When is comes to serving the Lord in ministry, this is a concept that many have got wrong. Many are asked, “Are you serving in the church?” or “Do you have a ministry?” Usually, the person asking this question is looking for an answer like, “sure, I’m in the music team” or “yeah, I’m an usher”. Granted, these are valuable and important ministry opportunities in the church, however ministry extends much further than these public roles.
It is true, that if you are a Christian you ought to be serving in ministry. However, that ministry does not have to be a public role or one listed in the church bulletin. You don’t need to go Bible College or seminary and you don’t even need a title. All you need to do is serve. Someone may ask, “What is my ministry?” Well, if you are doing what the Lord has commanded you to do, you are in the ministry. It might not be a formal ministry task or the function of a church officer, but it is still ministry. You may be a mother, and you love and nurture your children – that is one of your ministries. You may be committed to praying for the members of your church – that is one of your ministries. The point I want to make is that if you are doing what the Lord requires you to do, then you are serving in ministry. Your actions will glorify God and be a benefit to the church. Certainly, in addition to the normal day-in-day-out duties you do, you may commit to more formal ministry needing to be done in the local church. But don’t think that serving in ministry is limited to positions with titles or public recognition.
By being a godly husband, mother, child, worker etc. you are serving the Lord and contributing to the ministry. By being the person God wants you to be in your particular situation means you will be faithful in your formal or public tasks of service. We need to faithfully serve the Lord in all of our ministry opportunities and never look at them as insignificant.
When it comes to serving the Lord, this is to be our attitude and action: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).
There is much about the above with which most Christians would agree. But there are some ambiguities and uncertainties that confront many. Answers to a couple of questions that might bring greater clarity to those areas …
1: The comments above are couched about within a context that says “if you are doing what the Lord requires you to do”. Can you explain what exactly it is that the Lord requires us to do? How do believers find out what that thing, or those things, looks like?
2: We use this word ministry, which until a couple of decades ago meant primarily a full time called of God minister/pastor in a Church, along with those involved in full time ministry on the mission fields and etc. How and why did the shift in meaning from these things towards ‘every person is in ministry’ occur? What does this mean to individual believers today?
Andrew Courtis (Author)
Hi Dave, I really appreciate your comment. The main point being made in this post is that serving in the church is not limited to public/upfront roles, but serving also occurs in the private/behind the scene roles. Here are my answers to your two questions:
1: When I said “if you are doing what the Lord requires you to do”, I am referring to God’s revealed will as found in Scripture. For example, a husband and father is command to love his wife and lead his family. By doing this he is in ministry in the sense that he is serving the Lord which will bring benefits to the church. Another example is that we are all commanded to pray. By committing ourselves to God’s will in this area we are serving/ministering to the church. Such actions don’t require a roster but need to occur on an ongoing basis.
2. The use of words like “ministry” and “minister” have undergone various changes of meaning (your example is a great one). The primary Biblical word behind these words (diakonos) refers to serving in menial tasks. It carries various meanings in the NT and at times is used to refer to an official position (a leader, deacon, or even apostle). However, many make the notion of ministry as an act that is a formal position. These positions are necessary and must not be played down, but ministry can and does occur outside of such functions.
I am using the words “minister” and “ministry” to refer to the act of willing service to our Master for the good of fellow believers. Such ministry is not limited to formal positions in the church, but take place when any believer willingly submits to what the Lord requires of them in His word (1 Pet. 4:10).
I believe in the function of official ministry positions, but ministry is not limited to them.
Thanks very much for those clarifications and explanations etc. One more idea that I am hoping is worthy of your further comment …
The God of the Christian Bible commands every believer to ‘be holy as He is holy’. Apart from the initial command to repent and believe, the notion of being holy is an all encompassing and all pervasive requirement. It extends to every area of Christian life. The command might be well summarised as obedience to the 10, and as they are subsumed into the whole of life command in those 2 memorable statements of our Lord and Saviour in Matt 22:37-40. To be holy as He is holy is His fundamental requirement of His people.
That said, we cannot possibly be holy and perfect due to corruption, so we must first rely on Christ having perfectly fulfilled all the law and prophets on our behalf, and our response then flows from that deep sense of identification (adoption, God as Father) with the God of the universe, and from a growing passion to be more like Christ.
If then our entire life should be enacted under those pre-suppositions, wouldn’t that make our entire life one of service and ministry?
If that is correct then:
What is the purpose in promoting doing or being in ‘ministry’ as opposed to ‘be holy as He is holy’?
Why not simply call it the way it is … you have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God … He has given you an inheritance beyond measure, a hope that cannot be stifled, and the Comforter is with us each and every day to enable ongoing preparation for glory. Therefore, because of what Christ has done for you, be continually transformed into the character of Christ, pursue holiness in all of life.
I look forward to your feedback 🙂
Andrew Courtis (Author)
Hi Dave. Thank you again for your well thought out comment. I totally agree that the Christian’s life is to be viewed as one of service and ministry (I like the way you put it). Paul in his letter to the saints in Rome said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). In commenting on that text, in an earlier post (components of necessary worship) I noted that such service consists of presenting our bodies “as a living sacrifice”. It is the duty of God’s people to devote their whole being to “spiritual worship”. How is this done? It is done when we offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”. This occurs when we are obedient to God’s word (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).
Coming to your question, “What is the purpose in promoting doing or being in ‘ministry’ as opposed to ‘be holy as He is holy’?” Here is what I would say:
It depends on what the person is trying to convey. If a person says their serving the Lord with an understanding of Romans 12:1, that is fine as it equates with the pursuit of holiness. However, if they are “promoting” their service they could be in danger of what R. C. Sproul calls “activism” (He defines it as “a person is active in the sense of relying exclusively on his own efforts” – Truths we Confess, Vol. 2 p. 185).
My concluding remark is this, Christians (justified, forgiven, redeemed etc.), are to walk in good works. These works in no way contribute to their salvation, but are “done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that having their fruit unto holiness they may have the end eternal life” (LBC 16:2 cf. WCF 16:2). For this reason, the Christian’s duty and delight is to serve.
Dave, next time we catch up, this would be fun to discuss further!
Thank you for that … there are more good points in your reply. That said, I am not sure we have articulated a full answer to the area of interest. As you say, it might be a good topic for conversation next time we meet.