I’d love to be involved in a ministry. My life is just so crazy right now.
Or perhaps you think you don’t have the skills/gifts or you haven’t found the right place to serve.
However, if you are a Christian, the reality is that you are probably already engaged in ministry! It may just be that you aren’t aware of it.
This kind of thinking is driven by what I call the Top Four Ministry Myths.
Myths typically develop from stories that are told generation after generation until they’re believed, no matter how contrary to reality they might be. Sadly, generations of Christians have believed myths about ministry. These myths, however, directly contradict what the New Testament (NT) authors wrote about ministry.
Which of these ministry myths do you believe? And after shaking off these myths, what ministries do you find you are already doing?
Myth #4- Ministry is for leaders with titles only
People who believe this myth think “I don’t lead worship, teach or preach, so I can’t do ministry”. Or “I’m not a pastor, so I’m not a minister.” For them, ministry is something that leaders with titles, especially pastors, do. It’s not for the average Christian.
But the incredible reality is that ministry is for every person who has come to new life in Christ. You see, ministry is just another word for service. And as servants of Christ we’re called to serve each other, our families, our friends, and even our enemies. When you serve others out of service to Christ, you’re ministering. And it has nothing to do with being an official ministry leader or a pastor. Title or no title, as a servant and follower of Christ, you are a leader.
One way we know this is that when we look at the four places in the NT where the apostles listed various examples of spiritual gifts, they always said the same thing… Every member of the Body of Christ has been given a spiritual gift. 1 Another way we know it is by experience. Ministry is for the purpose of expressing the love of God. In doing so, build others up in their love for God and people. Isn’t it true that you’ve been built up by people in lots of ways aside from what pastors and other official ministry leaders do on the weekends?
Myth #3- Ministry requires gifts I don’t have
People who believe this myth think, “I don’t have the spiritual gifts I need to minister” or “Ministry is only for people with certain gifts”. They would like to minister…if only they had the gifts that Jill or John had.
Two passages from Paul’s writings combine to bust this myth. 2 Paul compared the Church to a physical body with all kinds of different parts making up one integrated whole. Some of the parts had jobs that looked really important, while others had jobs that looked less exciting, but every part was necessary for the Body to work properly. In fact, if any part stopped doing its work, then the whole Body would suffer. But if all the parts did their part, then the Body would grow up to maturity and be the glorious Church it was designed to be.
Isn’t it interesting how we’re prone to blame the immaturity and dysfunction of the Church on all kinds of stuff, but we forget that the Church will never be what it was designed to be until every member does what it was designed to do?
A really old myth…
Unfortunately, the ministry myth that says lots of Christians aren’t gifted to minster is powerful and has been around a long time. Paul was already fighting it when he wrote to Corinth about 20 years after Jesus left the earth. He already had to tell them that just because they don’t have the gift someone else has doesn’t mean they don’t have necessary gifts for the Body. And he had to tell those with certain gifts not to look down on those who didn’t have the same gift as them.
Funny how 1,960 years later we still have people who think they can’t minister because they’re not gifted to be a pastor, and we have pastors who think they’re the only ones who can minister. Not funny ha-ha, but funny in a tragic way.
God has not given you the gifts you need to do someone else’s ministry. But God has given you the gifts you need to do the ministry He wants you to do. So do what He’s made you to do!
Myth #2- Ministry only includes a few activities
At this point many of you are feeling guilty and helpless. You’re thinking, “Okay, so I have gifts and I’m supposed to use them to minister, but I don’t know how to preach or sing, and even if I did, those slots are already filled at my church.” If this is what you’re thinking, you probably believe myth #2.
You’d probably agree that, “Ministry is something you do on the weekends at church, not all week long” or “If I don’t lead a part of the weekly service, I can’t minister” or “Ministry is only spiritual stuff”.
This myth is tied up in the idea that there are spiritual things and secular things and God only cares about spiritual things. It comes from an old Gnostic heresy that says that God is not interested in our daily physical existence of work and family and school and eating and drinking and playing and sex and everything else because God only cares about the immaterial, the unseen, the eternal, the “spiritual”.
This myth has no basis in the Bible.
Instead, what we see in the Bible is a God who created a physical universe, put embodied creatures and humans in it, and told people to work every week, take a break at the end, get married, have kids and invest their life in caring for the world while they loved God and each other. After God designed all this he looked and it and said it was “very good”.
And you know what? Sin and death entering the picture didn’t make any of that stuff “bad”.
God still thinks that spending your week working, taking a break at the end of it, carefully managing the earth’s resources, getting married, having kids and loving God and people is very good. In fact, when you read the NT you’ll find that’s what God desires from us as Christians.
I mean, look at the practical application of Jesus and the apostles’ lofty teachings on spirituality and holiness and righteousness. They always end up telling us to do stuff like work hard and don’t be a busybody. Live a quiet and peaceful life and pray for your leaders. Love your spouse and your kids and treat them nicely. Take care of hurting people and be kind to your enemies. Be patient, gentle, thoughtful and humble.
God doesn’t desire our isolation.
I’m going to say something now that will rub some of you the wrong way. God doesn’t want you to read your Bible and pray all day. Some people think that if we were really spiritual and weren’t distracted by all this other “stuff” in life then we’d just focus on God all day long and God would be pleased with us. But that’s nonsense.
God’s highest hope for you isn’t that you’d isolate yourself from the world to read your Bible and pray. God’s highest hope for you is that you’d love Him and people actively, in the context of daily life at home, work, school and play. Reading your Bible and praying are just two of myriad ways in which you can effectively express love. And they should take up a relatively small part of your day.
God is interested in every aspect of your life.
Do you know that Paul told the Corinthians that whatever they do, even eating and drinking, should be done to the glory of God? 3 Do you know he told the Colossians that whatever job they had they should do it with all their heart as service to God, recognizing that their true boss was Jesus Christ? 4
God is interested in every part of your life being lived for Him. When you live your life for Him then everything you do to serve others is ministry. This might come in the form of being a doctor, an accountant, a janitor, a mechanic, a teacher or a waiter.
Some of you are so caught up in myths that you can’t wrap your brain around this. You’re thinking, “Do you mean if I did those things for a church they would be ministry?”
It is not doing an activity “for/at Church” that makes it ministry, it is living your life for Jesus that makes your activities ministry.
Full-time ministry is for every Christian.
If you can recognize that you belong to Jesus and whatever you do is supposed to be for His glory and for showing love to others, then you’ll recognize how every Christian can truly be a “full-time minister”.
People often tell me how lucky I am to be in a job where I’m paid to engage in ministry, because I work full-time for an online Bible college. But the truth is that if they have a job, they’re getting paid to engage in ministry too. The beauty of it is that they’re getting paid by secular companies who think they’re just an employee. But as a Christian, you’re not just an employee…you are a servant of God, an everyday leader for His Kingdom. So whatever work you’re doing, if you do it for God and for the purpose of loving God and loving people, it is ministry.
And for those stay-at-home caregivers of children and parents and friends, you are ministering, usually without pay and often without gratitude. I want you to know that you can change diapers and give baths and mop floors and buy groceries to the glory of God. When you do these things out of love for God and people, it is ministry.
Ministry happens anytime the grace of God empowers you to serve someone else. And like Paul said, we need to shine a light on those ministries that don’t get the spotlight to make sure everyone knows that there are necessary too.
Ministry Myth #1- Ministry is optional
If you get what I’m saying about the nature of ministry, then you know ministry isn’t optional for Christians. But there are those who think, “Ministry is something I can do when I’m more mature” or “I’m saved by God’s grace, so whether I do ministry or not is really up to me” or “Ministry can wait till after college, or marriage, or kids are out of the house, or…”
But these ideas reveal two problems.
First, they reveal an identity crisis. As Christians, we were re-created as God’s masterpieces for the purpose of loving Him and loving people through actively ministering in all facets of our lives. 5 Just seeing yourself as a “sinner saved by grace” who is now on auto-pilot until Jesus comes back is a tragic misunderstanding of what it means to belong to God.
The second problem is one of thinking that ministry must wait until you’re “mature” or done with other things. The truth is, you’ll never mature as a believer if you’re not actively ministering. And those other things you’re trying to finish first—like work and family and school—are actually the very places where God wants you to be active in ministering.
Ministry is for everyday life. And ministry is for every Christian. It’s not optional…it’s what it means to be a Christian.
So, let’s review the myths and the truth:
- Myth #4- Ministry is for Official Leaders Only
TRUTH: Ministry is for every Christian, not just leaders with titles.
- Myth #3- Ministry requires gifts I don’t have.
TRUTH: God has given you all the gifts you need to do the ministry He wants you to do.
- Myth #2- Ministry includes only a few activities.
TRUTH: Ministry can, and should, be done anytime, anywhere that you can serve someone in love, by the power of the Spirit.
- Myth #1- Ministry is optional.
TRUTH: Ministry is the lifestyle of a Christian. It’s not optional.
I recently shared a message on this topic with my church. As I got ready to leave the house, I couldn’t get my printer to print the PowerPoint slides. I sent, and subsequently cancelled, the print job almost ten times. At one point it printed a page and a half before stopping.
I unplugged and restarted my computer and printer multiple times. Finally I gave up on the wi-fi printing and plugged into the USB. That job wanted to go through, but the last wi-fi print job wouldn’t cancel, so it was stuck in the queue.
At one point in my escalating tirade against the printer I actually yelled out loud, “If you don’t print, why do I own you? Your name is printer…print my stinking sermon notes!”
Do what you are designed to do.
There’s a lesson to be learned from that frustrating episode and it is this.
A Christian who doesn’t minister is kind of like a printer that doesn’t print. You’re not doing what you were designed to do.
So embrace the ministry you’re already doing, and pursue opportunities to minister in other ways. Remember, if you do something out of love for God and others, empowered by the grace of God, that is ministry.
So go minister!
Want more? Check out Israel’s sermon on this topic. (It starts 45 seconds in.) 6
- The Great Exchange - November 6, 2020
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Leadership Lessons from Esther - November 3, 2020
- Let Justice Roll - October 23, 2020
- Romans 12:5-6, 1 Corinthians 12:11, Ephesians 4:7-12, 1 Peter 4:10-11. ↩
- 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. ↩
- 1 Corinthians 10…you have to read all the way to the end of the chapter, but it’s worth it. ↩
- Colossians 3:17-24. ↩
- Check out Ephesians 2:8-10. ↩
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih084cQUdw8&t=0m44s. ↩