The idea that ministry to God should have only to do with a church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil. How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that the ministry of God takes place only in the church and by works done therein. The whole world could abound with ministry to the Lord… not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, and field. -Martin Luther
One of the greatest contributions the missional movement has made to the Church in the West, is the emphasis on EVERYONE being agents of the Kingdom; being sent on mission into the world. By challenging the insidious paradigm of dualism - separating the chosen and the un-chosen, the ordained and the unordained - we can all rediscover our callings. First, as a disciple of Jesus; aligning our lives with what he taught and how he lived. And second, as a missionary ambassador to the world; to go and proclaim the good news in every sphere and domain of society; making disciples and training others to align their lives with everything Jesus taught and how he lived.
But old paradigms are hard to break free of. We still struggle with terms, identities, and functions. Ministry is still viewed as something only done by the professionals. Those who have been specially called, attended some form of religious higher learning, is ordained (or set-apart for special service), and assumes a professional "vocational" identity. These assumptions affect how we read and apply scripture. Meaning, if we understand ministry to be something that just the professionals do, then when we read of ministry in the bible, we conclude that this must be a teaching that applies only to the ministers.
The Greek word for ministry in the New Testament is diakonia , which is actually directly translated as "service". This same word however, can be (and is also) translated as "mission". Due to the extreme cultural misinterpretation and application of the term "ministry" within the practice of the Church, I would like to submit that a clearer understanding and possibly better application for disciples of Jesus would be to read the scriptures in the context of mission, verses ministry (remember in the original language, both of these are translated from the same word, "service".)
Here are a few examples:
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the mission which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the mission of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5:18)
Take heed to the mission which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it. (Colossians 4:17)
Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this mission, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. (Philippians 3:2-6)
I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this mission. (I Timothy 1:12)
He (Jesus) handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in his mission, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13)
To understand the magnitude of God's mission and the reality that we are all called into it, should by its very nature activate the people of God into service. No longer consumers of religious goods, entertained by religious productions, that are managed by paid religious professionals; but rather energized, inflamed, focused, and determined disciples, charged with taking over the world for the Kingdom of God.
"The spontaneous expansion of the Church reduced to its elements is a very simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organization, no large finances, no great numbers of paid ministers. In its beginning it may be the work of one man, and that a man of neither learned in the things of this world, nor rich in the wealth of this world... What is necessary is faith. What is needed is the kind of faith which uniting a man to Christ, sets him on fire." -Roland Allen (1927)
by Clarke T. Cayton