“When the cities are worked as God would have them it will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement…” – Ellen White
It has been 2000 years since Christ set the example for ministry and His disciples used it to turn the world on its head. Christ’s method of ministry is radical, and today He is calling His church to follow His example one last time, but do we really understand what that means?
What is ministry? It seems more and more that in practice we see ministry as something that the church does for itself. Men’s ministry, women’s ministry, children’s ministry, singles’ ministry, media ministry, and the list goes on. Most of these things are done primarily for church members. While it is not common, I have heard members speak against the idea of allowing nonmembers to participate in a church ministry. Most people, if asked, would say that they would love to have a visitor from the community join their group or ministry. But do we really want that? If that is our purpose for having ministries in the church, are the ministries being developed with nonmembers in mind?
We need to change our perspective of what ministry is. Let’s have children’s ministry, but let’s build it for outreach, let’s build it for the kids in the neighborhoods around the church. Let’s do this with all our ministries! Why are we afraid of the very people we are supposed to be reaching? “They aren’t like us,” we say. “They need different things.” Selfishness, addictions, pornography, adultery, lifestyle diseases, hurting marriages, broken homes and the like are all things that exist in the church. We develop seminars and materials to help members deal with these things, but guess who else is dealing with them: your neighbors, local shop owners, the kids that go to public school with your kids. Basically, everyone. The truth of the matter is that we Christians have problems and concerns that are not so different from those of the rest of the world. Maybe if we understood that a little more, instead of barricading ourselves, as it were, in our church buildings, we would reach outside of our churches to the neighborhoods around us, recognizing our own need of Jesus Christ to solve our problems and deeply desiring to convince our neighbors that they need Him too.
Ministry is not something that we should reserve for ourselves. It is something we should do for others as well as ourselves. We too lightly regard the power of serving others as it relates to our own personal spiritual growth. As the analogy goes, a pool that only receives fresh water but does not also let it flow out becomes stagnant, and soon few animals can live in it or drink from it. The algae gives it the green color of life, but the water is putrid and the only signs of life are those creatures that feed off the mold and decay.
One of the foundational statements behind Simplicity is found in the book Ministry of Healing on page 156. It says, “To reach people wherever they are, whatever their position or condition and to help them by any means possible, this is true ministry….” Most people if asked directly would not describe ministry as an inwardly focused thing as I have laid it out earlier. The majority would answer honestly and say that ministry is meant to reach outward. Yet somehow we frequently do not practice it the way we describe it.
It is important for us as brothers and sisters in Christ to minister to one another. Our mission, however, is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. How we minister should be reflective of that mission.