Today I begin my little series on ministry. It’s an ecclectic assortment of posts on the topic. Today I’m beginning with the foundational issue:
What is ministry?
This question is far more difficult to answer than I would have thought. There are a hundred different directions one could run in at once. Who does ministry? Where is it done? Whom is it done to? What makes something “ministry”? Must it be sanctioned by a church?
I will begin by formally declaring that I am at a loss. Being someone who actually wanted to get into “the ministry” at one point, I clearly have never figured out what exactly it is. Of course a lack of complete knowledge will not keep me from taking a stab at it.
Perhaps on the most basic level, ministry is the work of the Lord. It means that we are living as Christ’s ambassadors, his body if you will. This creates a rather broad expanse of possibilities for ministry. In a sense, the question could be, “Are you doing what God wants you to do, where he wants you doing it?” If the answer is yes, then this is your ministry.
Ministry may involve encouraging Christians just as much as it includes missionary activity. Those who are followers of Christ need to hear the Gospel and to live the Gospel just as much as those who are not followers. The key is moving yourself and others toward God.
And that is my over-simplified definition of ministry. It may end up looking very dull and unspectacular, and at other times it will be exciting and nerve-racking. For example, when we moved to Vermont, God arranged to have my in-laws live with us for a few months while they were in-between homes. It was a hard time for them, but it was an incredible blessing for us. My wife was beginning her first year as a special education teacher, working 13 hour days and going in on the weekends. We needed the support. After Julie settled in to her job and my in-laws moved out, I realized that God had truly brought them to our house so that they could minister to us. Let me tell ya, that is not glamorous work. Though it was hopefully a little more laid back for them after 5 years of prison ministry!
While I’m not satisfied with my answer for the ministry question, I think I’ve said enough. Adding more would mean venturing into thoughts and concepts that I would rather not explore. As it is, I like a broad definition of ministry. It leaves the rest of the defining up to God.