passage [“There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish….” John 6:9, HCSB] indicated that the boy was not only with the gathering of people at that particular moment, but was there the entire time and intended to stay to the end. “This kid wasn’t going anywhere!” Caner said. “He may have been anonymous, but his proximity to Jesus was definite. He was right ‘here.'”

Caner said since the people gathered around Jesus were there for the day it seems reasonable that many would have brought food with them. The boy, however, made himself available for ministry. “He was willing to give Jesus what he had. That’s why he was important.”

Like the boy, ministry multipliers may labor in obscurity at times, but Caner told them never to underestimate their importance in the work of the churches. Most of them will never get a lot of fame, preach at a large pastors’ conference or write a book, he said, but they are giving what they have to Jesus to multiply and feed thousands.

The 114 ministry multipliers attending the training session reflect this same attitude, said Tom McMinn, a LifeWay leadership trainer. “These people are the best of the best in their areas of church expertise. We are so thankful for their willingness to go out and lead conferences and train thousands of other people in doing the work of the churches.

“We want to have a one-to-one relationship with our churches, so we can help with resources or training to meet their ministry needs. We also want to help churches grow, and these ministry multipliers give people tools to build successful programs and strategies. We appreciate their work.”

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  • Polly House