“Ministry” is the work of service by which the life of the Kingdom breaks into peoples’ lives. It is the work of the Church, and properly belongs to the whole people of God. In our building of the Christian community and acts of hospitality and words of truth and prophecy that invite others into the Christ-life, we embody – incarnate and enflesh – the Reign of God and the healing reality of the Risen Christ to those outside the fellowship of the Church.
I as an individual am not meant to be equipped to do this. We, the Church, the little communities of the resurrection, outposts of God’s reign in a foreign land, are formed for this task as we are conformed to Jesus in the life we share together.
God has made us part of his larger story of saving the world. We share that ministry together, and we are all called to that ministry by virtue of our baptism: sealed by the Spirit and empowered with good gifts for healing and restoration. There are different kinds of ministries, indeed some people are called and gifted especially for hospitality, healing, teaching, apostleship, caretaking and all kinds of things – the Spirit offers whatever is needed in the work of the Kingdom.
When folks say “called to the ministry,” they usually mean, “called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament,” specifically the teaching of the scriptures and administering baptism and the Eucharist on behalf of the community. When Word and Sacrament become “the ministry” rather than “a ministry,” all other ministries undertaken by the people of God as groups and individuals are implicitly downplayed and degraded.
And that’s plainly evil. Quite frankly. Does this one really require any more explanation than that? It's not complicated.
Say it with me. “No one is called to the ministry. The People of God are called to the ministry of the Kingdom. Individuals are called to a plethora of specific ministries. Some people are called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. It is not ‘better’ than the others. It is necessary, and so are all of the others. We are not meant to sit around ranking them like some overgrown adolescents trolling for an ego-stroking.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I'm a library paraprofessional and occasional theology instructor at a liberal arts college. I teach folks how to do academic research efficiently and throughly, and I teach Christian theology at the college level and in churches. I hold the Master of Applied Theology from the University of Oxford.