Ministry is…

I had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend this afternoon. She reassured me that the ugly rumor I’d heard that The Patrick and I had gotten divorced (which came from a church member who ASSUMED such was true because we never show up for special meetings together) hadn’t spread to her side of the aisle, at least. *sigh*

She also informed me that I don’t need to fret over what everyone is thinking and saying about our change in ministerial status. Not too much, anyway, since only a numbskull (this is my interpretation, not hers) would say that “we quit the ministry” simply because we turned our pastoral position over to another couple last year and are pursuing other ministerial options. During my drive home I pondered the numbskull’s comment.

To the immature eye, yes, we quit “The Ministry.” To the immature, “ministry” is a tightly guarded, carefully sequestered little box, locked within the four pristine walls of the local church building.  But what is “ministry,” really? 

Is it a title? Is it standing behind a pulpit or on a platform every week? Is it having an office at the church? Is it getting a paycheck? Is it getting to sit in the “reserved” row at special meetings or being invited to fellowship with the leaders after service? I confess (to my shame and dismay), there was a time I thought so. Thank God I’ve been corrected. Rebuked, even.

In Bible school we learned “ministry is spelled W-O-R-K.” That’s true, in one sense, but in my immaturity I limited that definition to the work done within the church, or at least in church-sanctioned activities like “jail ministry” or “prayer walks.”

What I’ve learned since (and there’s probably more to learn) is that ministry is not JUST spelled W-O-R-K, it’s spelled L-O-V-E and M-E-R-C-Y and C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N. In fact, ministry with only the first one and not the last three isn’t really ministry at all, even if it comes with a title and a paycheck and a standing invitation to chips and dip with the guest ministers.

Jesus (who is supposed to be our example) expanded the definition of ministry. He was “moved with compassion” to exercise power and authority on behalf of the hurting, and He didn’t even stop to ask if the hurting party was a member in good standing. He didn’t do a background check on those He ministered to, or go back and make sure they were “toeing the line” after He’d demonstrated God’s love to them.

Ministry is not an organization. It’s not an institution. Ministry is an ACTION. Ministry can be a word of encouragement to someone who’s struggling. It can be a hug for someone who’s lonely, or picking up trash in a public place because it’s the right thing to do. The act of ministry SHOULD be found in every highway and back alley, every church, every bar, every grocery store and every household. But for that to occur, we’re going to have to broaden our horizons a bit… lest we continue to act like  numbskulls.

How do you define ministry?

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