Ministry; It’s What We Do to Advance His Kingdom
What is ministry anyway? Several definitions emerge from random, rapid research:
- Ministry means service. It involves preparing God’s people for works of service (diakonia). A minister is one that serves. We often think of Acts 6 as where deacons were selected. That’s true. But, it was also the place where the disciples chose to redefine and realign their own ministries in the midst of the stuff. Both groups of people were serving, separately, yet specifically.
- “Faithful service of God’s people rendered unto God and others on His behalf to bring Him glory, build up His church, and reach out to His world” (www.Bible.org).
- “Ministry is meeting people where they are and taking them to where God wants them to be” (www.jrbriggs.com).
- Ministry is alignment, agreement, and accomplishment of His purpose. (Seek and to save the lost; (Luke 19:10) give life and life more abundantly (John 10:10); destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8); and so forth).
All the above are grand definitions but I prefer mine (I know; I’m biased). Ministry is “anything we do to advance His kingdom.” Focus and faithfulness are imperative in getting the job done.
Keeping the big picture front and center encourages me (us) to take responsibility over choices and decisions. Focus begs for the questions, “Is this advancing His kingdom? Am I doing this in a way that advances His kingdom?”
Defining Ministry in the Midst of the Stuff
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-4).
“The Word of God Prospered: During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers — “Hellenists” — toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word” (Acts 6:1-4, from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
I’ve often read that familiar passage and assessed that the two priorities, and wings of ministry, are prayer and the ministry of the Word. Unarguably those are certainly paramount and pivotal in the life of the church and in advancing God’s kingdom. Acts 6 gives a wider perspective of ministry. It shows the ministry big picture and unfolds the body ministry Paul later annunciates. It’s easy to skip through the chapter thinking it’s all about establishing deacons. It’s beyond that and moves into the realm of clarifying roles in ministry. “Ministry” is the big idea here: not people doing big ministry and others doing little ministry. One group doing big stuff and the other burdened down “in stuff.” It’s about discovering and defining “ministry” in the midst of the stuff.
The apostles weren’t saying waiting on tables lacked ministry. They were saying it wasn’t their ministry in that particular season of life. It wasn’t their priority, calling, and gifting.
Sweating for the Bigger Stuff
I came to Global Missions, two years ago, after spending twenty-eight years on the mission field, because of love:
- Love for God
- Love for missions (Missio Dei; Latin for the “Mission of God”)
- Love for the missionaries
- Love for souls
That’s the big picture; one that I cannot allow to become blurred. It’s a matter of survival. Without the big picture I lose focus and become frustrated. I start sweating the small stuff.
Many have heard of the book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life (Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Series). It’s encouraging stuff; light reading with huge punch.
One person wrote, “’In fact one of the greatest things I read in the book was a little chapter called ‘Remind Yourself That When You Die, Your In-basket Won’t be Empty’. Some other thought provoking chapters are entitled ‘Ask Yourself the Question: Will This Matter a Year from Now?’, ‘Search for the Grain of Truth in Others Opinions’, ‘See the Glass as Already Broken’, ‘When in Doubt About Who’s Turn it is To Take Out the Trash, Go Ahead and Take it Out’”
I struggle with the finding ministry and productivity in the small stuff I do. The challenge is to find the Mission in the minuscule, mundane, menial, and minute; to view the moment in light of eternity; to go beyond the mediocre for excellence. We’ve got to have that. It’s a matter of survival; life and death for success in overall ministry.
The Reward of More Stuff
“But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor. Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day” (1 Samuel 30:10; 22-25).
It is intriguing to note those that went into battle and those involved in keeping the stuff received the same rewards. It humors me that “staying by the stuff” reaped the return of more stuff. “Stuff” may very well be what ministry is made up of. Add to that, people coming to God have a lot of life’s baggage that they have to deal with and sometimes offload some things to upload some others.