Ministry is a funky word.
I used to associate ministry with excessively strict people, clerical collars, and all those activities and events the “church people” wanted my money for. I used to think “ministry” was one of those words reserved for the Christians who “had everything figured out.” Newsflash: I have been looking everywhere, on several continents, and I have yet to find any of the aforementioned persons. However, I have found a lot of people who understand ministry.
There is a unique quality about the people (individuals, couples, families, churches, etc.) I have met who do ministry well; they live it. They have a clear understanding of one word, a word I love: worship.
Ministry is the outwardly visible product of our true worship of God. Our ministry is our unavoidable, point-others-to-the-only-source-of-complete-joy, Christ-adoring lifestyle. “Ministry” is us living daily, abundant life (John 10:10), made possible by, and in response to, the great love shown to us at the cross. Our faithful action comprises our ministry.
When we see our lives as our worship (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 10:31), and when we acknowledge that the Lord knows our thoughts and intentions (1 Samuel 16:7), and that He has set a path before us (Proverbs 3:5-8), our lives look different. As Jesus gave us two commands to live out, the prioritization of the commands was key. Keeping the first leads to the second; the second command is an overflow from the first.
It is impossible to love the Lord your God with your everything (Matthew 22:37), and not minister to the people around you (Matthew 22:39).
While someone is certainly able to love their neighbor as themselves without loving the Lord, the inverse is not an option. If you truly love the Lord, and give Him your all, others will know. They will hear about His love (Romans 10:17). They will see His love at work in you (2 Corinthians 5:17). They will personally experience the love of God through you, His choice avenue (2 Corinthians 5:20). It is important that we note the wording of the second greatest command: love. Love your neighbor. Love your neighbor how much? As you love yourself.
Ministry is done in love. And our love for our neighbor comes under, and out of, our love for God and His Word. Love your neighbor as Christ loves your neighbor, as Christ loves you.
Our ministry is what takes place throughout our lives as our desires are molded, mended, and often times completely altered by the desires we learn God has for us. Our ministry is what happens as our minds are made new by the will of God (Romans 12:2). His desires become our desires. In our relationship with God, as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, the difference in us will be evident and irrefutable in the eyes of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). As we rely on God in our decision making, our work life, our relationships, and our families, others will know Him. As our faith is tested and we remain steadfast, others will know Him (James 1:2-3). As we walk in the full confidence of His promise to direct our paths (Psalm 37:23) and provide footholds as we walk in His will, others will know Him. As we delight in God’s purposes for us, commit our ways to Him, and wait expectantly for Him to act, others will know Him (Psalm 37:4-5).
As my eyes opened to the beauty of true worship, my perception of ministry was changed. I started to see that God is the Minister, but He will use any of us who are willing as the vessel. He has entrusted His ministry to His people. He gave us Jesus, the Minister of Reconciliation. We received Him, and now, by the grace of God, we are privileged to live as bearers of the Good News. We are His ambassadors. I started to see that the thing I was calling “my” ministry, or “our” ministry, is in fact God’s ministry, Jesus Christ, at work in and through you and I. These were important things for me to learn (2 Corinthians 5:15 – 2 Corinthians 6:13).
Sometimes I really like Merriam-Webster for the very detailed definitions and explanations. This one was simple, and I like it for that reason. Ministry: a person or thing through which something is accomplished. Jesus was the ultimate Minister, and His ministry was made complete, our reconciliation, at the cross. He accomplished what none of us could accomplish. Now we have been made to follow in His Way, ministering to all as His ambassadors. I no longer think of excessive strictness; Christ has set me free. Clerical collars no longer come to mind. Last week we ministered in the local neighborhood in work clothes and in the rehabilitation center in gym shorts and basketball shoes. Today we ministered while working physically to improve the camp I am staying at, and also while talking to a guy named Gil in the aisle at Home Depot for a half hour. No one has to pick my pockets anymore. I want my money, and all my resources, to be put to Kingdom use.
A life of worship is a life of ministry. You don’t need a specific title. Go. Don’t wait for a call when you have been given a command. Share what has been made known to you. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take in the homeless. Father the fatherless. Care for the widow. Provide for your family. Meet needs when you see them. Bear one another’s burdens. Fulfill the law of Christ. Ministry is the convergence of following the Lord’s commands in love.