Monday, June 27, 2011

What's the difference? Missions & Ministry

Today I saw a great visual of the work God is doing in my church. I truly wish I could have captured it in photo, but didn't think it was quite appropriate to break out my phone during the commissioning part of the service. This next week nearly 300 people from Shades are going out on mission trips... to New York City, to Peru, and to South Africa. The sight of all of those people in the altar, and then the hundred or so who joined them for prayer was just... beautiful. I am so thankful to be apart of a ministry that is so focused on missions.

This past week I was asked to explain how my "ministry" (something to that effect) is lived out on a daily basis. I was in a situation in which I had to respond quickly, but in retrospect I am proud of my answer... I explained that I believe that God calls all of His children to do a certain work. He puts us in jobs so that we can be Him and show Him to others, and meet a need that has not been met. So my ministry is not what one may believe as conventional ministry, as I am not a minister and I do not work in a church, but frankly... the majority of us do not work in churches, so if the only "ministers" in the world were those on a church payroll, this world would be a much needier place.

This picture I have in my head from this morning and the question from earlier in the week has really gotten me thinking, What is the difference between Missions and Ministry? Is there one? How does that difference play out in my life... does it play out in my life?

As usual, when I'm thinking of difference in words I go straight to the dictionary to see what good ole Webster has to tell me about the differences. I also looked up the definition of minister, to clarify who exactly these definitions refer to.

mis·sion   /ˈmɪʃən/ [mish-uhn]
–noun Also called foreign mission ( for defs. 3, 6 ) .

1. a group or committee of persons sent to a foreign country to conduct negotiations, establish relations, provide scientific and technical assistance, or the like.
2. the business with which such a group is charged.
3. a permanent diplomatic establishment abroad; embassy; legation.

min·is·try   /ˈmɪnəstri/ [min-uh-stree]
–noun, plural -tries.

1. the service, functions, or profession of a minister of religion.
2. the body or class of ministers of religion; clergy.
3. the service, function, or office of a minister of state.

min·is·ter   /ˈmɪnəstər/ [min-uh-ster] Show IPA
1. a person authorized to conduct religious worship; member of the clergy; pastor.
2. a person authorized to administer sacraments, as at mass.
3. a person appointed by or under the authority of a sovereign or head of a government to some high office of state, especially to that of head of an administrative department: the minister of finance.
4. a diplomatic representative accredited by one government to another and ranking next below an ambassador. Compare envoy1 ( def. 1 ) .
5. a person acting as the agent or instrument of another.

–verb (used with object)
6. to administer or apply: to minister the last rites.
7. Archaic . to furnish; supply.

–verb (used without object)
8. to perform the functions of a religious minister.
9. to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.: to minister to the needs of the hungry.
10. to contribute, as to comfort or happiness.

To first think about the difference in Missions and Ministry, I felt I needed to know how I fall into the minister definition, if I did fall into the category of a minister, by definition. Here's the kicker friends... ALL CHRISTIANS ARE BY DEFINITION  A "MINISTER". Check out those items I highlighted in blue. If you profess to be a child of God... then you are most definitely "acting as the agent or instrument of another." But we aren't just serving "another" y'all... we are serving the Most High and Holy Creator, who from our first breath intended for us to "give service" (#9) to others. I believe that by doing #9 you are also fulfilling the #10 part of this definition.

{In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.}
Acts 20:35 ESV

{So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.}
Philippians 2:1-4 ESV
So since we now know where we fall in the minister category, looking at the definition of mission and ministry is a bit easier to understand. From where I'm sitting, at first glance is seems the "Mission" is the project, the goal, the plan... Of course naturally, I think of a mission trip, when I think of the word mission, but a mission doesn't have to be something you go across town, country, time zones to complete. A mission, by its own definition can be a charge. Sounds a bit like this to me:
{Go into all the world and preach
the good news to all creation.}
- Jesus

Sound familiar?

So how do we "Ministers" go about this "mission"... well, that's where the "ministry" part comes in... notice the word I highlighted in that definition... service. Our ministry is what we do. Ministry is to action and Mission is to charge. God gave us the charge, and He gives each one of us the tools, the calling, the desire to carry out that charge in our specific ways. You can contribute to that charge in ways I can't... and vice versa. You may not cross paths with college students every day as I do... but I don't spend a lot of time with kids, with sick people, with those in financial trouble. Just as He has given you an opportunity to live out your ministry in your job, God has given me the calling to work with college students, and the experiences I need in order to minister to them. Sometimes theses students, my coworkers, sometime the parents just need someone to listen, they need advice, they need an answer to a question on a frustrating day. Those times that I can fulfill that need... that's a time when I am ministering to someone... that's a time when I am fulfilling my ministry and my mission.

Those are times when I am fulfilled by the opportunity to serve my
Lord in the specific area He has called me to work.
Those are the times when I am fulfilled by my Lord.

{In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.}
Acts 20:35 ESV

Here's ultimately the way this has played out in my head...
Minister (adj) + Mission (noun) = Ministry (verb)

Simple. Practical. Possible.

Love Y'all,

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