Yesterday at Bible study, our small group was joined by a visitor I hadn't met before. At the end of our hour-long conversation, he asked me if I worked at the church. I told him no, and he said, "Wow! You can really testify!" He asked me if I was a minister or if I had ever thought about becoming one. I told him that perhaps I would be a sort of non-traditional minister. In a way, I already am.
Some of the people who have visited our Bible study have been a little intimidated by all the retired pastors in the group talking about old seminary classes or quoting Martin Luther. "I'm not a theologian," some of them have said. "I don't know if I can really add anything to the discussion." We would assure all of them that anyone can contribute something to a Bible study discussion, no matter how much (or how little) education or theological training they've had.
The truth is, anyone who approaches Scripture with respect and humility is qualified to interpret and discuss it with the help of the Holy Spirit. None of us, no matter how educated we are, are smart enough to uncover all of the wisdom God has hidden in His Word on our own, anyway. It's the Spirit who guides us to make sense of it all. Sure, any academic can tell you that secondary texts can be very helpful, but the most important thing is the primary text—in this case the Bible—and we all have access to that. Theological theories and writings can add depth to the discussion, or they can distract from key areas. The only absolutely necessary components to a fruitful Christian understanding of Scripture are the Word itself and the Holy Spirit. Lucky for us, the Holy Spirit isn't just reserved for the leaders and learned.
Just because you aren't a professional priest, pastor, or preacher does not mean you aren't a minister. Through the power of the Spirit, any one of us can minister to anyone else. When I inspired that man in Bible study with my insights and testimony, I was ministering to him, just the same as if I really had been an employee of the church as he initially assumed. When you take the words of Scripture to heart and live them out in service to others, you are ministering to them. When you share God's love or encourage someone's faith, you are a minister.
You are qualified to make a difference in the lives of others—not only that, but you're expected to. We can't just designate ministering to the paid pastoral professionals. We all have a role to play in the body of Christ—otherwise we'd just be dead weight. Each one of us has special God-given talents, and each one of us has access to the Spirit who will show us how to use them if we pay attention.