What is Ministry?
Ministry: a word synonymous with Christian living, serving others, charity, and work. The bible offers both implicit and explicit meaning to the term while also providing an abundance of practical application for the church. The testimony of the church in regard to Christian ‘ministry’ is clear, consistent, and convincing since its earliest days. The language utilized in 1st and 2nd Timothy for "ministry" derives from the Greek word diakoneo. Diakoneo simply means "to serve". This idea of serving is intrinsic and relatively a basic precept to the Christian life; in our newness of life we serve, help, assist, support, and bear each other’s burdens through giving, praying, and loving one another.
The other word associated with ministry, douleuo, means "to serve as a slave." Obviously, there is much that can be said about this term. This implies a humble, simple existence that is completely and utterly yielded to serve and honor others; a complete sacrifice of self (Romans 12:1-2). The New Testament offers a beautiful portrait of gospel ministry; gospel ministry is service to our God for His glory and for the eternal benefit of others. When we serve in His name with the entirety of scripture and the truth contained in it, we can boldly say we are doing true gospel ministry. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, committed himself to model the work of gospel ministry and of course, he did it perfectly. The components of gospel ministry are NOT ambiguous or vague in any way, to the contrary, they are detailed, explicit, and abundantly clear about what it is and what it looks like.
The gospel of Mark is probably my favorite gospel if made to choose because it is a fast-paced narrative filled with action and in it we see a relentless Christ committed to preaching, teaching, serving others, and performing miraculous works while worshipping and training His disciples. It really is staggering to see Him moving and ministering to thousands of people without complaint or any grumbling. What an example for you and I. Christ provides us with the perfect blueprint for authentic Christian ministry (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17). We should read about it and obsess over it. You see, for the born-again Christian, the ministry is learned and skillfully applied while worshipping God and serving others in the local church and outside of the local church to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:16-20). It is in Christ where we find those answers. If your church is deficient in proclaiming the gospel to the lost and reaching out to the community, then hopefully it is a simple matter of oversight or negligence and not deliberate. It is sinful to be idle, stale, and worse: lukewarm. Serving others is not optional in the kingdom of God. It is not a matter if you serve but where you serve. Mind you all of it is for your highest joy and satisfaction. Giving is better than receiving. Serving is better than sitting. The God of scripture is active in giving, loving, and serving His church.
Are there areas in the church where we can see ministry happening so we can learn, and model after it? Well yes of course. There are offices within the context of the local church in which we can experience ministry and participate in it. Pastors, deacons, teachers, evangelists, givers, hospitality providers, missionaries, etc. all serve in an array of ministries that proclaim the Kingdom of God for His glory that assist people here and now. If you are intimidated on how to serve, it is fine. The Apostle Paul actually affirms the Corinthian church (as rough as they were) in chapter 11 of his first letter, for standing firm in the traditions passed on by him. We can see and read of thousands of Christians who have faithfully served and copied their approach as they responded to the call from Scripture. Discipleship is key as well. I was taught by a few men how to approach ministry and what to guard against. This approach is ideal.
Ministry takes discernment as well. True Christian ministry is through the divine appointment and the gifting of the Holy Spirit. So you must identify what God has done in you in order to know what needs to come out of you for others. And remember, you need God himself, through prayer, to assist you with any and all types of ministry. In short, talent, intellect, and ability is not a prerequisite for authentic Christian ministry. There are a lot of brilliant theologians and pastors with failed ministries. Perhaps, if you were applying for a new vocation or a job that outlined particular specifications then these things would matter tremendously. But divine appointment by God, giftedness from the Spirit, and humility seem to be what God has outlined for His servants. Holiness and Godliness matter to God and a soul who is teachable, loving, kind, and willing.
Can God use intelligence? Sure. Talent? Sure. How about ability? Sure. But that doesn’t qualify you for ministry. Men do not call men into ministry: God calls men into the ministry. Now, seminary helps of course…proper supplemental reading and good Christian books also. Mentorship plays a significant role for sure. But remember God calls men and women to the ministry, appoints them where he wants them, and then he gifts and fits them to do the work they are called into. This is why someone can be a disaster academically but yet be a complete success in Christ spiritually. The church doesn’t need smart men, it needs called men.
In researching for this article, I came across this quote from one Pastor where he offers,
“No seminary degree or library of books prepares me for this ministry lifestyle. That means that you and I must cry out for the mercy and strength of God, who alone can forgive us when we fall short and enable to us to clothe ourselves for ministry. To be effective in ministry, you must take on the character of Christ. Incarnate Christ in your life in the same way that he incarnated the Father on earth. Bring the glory of Christ with you as you minister.”
Ministry requires mercy in your life and Christlikeness. Beloved, we are wretched and sinful and even in our salvation, we are in the process of growing spiritually (sanctification). The old has gone and the new has come. You have a new (but sometimes immature) life in Christ that requires the Father’s love & discipline, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the tender care of our Savior. So ministry is solely dependent on God and His grace. It is NOT dependent on funding, though practically money can absolutely help. It does NOT depend on seminary, though schooling is very useful, and it is NOT dependent on partner affiliations, certifications, social media presence, or political associations. It does not require a college degree in management either; this truth of ministry leads us to understand that it is a divine transaction of joy & fear in the Lord, humble submission to His will and His love and guidance lavishly poured out on us, as we live out our faith. Gratitude and peace from God pour over into our work with others.
Recall Colossians where Paul says,
2 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Beloved fulfill your call. Do the work. Trust in God to provide all things.
Daniel Barea serves as a lay preacher/teacher in Vicenza, Italy where he currently resides. He has contributed dozens of sermons, Sunday school lessons, articles and commentaries throughout the years via multiple online forums and multiple churches. He is a graduate of Wayland Baptist University, a confessing reformed Baptist, father of five, and husband to Mrs. Esther Caroline Barea. He is also a contributor to the PMc blog.