So this question has plagued me for a long time. Being Seminary educated I was lulled into believing that ministry is a full time, paid position in a church. Even though we read resources that talked much ideas that were very contrary, I had been put into a kind of dream idea about what ministry is.
I don’t have a witty or academic definition for what ministry, but let me tell you a few ideas about what ministry actually is now that I have been in the ministry full time for almost a year. Here is the most basic idea of ministry it is something that is done for God or for the church, hopefully with other members of the body of Christ.
Luther had an idea about ministry also, it was the Priesthood of All Believers, where all members of the body are to be in ministry in some way. This obviously doesn’t mean full time paid ministry, it might mean being a part of a ministry group, writing cards to visitors, or helping restock the pews on a random Thursday. There are lots of types of ministries, some of which do not take place within the four walls of the church (GASP…)
Ministry can take place anywhere and at any time, it doesn’t have to be planned, it does not even have to be organized or recognized by the church. Talking to the person on the street, listening to your friends problems, or doing random acts of kindness are all ministry. There are no formal committees, no boards to report to, and no budgets to worry about.
In short our lives are to be much more about how we live and love the people around us. We are in ministry when we truly strive to live like Jesus lived, when we try to love our neighbors as ourselves. The time I take to talk with and pay attention to the lonely older widower who lives on my street, that is ministry.
When I give the quick gift of a smile to someone around me who may feel like the world is crashing down around them, I am in ministry. There is no one way or style of ministry, there is certainly no set place that ministry has to happen. The thing we have to remember when we try to outsource our ministry to those paid people in the church, is that ministry is not just theirs, it’s all the people of the church. How can we live into ministry in a greater way in the coming days? How can I (and you) truly see our entire lives as a ministry when we give it over to God, and tell Him “do with it what You will?”