You’re A Minister. But Do You Have A Ministry?

We tend to think of ministry in terms of vocation. He’s a pastor; he’s a minister. She’s on church staff; she’s a ministerWe also see it like a hobby, or a gift. They lead a small group; they’re ministersHe helps the needy; he’s a minister. Sadly, our narrow view of ministry hamstrings God’s plan for every Christian’s life. Paul said every believers plays an integral role in the health of God’s church (1 Cor. 12:12-31). Moreover, God calls us all to “bear one another’s burdens” and “serve one another.” (Gal. 6:2; 1 Pet. 4:1). This is exciting news. Participating in God’s kingdom work doesn’t require a seminary degree, church salary, or leadership position. It merely requires faith in Christ.

Ministry, simply put, is serving one another. You are a minister. But do you have a ministry? Because we misunderstand God’s definition of ministry, many of us may answer ‘no.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together suggests four different ministries God calls every Christian to. As you read through this list examine your life and ask, “Where can I minister today?”

1. The Ministry of Listening. “Listening can be a greater service than speaking.” No one excels at  listening more than God himself. He always hears us, whether we overflow with joy, or sink into despair. We Christians, however, often struggle to listen. Some advise too quickly, others change the subject to themselves. We often assume we know what someone has to say, and thus, enamored with our own wisdom, give answers before we hear questions. Bonhoeffer calls this “listening with half an ear.” Who can you turn your full ear to? Who can you give the opportunity to share today? Who needs to experience the love of your full attention?

2. The Ministry of Helpfulness. We are physical beings with physical needs. An octogenarian needs help to move. A non-handy friend (like me) needs help installing a light fixture. A roommate needs help (for the tenth time) getting his DVD to play. “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.” Too many of us pass friends by, thinking I’m just too busy today! We’re like the Jews in Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan. Who needs your help today? What inconveniences should you welcome to serve your friends and enemies? Where is God interrupting your life with an opportunity to help?

3. The Ministry of Bearing. God calls us to bear our brothers’ burdens. First, we bear our brother’s freedom. We do so when we love him despite our personality differences, and little (or big) annoyances. Rather than dominating others by demanding they conform to our ways of thinking and acting, we flex to meet her needs. If you’re type-a, learn to patiently wait when a friend executes a task differently than you would. If you’re type-b person, try showing up on time with your type-a friend. When someone annoys you, don’t avoid him. When he asks too much of you (can you hang out tonight? how about tomorrow? the next day?) we actually answer “yes” occasion. We even bear “to break through to the point where we take joy in it.” Are there any annoyances you need to bear?  Where can you flex to meet your brother’s needs?

Second, we bear one another’s sin. We do so by helping friends battle. Our sister’s sin becomes our own, hurting us as it hurts her. Don’t quietly disregard her. Don’t judgmentally look down on her struggling. “We may suffer the sins of our brother; we do not need to judge.” Even when she sins against us, we bear it and forgive. Who can we join in the fight against sin? What old wounds should we forgive and bear?

4. The Ministry of Proclaiming. This ministry is difficult to cultivate in a relativistic society. Bonhoeffer warns us that refusal to share God’s word comes dangerously close to Cain’s rejoinder, “Am I my brothers keeper?” The right answer is yes. We all keep one another. “Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from a path of sin.”

We must carefully practice proclamation in conjunction with listening, helping and bearing. Otherwise our words may fall on deaf ears, making our words fruitless. The heart of proclamation is the gospel, not rebuke. We call people not merely to repentance, but to an unshakable relationship with the most loving and glorious being in the universe. This is good news. Who could you call from the path of sin? Who is discouraged and needs to hear the good news of God’s love?

You’re a minister. Where can you be ministering today? It’s God’s call for us all.

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