Much of what we call “ministry” today is really “maintenance.” We come to a Sunday or mid-week service and we are ministered to by the teaching. Maybe others pray for us because we have a need. Others listen as we share and encourage us. We feel loved and built up and then head out the door and go home. I question if this is really ministry.
Why? Because it is all about us – the believers. It is about taking care of our needs and our desires. It is helping us to worship. It is teaching the sheep more information that they will likely never use and often didn’t even need to know. We are maintaining the sheep. So, I call it maintenance. Real ministry is when we go out into our work world, our neighbourhoods where we live and where we play and share the love of God as seen in Jesus with others. Praying for them, encouraging them, helping them. Then we are ministering.
I really deeply believe that it is time we recognize that what we call ministry is really maintenance. And, then real ministry takes place outside the four walls of the church building and away from our Christian gatherings. After all, Paul comments that we are all “ministers of reconciliation” bringing people to the cross of Christ and into the Kingdom through reconciling them with God. This no longer happens inside the four walls of a church building. It happens in homes, coffee shops, and restaurants.
So then, when we come together as believers what should be happening? We should be equipped and enabled to minister effectively in the world in which we live. Ephesians 4:11-12 states that those in leadership have the task of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Remembering that ministry happens in every day life away from the sacred gathering. Instead of feeding the sheep more information and getting fat sheep who do not exercise we need to equip them and send them out to do ministry and thus they become strong and muscular and mature. We need to train and equip them with the skills needed to be true ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of the Kingdom in the world in which they live.
It is only then that the believers come into maturity and grow in their faith. It is by using what they know that they learn, grow, and mature. And, most importantly reproduce. Once equipped they are ready, able, and even willing “to go into all the world and make disciples.” And, in doing so, they become hungry to learn more, have questions that need answering, and are excited about their faith. And, let’s admit, it would be amazing to see believers excited about their faith.
I have recently just come back from the nation of Kazakhstan and everywhere I went the young people are excited about their faith. They are sharing their faith within the relationships they have at work, at school, in university, and in their neighbourhoods. They are even out on the streets and malls sharing their faith. I had the honour of working in three churches (with a total of 10 churches represented) in two cities. It was powerful. They were excited. People were being saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The believers were hungry to learn more and grow so they could be more effective. Everyone had questions. A teacher’s delight! The atmosphere was electric, dynamic, and powerful. Alive!
This is as it should be. Teaching, equipping, and training the believers who then move out to the unsaved and minister supernaturally showing people the love of God and the power that raised Jesus from the dead. True ministry as seen in the book of Acts and the epistles (letters) to the early Church as found in the New Testament.