What is Christian Ministry?

Have you heard anyone say, “I think I am going to quit my job and go into the ministry!” Have you ever heard a pastor talk about so-and-so that left the business world to go into full-time ministry? Has anyone ever told you that you should not be in business, but should be in full-time Christian ministry?

Christian ministry

“The” Christian Ministry

So, what is all the fuss over “the” ministry? What exactly do you have to do to qualify for Christian ministry? What exactly is full-time ministry? Is it something you must be called to do?

Well, if you listen to most people, full-time Christian ministry is being employed and getting paid by a church or other ministry organization. Most people have the idea that you must leave whatever secular job you may have if you want to do Christian ministry. The two cannot exist together in the same job.

How Do You See It?

Do you think this way?

Assume you and I are sitting next to each other on a plane and we start up a conversation. During the course of this conversation, you ask me what I do. If I respond that I am in full-time Christian ministry, what would you assume I do? Would your next question be related to what church or church organization I work for?

If this would be your assumption, then you are among many who would think the same. However, I think Christian ministry applies to more than just the paid church staff.

Christian Ministry Is For Everyone

Christian ministry is something we are all commanded to do. When Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, He pointed us to ministry. He failed to qualify that statement by adding, “on Sundays” or “as staff members of the church.” Instead, He meant everyone, everyday.

Folks, YOU are to be in full-time Christian ministry. It is not something reserved for church staff members. It is not something you are only to do when at church on Sundays or Wednesdays. Christian ministry is an attitude and action of serving others…all the time!

Uncommon Philosophy

I know this is not a common philosophy. I know that your pastor, along with most of your Christian friends, may have a different view. They will not necessarily disagree, but will simply assume a separation between Christian ministry and the business world. That is okay! It really is fine!

You see, we cannot change everyone’s perspective all at once. We cannot expect to explain this idea to a few key people and all of a sudden, everyone realizes they are to be in Christian ministry.

No, we simply need to change our own mindset to embrace full-time Christian ministry right where we are in our current jobs. We need to eliminate the separation in our minds between spiritual activity and secular jobs. We need to begin doing ministry and let others catch on as they will.

Obviously, engaging in Christian ministry can take on many forms. If surveyed people at church, work, or school, you will likely get many answers as well. For the purpose of the discussion now and in future posts, I will tell you what I believe is the root of Christian ministry.

Christian Ministry At The Core

I believe it boils down to two passages of Scripture.

The first is known as the Greatest Commandment. Jesus was asked by an expert in the law which was the greatest commandment. Jesus answered…

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.
Matthew 22:37-40

The second passage is known as the Great Commission. Some of the very last words Jesus used to instruct his disciples are these…

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

Living It Out

When you attempt to live out these two passages, whether in business, as a paid church staff member, or anywhere else you may find yourself, I believe you are doing Christian ministry.

If you would like to see various examples of the methods we have used to live out Christian ministry in our business, check out these posts (Christian Ministry Actions). Maybe you will get some ideas you can use in your business.

I will likely say this many times…we do not have it all figured out. We simply began attempting to act out our faith in the business. You may not agree with all we do. You may think we take it too far or not far enough. Either way, I want to encourage you to think about how you can do something similar where you are.

As we go, I hope you will leave comments and let me know what you are thinking. Who knows, your comment may affect someone else that is reading and seeking answers. Don’t hold back!

Do you agree with this definition of Christian ministry?

What do you do to live it out in your life?

Do you meet resistance? How?

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  • I know this is something that I’ve thought about a great deal. Our society is centered around the two-tier version of Christian service, where there are the pros who do it within the church and then the rest of the crowd that merely supports them. I think, as a culture, we need to reclaim the power of the marketplace and the power of the doctrine of vocation.

    • I agree. Like I said, though, we cannot do it (change the culture) all at once. It is a matter of each of us deciding that “as for me and my business [house], we will serve the Lord!”

      Over time, if enough of us decide this, then the tide will swing.

  • A. Amos Love

    ChrisMuch agreement when you write…“Folks, YOU are to be in full-time Christian ministry.”And…“You see, we cannot change everyone’s perspective all at once.”“We need to begin doing ministry and let others catch on as they will.”The two verses you gave are important. I’d like to add…And Jesus has given us ALL a full-time ministry. ;-)2 Cor 5:18-19 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, **and hath given to – us – the ministry of reconciliation;**To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; **and hath committed unto – us – the word of reconciliation.**Rom 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.And those who are wanna-be “sons” “MUST” be about their Fathers business.The Fathers business is – “Love,” “Observing, doing, what Jesus did,”“Reconciliation.”Jesus, at twelve years old, knew He “MUST be” about His Fathers business. ;-)Luke 2:49 KJVAnd he said unto them, (His parents)How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I *must be* about my Father’s business?That “must be” is the same Greek word as – …You “must be” born again. John 3:7Seems to be a small word but very important.It’s Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).Thayers – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.A reasonble question to ask – wanna-be – sons of God…Are you about – your business? Or – Are you about – your Fathers business? 😉

    • Great additions, Amos!

      Thank you for the applicable Scripture as well as your encouragement. I like that “we MUST be about our Father’s business!”

      • Anonymous

        So true, its all about being apart of His business.

  • Michael Dodaro

    By the prevailing definition of full-time Christian ministry, Jesus was not in full-time Christian ministry.  He was trained as a carpenter, not a clergyman.  He did his teaching in the street among working people and ministered to physical needs before he preached about spiritual matters.  How does it happen that people making careers in church have higher standing in the community than Christians who demonstrate ther faith while working at ordinary jobs?

    • Great point and tough question, Michael.

      I am not sure of the answer, but my goal is to live out my faith through my business. Maybe if enough of us do this, more people will get the idea and join us. As for “higher standing in the community,” we just need to ignore it and keep our hands to the plow.

  • Michael Dodaro

    The more I think about this problem, the more it seems to be evident in most people’s employment, not only among those on church payrolls.  I’ve been listening to some recordings of Jay Abraham’s marketing principles.  I noticed that Jay Abraham is giving away a bundle of his transcripts on sales and business, so I downloaded them and started listening while I exercise or drive.
    The foundation of marketing is understanding one’s customers, not through several levels of management, but first hand, on the basis of their needs.  To successfully sell anything, one has to know what customers need and want.  It’s also important to know who else can benefit from successful business transactions of which the business is a part.  The focus is outward, not inward to the demands of the power networks inside the company.
    For the past ten years I’ve been writing documentation for computer programmers.  It took me a long time to understand why I was having such a hell of a time with my performance reviews.  I thought my job was to test software and make it usable by the developers who build on the company’s products.  But, the bosses in my department thought our goal was to please the product teams inside the company who have power and status.
    This conflict is evident in every organization I know of.  Should one serve the power networks inside the organization to advance one’s career, or is it worth the risk to really serve the people who need the products and services the organization was created to produce?

    • Perfect world? Serving the internal power network and the external customer looks exactly the same and the rewards are clear. Real world, too many companies see these two goals differently.

      If you can work for a company that places serving the customer at the highest priority, then there is no conflict here. If not, I think you look to the eternal scoreboard – and determine what puts points there – rather than your career scoreboard.

  • Chris, I love your thinking here. I remember the recruiting message for the CoMission (joint mission venture in Russia): “If you can push the play button on a VCR, if you can hug a child…” Of course, my wife and I could do that much and so we signed on. I’m an ordained pastor who has chosen to do ministry outside of the four walls. I recently told someone, “I’m a writer who preaches, not a preacher who writes.” When I do preach, if it’s only one message to a church, it’s coming out of Ephesians 4, “as each parts does its work.”

    By the way, great question based on something that happens all the time–conversation during a flight.

    • Thanks Tom. I love that recruiting message! I would love to hear some of your stories from Russia.

      I also like you preacher/writer line. This brings up a good question for another post – Do we work while we minister or minister while we work? I think I will “work” on that one!

      Have a great day!

      • I remember writing a post where I said something along the line of “Enter their world…” meaning connect with others outside the faith. I noted that I didn’t like that term. I may share a different worldview but I don’t share a different world. As Jesus said about the Father, “He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the good and the evil…” Oh, I think that would make an interesting idea to pursue in a post.

        Anyway I don’t see ministry and work as separate entities. As Paul would put it, “Whatever you do do to the glory of God.”

        Good thought seeds being planted here. Well done, Chris.

  • Anonymous

    Having been on both sides of this premise, I can honestly say all Christians should be living out 24/7 lives as ministers of the gospel. Real living involves living real before Christ as one of His disciples. It does not require seminary training, a vocational title, just a desire to be salt and light in the world, always ready to give a reason for the hope that we have within us to all who may watch us and ask us… I enjoyed my time as a pastor, teacher, employee, and coach. All have been rewarding experiences bringing unique opportunities to minister to those around me. Just be willing to let God use you everyday in every setting and situation – He has a purpose in where you are each day.

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  • A few years ago I held the traditional view, but having been on both sides of this, I now realize “all Christians are to be engaged in full-time ministry”. In fact, I left full-time service in the church to touch more lives teaching and coaching in the public schools than I could ever reach in the confines of a church. And today, I am at peace impacting lives and being impacted daily in the job I have meeting and touching individual and families while conducting business. Jesus never preached a sermon from a church, nor did he have a congregation come together on a regular hour once a week.

  • We very much agree with your post. We are working through the same shift in mindsets at Crossworld – even as an international missions organization! We agree that vocational religious workers are NOT the only ones in ministry, and that God wants to use all of us at all times to be on mission for him. In our corner of the world, we’re even praying through how to make that happen in the least-reached marketplaces.

  • I will join with you in prayer! Thanks for sharing!

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  • full time

    As far as what I understand that what many people understand about full-time Christian ministry is the amount of time spent or devoted to the service of God. I have seen so many people in secular jobs and even myself, sometimes I can not attend
    Bible Study or regular worship services, prayer meetings, or outreach because sometimes I have overtimes and deadlines to meet which coincide with my church ministries. I’d like to handle Bible Study, or make exhortation to a depressed person, or make explanation on some biblical teaching or doctrine but I can’t do it because I have not enough time to study, meditate, fast and pray the word of God because of my secular job. Unlike those who have given all their life and time in the service of God and His people thru daily prayer, study, meditation of His Word, giving their time to teach, preach, counsel, exhort, attend to the needs of the flocks, and other church programs and activities to cater to the needs of the flocks, etc. There is no competition from other secular activity…all the time is only about and for God.

    • Full Time, I understand your frustration because I have lived it. I would encourage you to begin looking around at your current job and see where and how you can minister to your co-workers and others with whom you interact. I would also urge you to pray that God would show you how you can do this right now, right where you are.

      Your first step might just be to carve out 15 minutes every morning for the purpose of reading the Bible. Start with one chapter of Proverbs every day. Simply pray for an open mind and heart, read, and then pray for the wisdom to know how to apply what you read. Fifteen minutes is not optimum, but it is a start! Start small and it will build over time!

  • Johnny Walker

    Yes!! I’ve been screaming at this for years. When I did pastor a church I kept telling the people my job “wasn’t to DO ministry, but to equip them FOR ministry.”

    It’s almost as if we have hired others to do ministry in our place.

    It’s just as bad as giving 10% to the church and feeling obsolved of the responsibility of feeding the hungry or clothing the naked.

    The Americanized church needs this message!

    Keep preaching it!!

    Johnny Walker
    http://www.JohnnyWalker.Co
    (770) 456-5547

    • Thanks for the encouragement and enthusiasm, Johnny! I will keep preaching it if you will!

  • N Bradley Norton

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling. And giving scripture that led you to these beliefs. I’ve been following your blog for a little over a month now and am thankful for the incites.

    • Bradley, I appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment. I am also thankful that you are seeing value in the posts. God is clearly the one to credit here…keep doing what you are doing!

  • I used to think I needed to follow the traditional definition of “full time ministry” in order to truly be in ministry. Then I taught at a community college and discovered my life as a whole can exist as full-time ministry. That transformed my thinking.

    • Kari, that is awesome! How did you get the opportunity to teach at the community college?

      • Well, my husband took a computer class there for work, the instructor said they were looking for more computer instructors, and he hooked me up. From there, I connected with the English department and started teaching classes for them. Then I was an adjunct professor for a couple of years. Tremendous experience but A LOT of work outside of the classroom. I do miss it at times but love the freedom I have as a freelancer now.

        • Thanks Kari. That is good to know. I have been considering something like that as a potential future endeavor and your perspective helps! I may reach out again later for more details, if that is okay?

  • Kurt Kelley

    While it is true that we are called to be ambassadors for Christ wherever we are, there are some of us, for whom our entire being and gift set, will only fit in full time Christian ministry. And others just have that desire. What is wrong with that? Why is it always someone who DOES make a living in full time Christian ministry, be it as a pastor, author, CCM artist, parachurch leader, or even the writer of this post, telling others that they should NOT seek out full time ministry? Its like when married ministers badger lonely singles that they should NOT be seeking what they themselves have, and enjoy.

    As for me, all of my gifts are inclined towards ministry and missions. My music. My heart. My comfort at interacting with other cultures and races. My compassion for the least of these. My calling to be approachable to the least of these. I was gifted for nothing but full time service. On the other hand, I have virtually NO business or corporate skills, no mechanical skills, no technical skills, no skilled trades skills, etc…Moreover, my vision impairment disqualifies me from the military, being a fireman, policeman, or any kind of truck driver or other large vehicle operator.

    Lastly, I went back to school in my 40s to obtain my long delayed BA degree, in MINISTRY. I constantly am volunteering my gifts in a ministry capacity. Why shouldnt I make a living from the Gospel, if that encompasses everything I do?

    • Kurt, I sincerely apologize if you read anything in my post that made you think I have anything against making a living in a ministry position. That is the furthest from my mind!

      What I am trying to communicate is that everyone – regardless of how their income is derived – is in full-time ministry. I am in business and you are in a paid ministry position – we are BOTH in full-time ministry! We are both doing what God has gifted us to do. We are both going to be held accountable for what we have done for His kingdom.

      I admire those who have done what you have done (back to school for a degree in ministry). I have never advised anyone NOT to go into a paid ministry position. If my post made you think this was my position, I am sorry for that.

      I am speaking primarily to those who are in a career outside of paid ministry and too often think that ministry is to be left up to those being paid to do it. Too many Christians believe that ministry is the job of those being paid to do it. These people think they are free from the responsibility of doing ministry because they are not in a paid ministry position.

      As for you and others in paid ministry positions, I believe you are doing what you are called to do. There is NOTHING wrong with what you are doing. You should be proud of it!

      I just want to educate those who are not in that kind of position that they are not required to be paid for the ministry they are called to do. They can do it in their current job, social circles, family, etc. We are to do ministry wherever we are in whatever we are doing.

      I hope this helps to clarify my position and give you peace of mind. Thanks for being willing to share so openly!

  • Macarius

    Chris, I’m not sure you know, but this is very close to St. Josemaria’s idea of “Unity of Life”. “Sanctifying one’s work is no fantastic dream, but the mission of every Christian — yours and mine.” St. Josemaria, Furrow 517, Opus Dei

  • Macarius

    Yes Chris, I do generally agree with this idea of Christian ministry in work, family life and other ordinary activities so does thousands of Opus Dei faithful and friends around the world.

  • A Amos Love

    Macarius

    Was wondering…

    Do the “Opus Dei faithful and friends around the world.”

    Still practice…

    “Corporal Mortification?” With a Cilice?
    A spiked chain worn around the upper thigh for two hours each day?

    “Discipline?”
    A cord-like whip which resembles macrame?
    Used on the buttocks or back once a week?

    “Sleeping” on the floor once a week?

    “Sleeping?” without a pillow once a week?

  • Etwal Timoun

    Hello everybody,we are ETWA TIMOUN (stars of kids) a christian organization based in haiti.we work with poor kids.we need some helps to help more children.if you want to talk to us ,you can visite our page on facebook “ETWAL TIMOUN” or email us at etwaltimoun@yahoo.com