Monday, February 20, 2006

The Ministry Question

“What’s you’re ministry?” have you ever been asked that question? Have you ever just had a lot of trouble answering it?

Today in our post church bible study (or whatever you call it… maybe Sunday school) we had a really stimulating conversation about ministry. We talked about the necessity for Christians to be involved in ministry. This I agree with. We are, as followers of Christ called to ministry, each one of us, not just pastors or worship leaders but everyone who claims Christ. But I worry about how we pressure that necessity. There seems to be a lot of pressure on Christians to involve themselves in some sort of organized ministry. Today in our class Chris, the man who facilitated the conversation, got us thinking about ministry as something you do on a regular basis, “This isn’t ushering once a week or singing in kids church once a month,” he told us. He was trying to get us to think of ministry as something bigger. This was all good but he still pressured us to be able to identify an ministry we’re involved in. He was pressuring us to be part of “a ministry” as in an organized/facilitated/structured organization. My worry is that we are separating, too far, ministry from our everyday lives.

Maybe for you to understand my worry I’d better define ministry. Ministry, at it’s core, is simply meeting needs. We could talk for a while trying to understand what this means but it’s a very simple definition. Here’s some questions: does it have to be so organized? In organizing ourselves into a ministry for several hours a week are we excusing ourselves from ministry outside of that schedule? Do we have to be in “a ministry” to do ministry? Why can’t ministry be something we do, or at least seek to do, all day everyday?

If I had to answer the question right now; “What’s you’re ministry?” I would say something like “being a good roommate and a good student.” I deeply care about the needs that lie outside that box but this is the situation in which God has placed me. I live in San Diego so I can’t fully commit myself to LA and I go to school in LA so I can’t commit to San Diego either, should I feel guilty? What I can commit to is being a minister wherever I am lead; in the Cafeteria, on the Rugby pitch, in the classroom, etc. That is my ministry.

If you are passionate about something and an organization is doing something there then join them. But when asked “What’s you’re ministry?” don’t feel like you have to name some group title. Your life is your ministry. What you have to ask now is “what am I doing with my life?” The ministry question just got a whole lot bigger.

By the way pray for Ashley, she’s sick.

15 comments:

Ashley said...

Thank you Wes, great post, great thoughts. More to come when Night-Quil is not taking effect on my already exhausted self.

BruceD said...

The Lord is about the ministry of reconciliation. Shouldn't His agenda be our agenda?

I wish you good health, Ashley. May your recovery be speedy!

Jason S said...

What you have described as a ministry has nothing to do with being a Christian. Jesus said "I will make you fishers of men." Now that's a ministry!

WES ELLIS said...

Bruce,
Yes bruce. I agree 100%, the ministry of reconciliation is meeting needs. It's reconciling everything to God, restoring the world.
Tikkun Olam!
Wes

WES ELLIS said...

Jason,
Fishing for men is meeting their needs, correct? What about Matthew 25? what about the ministry of reconcillation? Maybe fishing for men is a lot bigger than just changing the way people think.

SteveW said...

Jason, just curious. Why is it that everytime I read one of your comments they appear cutty or accusing or authoritative. I hope you haven't postitoned yourself as though you think you know so much more than everyone else? Probably not. Probably just my imagination.

Jason S said...

I am questioning the status quo on this blog because much of what I read is not biblical.

WES ELLIS said...

Jason,
I don't want to go back and forth with this one but what's been said here that you find unbiblical. God has given us the "ministry of reconcilliation," a very biblical concept. Reconcilliation is all we're after here. I want what God wants; for everything to be restored. How's this "not biblical?"

Jason S said...

Let's define the terms here. What do you mean by reconcilliation, and who is reconciled?

WES ELLIS said...

Reconcilliation is making things right. everything will be reconciled, everything.

Jason S said...

Define making things right...sorry, but that definition is vague.

Pastor Art said...

And you shall teach them diligently to your sons, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up… Deut 6:6-7 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I command you … Matt.28:19-20a. Ministry description!

The Western concept of “ministry” has deviated from Biblical standards because of the Western view of personhood. Surnames of people in the Western Nations are Miller, Potter, Thatcher, or Cooper revealing this and this is a short list from one that can be generated that is much longer showing the thinking here. The foundational thinking here makes people their vocation - “what they do”. The above sections of Scripture contrast this motivation. As you said Wes your “ministry” at this point in time is student and roommate. But the reason that your ministry is this because your “vocation” is student and roommate. The only vocational indication in the Scriptures is the Priesthood. Once the need for the “sacrificial” aspects of this vocation were closed by the Sacrifice of Jesus the aspects of the Priesthood vocation are spelled out in Eph.4 and are seen as “gifts” to the rest of the Body for preparation for the “task of ministry” defined as per Deut. and Matt. above. Confusion over this has developed with the growing of modernity over taking the planet and infecting the Church.

People functioning in their vocation must focus on developing the master skill set of that vocation. The goal of a carpenter is to be a master and so it is with every vocation. However the task of ministry is to talk about Yahweh and teach all we come in contact with His commands and to do this based upon the setting of our vocations - “fishers of men” - directive to Peter.

We today in the modernity of the Western world confuse the vocation of the Priesthood with mandate of ministry. The Gifts given to the Body -per Eph.4 are men who’s vocations are to perfect the skill of Torah and be faithful at the task of using rightly the tools of Torah. This is the observation spoken of by the Sanhedrin in Acts about the Apostles they were not vocational - “learned men” - Priests, yet their teaching reflected this, not that they were illiterate they were skilled vocationally outside the Priesthood. The product of the Torah master craftsmen is equipping the saints for their ministry performed while they function in setting of their vocations and practice their vocations among the nations.

The better question for this “Sunday school teacher” would be “what’s your vocation” and are you fulfilling the Ministry mandate embodied in Deut. And Matt.
Pastor Art

Jason S said...

Art- I believe for once we are on the same page!

WES ELLIS said...

Whatever you do to the least of these you do for me...
This isn't a ministry description? I would say it's the clearest one. I am in total agreement that teaching the bible is indeed ministry but is helping people and feeding the poor not? I think we agree and just don't realize it.

The only difference is I want to include vocation into ministry. I don't think it's confusion. Our true vocation is to be ministers, joining with God in His act of new creation. This includes teaching and talking about the important things (including the Bible). But we cannot call ourselves ministers without meeting people's needs, just as we cannot be ministers without in some way passing on this great truth and tradition we are a part of.

In my vocation as a student and a roomate it would be really easy for me to not be a minister. I can have a vocation without a ministry but not a ministry without a vocation. If I can't do ministry in the small things how could I expect to do ministry anywhere else?

It can't just be left at talk, I can't talk people into the Kingdom. I have to demonstrate the gospel before anyone can really understand it. The gospel is so deep and mystical that it has to be shown or else we are speaking a different language. I can't profess a God who wants to make things right and wants to feed the hungry without trying to do the same. If we offer a hungry man Jesus without ever offering him bread what kind of Jesus are we offering anyway?

Pastor Art said...

The idea posed in the “vocation /ministry” thing was not that we should not do the work of the Body but that the object of ones vocation should be recognized. In this way members within Christ’s Body can master the place they were formed to fill and do that like a finely honed sword. Acknowledgement of the placement of each in their appointed place makes stronger the whole. The result optimizes our individual tasks when combined, the whole is optimized. In a war situation you would want the trained personal for jet fighters in the plane and not in the field hospital and visa versa. Knowing and living out this knowledge in no way minimizes care for widows and orphans cared for by the 7 and not by the 12. If either of these people minimized the focus of their place…
Pastor Art