I’ve had a lot of questions asked of me over the past few years. Fallen pastors ask me a lot, “Is God done with me? Will I ever be worthy enough to do some kind of ministry?” (Short answers, no and yes.)
Then, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I used to do as a pastor and what I do now, helping fallen pastors and those affected by moral failure in the church. And it has come down to one question: “What is ministry?”
When I was pastoring, I think I equated ministry with working hard, studying the Bible, visiting, baptizing, putting in new programs, and making sure everyone was relatively happy. And those things can lead to ministry. But I’ve learned that in themselves, they aren’t ministry.
In the same way, I can blog, answer emails, Twitter, and write. Those things can lead to some form of ministry, but in and of themselves, they aren’t necessarily ministry.
As a pastor, I did a lot of things to “punch the clock” and put in my time. I wrote letters, made visits, preached sermons, taught Sunday School, and a lot of other tasks. Tasks. Lots of ministry is task oriented. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he was doing a task. But at some point, it became ministry.
When do our tasks become ministry? Better yet, how can we ensure that our tasks are ministry and not just fool’s errands with no spiritual value?
I knew a little back in the day but it never really registered until I started helping other fallen pastors. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with these men, weeping with them, letting them know that life wasn’t over, telling them that Christ really did love them, that despite their sin, God heals and restores the repentant. It was about instilling hope.
It wasn’t any hope I had to offer, but the hope that Christ gives us because we belong to Him. That despite our worst failures, His grace covers our sin. The future may look bleak because of what we’ve done, but when we fall at His feet, we find that all ground is level at the foot of the cross.
And that’s where I found a definition of ministry. Ministry is being able to be Christ for a person when they need it the most. I’m not talking about having a God-complex in ministry. I’m talking about believers having Christ within us and being the servants we are called to be. And at the moment we are needed, we speak the compassion, love and truth of Christ into the life of the person who needs it most.
When I was task-oriented, I got tired of “ministry.” But that wasn’t ministry. It was errand running. But now, I find myself being able to speak the love and truth into the lives of people who need hope.
When those moments happen, I find myself in love with ministry. Ministry like I never knew it before. The ministry I was called to. A life of giving everything we have to Christ so He can love the people in this world and show them His love.
Other helpful links:
“Ministry Means Service,” Grace Communion International
“What is Ministry?” by Scot McKnight
“What is Ministry?” from JP’s Mind
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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