Our experiences at the little church we attended, as well as other churches has caused me to question what CHURCH ministry really is.
In the little church, the Pastor told me that I had no ministry except for putting together the church bulletin each week. I told a friend this, and she gasped because I have encouraged many people over the years in person, by phone, and through the Internet. It was sort of unofficial mentoring–friendships in which we shared what God was doing in our lives, encouraged each other, and helped meet each other’s needs. On the other hand, our church was so small that the only activity was the Sunday morning service. Putting together a church bulletin was actually quite useless because there were no activities to remember, and the only information that changed was the titles and page numbers of the songs we sang. Our church was poor, and the bulletin was also a wasteful and unnecessary expense.
After the pastor’s statement, I wondered, “Is doing a church bulletin really more of a ministry than encouraging others in their walk with Christ? What is church ministry?”
At a previous church I attended, I met in the Fellowship Hall with a friend whose abusive marriage was failing, and who was struggling greatly. I once had someone tell me that we ought to really be in Sunday School and the morning service so we could be taught. (Which brings up the subject of what, exactly, is discipling…However, Sunday mornings were the only time we were able to meet. I was in a Small Group on Sunday evenings, a Ladies Bible Study during the week, and I knew how to study the Bible on my own, so I figured I could spend the time helping my friend. She was struggling so much that she couldn’t have heard anything taught on Sunday morning. Some prayer warriors who saw us meeting prayed for us, and my friend did grow spiritually during this time.
A few years later, I heard that there were some people who were upset that my friend and I weren’t in Sunday school or the morning service. At the same time were were meeting together, my son was the only student in his Sunday school class. It was only the teacher and him. One-on-one, very much like my friend and me. No one had a problem with that arrangement. I questioned why the one was considered church ministry, and the other wasn’t. Could it be that anything officially done in or through the church or it’s programs is considered ministry, and anything not done through the church or its programs is not considered ministry? Is this correct?
If we consider the church to be a place or organization, and only what is done in or through it a ministry, then the danger is that our spiritual lives can become compartmentalized. We will consider only what is done AT or THROUGH the church to be ministry, and the group of people we are with is fellowship, and we will driving TO the church to minister. The rest of the time, we will not see ourselves as ministering. However, if we consider the people to be the CHURCH, then we will more fully understand that fellowship is where two or more of us meet together in the Name of Christ, and ministry occurs whenever we reach out to others. If ministry happens whenever I (the CHURCH) reach out to others, then ministry happens when I listen to a hurting friend over coffee, when I babysit her child for free because she has no one else, when I pray with a friend during a phone conversation, when I share what God has done for me on the Internet. It occurs when my husband gives a dehydrated co-worker a gatorade on a hot day, when he gives a co-worker a few dollars to help him out, or when he encourages a co-worker to not give up. It happens when my son shovels the sidewalks of elderly neighbors, when he opens the door for people at the store, or when he acts as “big brother” to a boy whose father left the family. Rather than have the mentality that “I have to get to church to minister,” we start reaching out to EVERYONE wherever we are because we are the CHURCH and whatever we do is ministry.
Ministry is not doing a church bulletin. It is engaging in the lives of others, reaching out to people around us–family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.