Pastor's Desk

A Call to a Ministry Lifestyle

Every person in the church perceives personal ministry through a lens. The lens might be experience or observation, but we all have certain ideas of what ministry is. I recently addressed the various ways people understand ministry in an article you can access here. Commonly, many people think ministry boils down to a program, or the job of the clergy, or exclusive for the truly dedicated Christians in the church, or if involved, then only as a seasonal commitment. These common perceptions provide either an anemic picture of ministry or a completely false image. These misunderstandings contribute to the 90/10 struggle that churches face. What I mean by the 90/10 struggle is that 90% of the work gets accomplished by 10% of the people. Too many churches float through ministry never having resolved this problem.

A Perception Change
I believe that many professing Christians must fundamentally change their perception of ministry. Rather than pour on biblical proof after biblical proof supporting the fact that we all are called to ministry, I want you to look at ministry differently. Consider the following two thoughts:

Ministry is Service to Others
The word commonly translated as ministry in the New Testament comes from the Greek word diakonia. Forms of this word are translated as deacon, minister, and service. At its core the word refers to one who serves tables or serves others. To minister is to serve regardless of the venue. No program or official ministry of the church guarantees ministry, because ministry in its most basic form is serving others. This reality creates a rub for most of us. Naturally, we seek our own good and to minister to ourselves, whether that be our timetable, our schedule, or our preferences. To truly minister requires that we die to ourselves and serve others.

The Great Minister
The greatest example of service and putting the priority of others before self in ministry is Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7). Jesus embodied the essence of ministry. His incarnation proves it. His lifestyle confirmed it. Day after day he ministered to others at times that were convenient and inconvenient. Consider his greatest display of service: washing the disciples feet in John 13. Even though we would probably fail to serve at such a stressful time, Jesus did not fail because he lived ministry as a lifestyle.

True ministry is not a program or an action - it is a lifestyle. It is a mindset. For the church to shine brightly as lights in this fallen world and to function properly as a healthy body in Christ, its members must be dedicated to a lifestyle of ministry.

3 Examples of What Changes
Many changes come with this ministry mindset alteration. Consider the first three that popped into my head.

Proactive, Not Reactive
When ministry is a lifestyle, the opportunity to minister is proactively sought out. Typically, Christians wait for the church to either provide opportunities or seek assistance in ministry. But when ministry becomes a lifestyle, a person is dissatisfied if they are not ministering. They seek out ministry opportunities from the church leadership or observe the landscape for opportunities to serve. People with the ministry lifestyle seek to help the hurting, notice those who have distanced themselves, and pursue areas that the church ministry needs support.

Structure Life around Serving, not the Other Way Around
Most tack on ministry to the minutes left over from their chaotic schedules. Our hours are filled with - work, family, hobbies and activities. If anytime remains, it may be spent ministering. But a person with a ministry lifestyle structures all their activity as an opportunity to minister. Work, school, family, and hobbies are transformed into venues to serve others. Rather than service being given the scrap time of the week, all the week is shaped around ministry and the opportunity to serve.

Seek to Minister rather than Be Ministered To
Unfortunately, the pews of many churches seat multiple black holes - people who choose to not minister but suck all the ministry energy of the church. They come only to be ministered to never considering how to serve others. This flies in the face of the principle laid out in Ephesians 2:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 12. Every person is vital to the health of the body. If each member developed a ministry lifestyle, the body would be ministered to effectively and with great energy.

Do you have a ministry lifestyle?

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