Since we’re talking about church life and our definitions of that life we might as well talk about our definitions of ministry. Think about it for a minute. What comes into your mind when you say the word ministry? Please feel free to post your comments because I’d love to hear what comes into other people’s minds.
I’ll start by admitting that when I hear the word ministry I immediately think of special leaders, and special tasks. Here’s what I mean. When I think of ministry I think of specially ordained people who have these amazing skills and spiritual gifts that most people don’t have, who go to special schools to be trained to be even more amazing for God, and who are these impressive leaders who help God’s people do things for the kingdom of God they would never do on their own without a great leader prompting them. When I think of ministry I also think of specialized tasks. I think that what I do at my house or job isn’t ministry, but anything that I do in a church building is ministry. So I carry around this idea that ministry is limited to these very specific activities that are overtly focused on God, and everything else I do and say isn’t ministry. Just being honest. That’s what I think.
The problem is the bible doesn’t look at ministry in that way at all. The bible doesn’t view ministry as something only “spiritually elite” people participate in. 2 Cor. 5:17 -18 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, ministry is for anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ. It isn’t just for special leaders and spiritual elites. The bible also doesn’t view ministry as a limited set of activities, but about how we live the whole of our entire life. In the Great Commission Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” His word choice is significant. The word “Go” doesn’t mean “go out of your way” – which would mean the commission of our ministry is to go out of our way doing a special set of spiritual activities. The word in the Greek language literally means “as you go.” In other words, Jesus calls every believer into a new ministry where we’re living out and talking out the great message of salvation God’s given to us in every life experience. That means ministry is a 24/7 way of life where I “make disciples” in what seems to be the mundane (with my wife and kids as I do the chores around my house with joy rather than a bad attitude), in what seems to be the profound (how I “make disciples” when I stand up and preach), and in every part of my day that lands somewhere between the mundane and the profound.
I like what pastor Mark Batterson observes in Shaun Lovejoy’s new book The Measure of our Success. Mark writes specifically to pastors when he asks, “Are you doing ministry out of the overflow of what God is doing in your own heart? If you are, ministry is pure joy. If you aren’t, ministry will eat you alive.” In the end I think ministry = The life we live out of the overflow of what God’s doing in us? The less we’re connected, and the less we let God have full sway in our lives is the degree to which ministry just doesn’t happen. But the more we’re connected, and the more we let God have full sway in our lives is the degree to which the ministry of the Gospel is continually bubbling up and out of us. What do you think? Add your insights to this discussion.