What is your ministry? That may be a more difficult question to answer than it seems, but you wouldn’t be the only one who struggles with it. Typically, we will scramble to think of all the church programs we’ve been involved in: I sing on the worship team, I help in our nursery, I’ve helped with the offering or greeters ministry, I teach a Sunday school class or lead a small group. I assemble the church bulletins each week…most weeks. After we try to list whatever church program we’ve done time in, we start to feel guilty that we haven’t been more involved, or we begin to wonder what place of service God might have for us. We will daydream about being called out of our everyday hum-drum and into the mission field or some kind of vocational ministry. We will take all kinds of spiritual gifts assessments in order to figure out what ministries we should serve in…and more often, which ones we can avoid. The fact is, “ministry” has become a bit of a misnomer in the church–it’s one of those words that has a loose association with church tradition, but has really seemed to lost its true meaning.
Our first misstep is that we presume that ministry has to be vocational. Some people are called to vocational ministry. The Bible identifies these roles as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd/teachers whose calling is to “equip the saints for the work of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12). These people are called to spend their time and energy building up the church and making her ready to fulfill the purpose of God for the glory of God. These, however, are not the only ministries. Ministry does not have to mean that we are employed by the church, or even devoted to a specific church program like small group leader or Sunday school director. “Ministry” simply means “service, “care,” or “helps” and more often refers to common, everyday acts of kindness…which leads us to our second misconception.
When we hear the word ministry we most often think of “spiritual things” like preaching, evangelism, or some kind of work that’s tied to the programs and functions of the local church. This idea is far too narrow a view. Certainly those things are ministry, but service to God and in God’s name can be so much more than that. Only the people in the building will hear the words of a sermon, but thousands more than that–people who would never set foot in a church building–will encounter the ministry of your everyday life. Romans 12 reminds us that what we do in our bodies (work, hobbies, habits) is a “spiritual act of worship” and that things like generosity, mercy, and administration are manifestations of God’s Spirit. Acts 17:26-28 tells us that God has determined the very times and places where we would live, and that he did so in order that people would seek God. In other words, you are right here right now so that through you God will call sinners to repentance. The implications of this are powerful! It means that your job, whatever it is, is ministry; your run to the grocery store is ministry; your day at school is ministry; the time you spend with your friends is ministry.
The skills, talents, and abilities you possess are given to you by God. He has equipped you to be where you are, right now, in order to bear witness to his glory. In Exodus 31 God tells Moses that he has filled certain men with the skill to craft in silver, gold, and precious stones; he had filled other men as masons and wood workers. Their whole lives have been spent doing everyday work, and demonstrating the goodness of God and proving their heart for God. It was at this moment in Exodus that they are called to build the tabernacle and all its various components. What seemed to be simple skills of trade turned out to be exactly what God uses for his glory. Likewise, in Daniel 1 we are told that Daniel and his three friends were filled with an aptitude for academics, language, and politics. Daniel and his friends didn’t have the book of Daniel to read, but they found out as day by day they worked in some very nonspiritual things and discovered how God had gifted them and was working through them. For the rest of their lives they were marked as men who had favor with Almighty God and were even used in the conversion of their “boss,” king Nebuchadnezzar. Who’d have thought that being a politician could be used so greatly by God?
Don’t live under the assumption that ministry requires a title, a program, or a line item in the annual budget. Ministry requires you, in step with God. It can happen at any moment. As in Matthew 25 it can consist of subtle things, barely noticeable, like feeding a hungry person or simply visiting the sick. Colossians 3:22-24 gives us the best counsel in regard to ministry. Do not consider your work to be done to please men, but work as though working for God. In whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. You never know what service, care, or help God may use to change someone’s life forever.
What is your ministry? Maybe it’s customer service. It might be academics. Maybe you’re a manager, or maybe you’re looking for work…and a home. You ministry might be to bring the lady on the corner with the sign lunch, or to sit and listen to a troubled co-worker. You may sing on the worship team…but what is your ministry? Or maybe the better question is, Who are you in Christ, and where does he have you right now?