Ministry & Mission

You know, it was recently suggested that the terms “ministry” and “mission” meant very specific things, and should be regarded in separate and specific ways. Ministry was deemed to be focused on service to believers, while mission was focused on service to those outside the church (e.g. “the mission field”).

And, while I may concede to this concept at its surface, based on the context of the original argument, I cannot accept this clear-cut definition in real-world application.

A cursory examination of the use of the term minister reveals, beyond the instance of an official designated as “a person authorized to conduct religious worship; member of the clergy; pastor”, a minister is anyone “acting as the agent or instrument of another.”

This seems much more applicable to Christians, who have been commanded with the necessary authority to “make disciples of all nations.”  Matthew 28:18-20 Performing our responsibilities as disciples of Christ, we minister to everyone, to those both inside and outside the church of God.

It is in this sense that we frequently reference ministry as being wherever we’re at, and whatever we’re doing.  How we share our faith and live our lives at home is our ministry.  How we do so at work is our ministry.  How we do so with our neighbors and friends is our ministry.  At school, at the coffee shop—wherever—everywhere we go and in everything we do, we should be ministering (providing service, care, etc.) to others.

In the context of inside the church, we recognize that we have varying ministries as well, which do focus almost entirely on membership groups within the congregation.  And yet, those very groups are constantly bringing non-believing friends into the fold in hopes of introducing them to Christ.

And the man standing in the pulpit, minister with a capital M, provides messages that fall on the ears of believers and non-believers alike.  Hopeful that their ministry impacts those outside the fold so that they may soon become part of the family.

I’ve seen signs posted at the exits of church parking lots that say, “Now entering the mission field,” which is sad when you consider the number of visitors—and oftentimes regular churchgoers—who do not know Christ personally.

Mission certainly has a more specific connotation relating to the sharing of the gospel message and leading others to Christ.  And yet, a mission trip may not involve any direct preaching, as is associated with the missions of the first century church.  It often does, of course, but not always.  And in many cases, a group may go on a mission to serve the local homeless, or build a house in Mexico, or whatever; and yet perform these tasks with the sole purpose of sharing their hearts with others who need their help and compassion, and the love of Christ, expressed in action — and not with words.

And so, while our mission may be that of “making disciples” of all nations, I believe we accomplish this mission by performing and upholding the various ministries God places in our care.

The point is, we don’t need to go very far to minister to others, and God has placed us right in the middle of the mission field.  It is here that he has called us to do His greatest work.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:1-3

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