One feedback I’ve gotten over the years (sometimes second hand) has been, “I serve regularly with an organization outside the church but it seems like that doesn’t ‘count.’ Why is the church so hung up on serving inside their building? It’s like, if it’s not in the building then it’s not on your scoreboard!”
I have to admit, too often churches haven’t clarified what the Bible actually teaches about ministry (a.k.a. serving). And admittedly, it can be confusing. For example, it seems like if I help with the babies at church God’s happy and a point goes on the scoreboard. But if I help watch a single mom’s child while she works a double shift to put food on the table, God shrugs his shoulders. Like one is ‘ministry’ and the other is just nicety.
So let me try to demystify the biblical concept of ministry.
Ministry is when I use my SHAPE to serve God by serving others.
It’s when I’m doing what I can with what I have to humbly serve another human being out of my love for Jesus. That can happen anywhere, anytime with anyone. The important questions about ministry is not where and how but who and why.
WHO WE SHOULD MINISTER TO
The Bible classifies two target recipients that we should be ministering to: Christians and non-Christians. Paul tells us that we are each members of the body of Christ and we need each others ministry. The church was designed to be our first line of ministry to other believers. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul shares that the primary place of ministry to believers is in the church. But it is certainly not limited to just the church building on a Sunday morning. Ministry to believers can and should happen in our small groups, in our community or literally just about anywhere.
At the same time, Jesus told us that we are responsible to minister to this world. Specifically in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus identifies four different types of ministry that touches the lives of people who need God. The common thread in all of these ministries was that they touched a felt need to lead them to their faith need. In other words, ministry to non-believers should always be a platform for introducing them to the love of Jesus Christ. If we feed a stomach but starve a soul we’ve robbed them of the only thing that can make them whole.
The good news is that we can minister to non-believers in all of the SAME PLACES as we do believers! That’s why the purpose of our Sunday morning gatherings is ministry to BOTH. But the same could be true in your small group. What better way to expose a non-believer to the power of the gospel than to let them see it in your own living room!
Now, to help distinguish ‘ministry’ to non-Christians, we often refer to this activity as missions (or evangelism) instead of ministry. Even though the activity might be identical, the intended outcome is not.
That’s why we often say, “You need a ministry in the church and a mission in the world.” We could just as easily say, “You need a ministry in the church and in the world.” But that would be confusing since the objectives for each are different.
We need to serve Christians to build the body and non-Christians to grow the body.
BOTTOM LINE: When you are regularly using your SHAPE to build the Body through ministry and grow the Body through missions, your scoreboard is racking up points!!!
Serving with you,