Misconceptions About The Definition of Ministry
One of the most common misconceptions by many people regarding the definition of Christian ministry today is that the word ministry has been defined to mean either a church, a particular department within a local church or a Christian organization.
The other misconception pertaining to the definition of ministry is that anyone who works full-time for a church or Christian institution such as a pastor or missionary is perceived to be “doing ministry” whilst anyone who is not full-time is not perceived to be a minister nor to be “in ministry”.
The Correct Definition & Concept of Ministry
Biblically, the word ministry is translated diakonia in Greek which means “service” or “to serve”.
Therefore ministry is an act of service to spread the gospel of Christ, and to serve and edify others to the glory of God.
This act of service to God is not limited to a selected few such as a pastor or to someone who is paid a salary by a Christian organization. Instead ministry can be done by any born again believer who seeks to serve God and glorify His name in any capacity. In other words, every Christian is a minister of God because every Christian has been given a gift/gifts by the Holy Spirit to give one the capacity to serve the Lord.
Romans 12:6-8 says: Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Therefore one’s ministry does not have to be limited to preaching, singing in the choir or ushering in a church. Rather ministry or service to God can be extended through helping the poor, sharing the gospel to a friend or strangers or even using social media or the Internet as a platform to spread the word of God. Methods of ministry or service to the Lord not only include public speaking / preaching, but God uses artists, filmmakers, Christian writers, sculptors and people with many different skills and talents for the benefit of His kingdom and to the glory of His name (Exodus 31:3-6).
One’s ministry does not have to be limited to a central location such as one’s church, but one’s ministry can be extended into the workplace, at home, on the Internet or any venue and in any circumstance where God can be glorified. Christians have been commissioned by Christ to minister to the entire world (Matthew 28:19-20), and the Bible says that whatever we do must be an act of service to the Lord.
Colossians 3:17 says: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. [Emphasis Added]
Colossians 3:23-24 says: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. [Emphasis Added]
The Bible acknowledges that every born again believer has been given a gift by the Holy Spirit to minister or to serve for the edification of others and for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Even though every Christian is a minister of God, the Bible also tells us that we do not all have the same gifts or the same functions. Though Christians are one body in Christ, we have different functions and therefore we serve differently. Therefore not all can pastor, not all can sing, not all have the gift of generosity.
The Bible also tells us that there is no gift that is better than another gift and neither is any member of the body of Christ better or more important than another member, but all people are equal before God.
Romans 12:3-6 says: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…
1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says: For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
What Can We Learn From How Jesus Christ Ministered?
Since ministry means “to serve”, we can take the example of Jesus who took the form of a servant and He said Himself that He came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45).
Jesus Christ served or ministered to others with humility and even though He was the Son of God, He became a servant of God and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).
Jesus also taught His disciples that whoever desires to lead must be a servant. Therefore Jesus Christ’s perception of leadership and ministry was different from that of the world.
In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus says: It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,
The ministry of Jesus Christ and also the ministry of the apostles and the early church, was not an organizational institution – but their ministry was a lifestyle of servanthood to God; their ministry was day-to-day; their ministry extended to every situation and circumstance in their everyday life.
Jesus did not only minister in a synagogue, but He ministered in homes, at a well, on a mountain, on a road or in a conversation. Many times Christ used the least expected methods to minister. Even in the midst of persecution, Christ’s every word and action was a life of ministry or service to God – even unto His death on the cross when He said “It is finished” (John 19:28-30).
Even whilst in jail in the midst of persecution and awaiting execution, people like Paul still ministered to others and he was used by God to write part of the New Testament Bible whilst he was in prison. Paul continued to share God’s word as he called himself “an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:20). Therefore despite Paul’s location and despite his circumstances, Paul was used by God to fulfill one of his most important ministry or service to the Lord which was to write part of the New Testament scriptures that we read today.
As was the case with many Christians in the early church, Christian ministry extended beyond the 4 walls of a building. Instead for the Christian, ministry must be a lifestyle or a way of living.
Conclusion / Summary
Therefore, every born again believer is a minister of the Lord. Every born again Christian has been given gift(s) or talents by the Holy Spirit to equip him/her to minister and edify others to the glory of God.
As we faithfully and genuinely minister or serve, we must do it in humility, not thinking that we are better than others. No function, talent or gift in the body of Christ is better than another instead we are equal before God.
Our ministry or service is not unto men or to gain recognition from men, but our ministry it is unto the Lord and for the glory of the Lord alone.
Our service or ministry as believers is not limited to a specific venue or location and neither is ministry limited to a selected few. Your life or lifestyle is a ministry because one’s life can be an epistle / letter that someone reads so that Christ is glorified (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
Therefore in every place in the world and in whatever circumstance, we have an opportunity as born again believers to minister to others for the glory of God.