Let’s talk about ministry.
Because really, I think we’ve fumbled this word and hurt a great deal of people. I think, as with a lot of words, we’ve whispered, shouted, shared, and spewed this word without thinking of its meaning. And I think we need a refresher because language has a way of changing how we feel, hurt, hope, and live.
First, let’s recognize this is a larger problem. Words get abused and we are the ones to suffer. Lewis said, “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” It’s not so much the size of the word that matters in this case (not it’s smallness or bigness) but the truth rings true regardless: use words that reflect reality not what comes easiest to say.
It is a matter of laziness, I think. I think good people with good intentions just haven’t thought through the implications enough. So pastors use words like “Join the ministry” and students use phrases like “This is my ministry” and soon people who love grace and know the maker, don’t know if they can love people without joining the ministry.
But why the emphasis on ministry? What happened to worship?
The issue really is ontological. We don’t know what exactly we mean when we say ministry but we should know it’s divisive.
When we talk about ministry we implicitly divide our lives: for the ministry and not. My ministry is this and my home life is this.
His ministry. Her ministry. Our ministry.
Friends, our broken, beautiful, risen Savior didn’t talk a lot about ministry. Now, some of you are already scoffing, “That’s what his whole life was about!”.
No. His whole life was about worship.
Christ’s beautiful, courageous life was about kneeling, loving, hoping, and holding. The Minister (if you will) did not talk about His ministry but rather His Father, His lover, His satisfaction, His King.
I’m not trying to create a false dichotomy. I promise. But really friends, do you know what you’re saying when you press out the word ministry from your lips? Do we know where the focus shifts when we use the word worship instead of ministry?
We’ve effectively idolized the vocation of the minister rather than worshiping the One who stood naked for us and took the shame we should have felt. And it’s certainly left a mark on our theological understanding of work. But Christ didn’t distinguish His call based on our vocation. The Maker of still mornings, rich evenings and bright snow-falls didn’t say:
Doctors, when you’ve finished mending the broken, remember to do ministry.
Teachers, after you’ve spoken life into kids that have no life at home, serve me.
Lawyers, after you finish defending the fatherless, make sure to follow me.
Nurses, once you’re done tenderly serving my child, offer me your heart.
Business Professional, after you’re through providing solutions to my creation, think about ways you could serve me.
No, these are certainly not competing loves. They are intertwined, connected and symbiotic. The Christian cannot divide his heart.
John Piper once said, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” And I think we need this word to ring in our hearts this morning. I think we need this hopeful word.Because I know some of you are tired. I know many of you feel pulled to do more, be more, and “minister” more, after you’ve worshiped all day long.
I know many of us look at our hands and want rich soil. We want a good crop and this is a good desire. But friends, look around you.
The harvest is indeed plentiful and we are working the fields everyday we live. There is a way to worship and pray continually. I know this because I see it in my friends and mentors.
I see it in my housemate who is the first real man to love a 5th grader who desperately wants to know real strength. This is worship.
I see it in a friend’s father who is one of the most “pastoral” men I know. He works in sales and I don’t think he’s left any of his circles untouched by love. This is worship.
I see it in my sister who laughs at the days to come and lifts up everyone around her. This is worship.
I see it in my father who listens to pain all day and presses with Christ to stop the bleeding. This is worship.
This is the way of the Christian: to worship, kneel, and not wonder about their ministry.