Once there was a man who went back to school in middle age, where he signed up for an English course. During the first class, the teacher explained the difference between prose and poetry. At the end of the class, the man exclaimed, “My gosh! Here I’ve been talking prose all my life, and never knew it!”
The same could be said of many of us in another part of our lives: ministry. Like the man in the story, many of us have been doing ministry all our lives without calling it that. Some people think “ministry” is the pastor’s job, as if the pastor were the only one allowed to do things.
But ministry is much bigger than preaching – it’s anything we do for God and for our neighbor. The “importance” of a ministry doesn’t matter as much as the love and thought that is put into it. As Jesus said, “I tell you, as you did it to the least of these, you did it also to me…” (Matthew 25:40)
I think that if we took a survey, we would find that nearly every able-bodied person at Springfield has a ministry of some kind or other – helping, teaching, coaching, loving, caring.
Ministry is bringing food for the COAT barrel. It’s welcoming people. It’s making a phone call to someone who’s lonely. It’s listening to people and praying with them. It’s fixing things or making things look more inviting.
Some people in our meeting choose ministry as their daily work – nursing, counseling, working with young people, healing or working to build up the community.
Other people do ministry at other times – as volunteers, as visitors, as caregivers. Some people minister here at Springfield Friends, while others minister in the wider community.
We’re used to doing many things “for the sake of” something — we work at jobs for the sake of income, or for the sake of our families. We watch TV for the sake of its entertainment. We rest and exercise for the sake of our health. Ministry can be anything which is done for the sake of God.
What we do as ministers is a matter of opportunity and ability. There are opportunities every day to do things for Christ’s sake! “Ability” is another word for the gifts which God has given each of us — the talents, training,cap ability to see certain problems. We are all created to be ministers, ever since God made Adam and Eve to be “helpers” for each other.
Again, like the man in the story who spoke prose without realizing it, many of us have been ministers right along. It does make a difference sometimes for us to call what we do “ministry”, rather than calling it “the same old stuff we’ve been doing right along.”
Using the word “ministry” makes a difference in the style of our church. A church is – or it should be! – something more than a social club, more than a weekly get-together of folks who enjoy a little music and a pep talk. Church services are – or they should be! — a weekly gathering of ministers. We come together to strengthen ourselves for the work to come, to forgive each other for the mistakes we’ve made, and to pray for those who can’t be with us.
There is no limit to the kinds of things which can be done for the love of God. What limits our ministry is our willingness to bring God into whatever we are doing, to welcome God into every part of our lives.
– Josh Brown