If you are living in a broken world that is not functioning as designed, and if you are living as a sinner among sinners, then there is no situation, location, or relationship where ministry is not required. You are constantly confronted with spiritual need of some kind. Therefore, it simply cannot work to define ministry as something your church leaders design, program, and schedule.
In biblical terms, ministry is not about a time or place. It is a heartfelt willingness to respond to the spiritual need that God puts in my path, anytime, anyplace. This certainly includes participation in what my church schedules, but it must be far more. I must view every dimension of my life as a forum for ministry.
Marriage is ministry. Parenting is ministry. Friendship is ministry. Living with neighbors is ministry. Work is ministry. Life is ministry.
A ministry mentality changes your perspective on life. It tells you that every time your eyes see or your ears hear the sin and weakness of your children, it is an act of God’s grace—always grace. God loves your children and has put them in a family of faith: your family. In his restorative zeal, he will expose their sin to you so that you can be his tool of rescue and redemption for them. Ever intent on his mission, he will again and again expose their need to you. And he won’t wait for a convenient opening in your schedule.
This side of eternity, healthy relationships are healthy because the people living in those relationships approach them with a ministry mentality. You never wake up to a world that has been freed from the Fall, and you never spend time with people who have escaped the curse of sin. Because of this, ministry is not something you can relegate to an area of your life or a formal slot on your schedule. No, you and I must enter each situation of life with a ministry mentality.
When I divide my existence into two separate parts—”ministry” and “my life”—guess which one gets the short end of the stick? Guess which one has to get by on my leftover time, my leftover energy, my leftover finances, and my leftover passion?
If I see ministry as something that I do when I step out of my life—that is, when the church has programmed and scheduled some form of ministry for me—then the vast majority of my life is mine for the using.
But Scripture teaches the reverse of those priorities. It challenges me with the reality that nothing I am or have belongs to me. I do not have a life divided into God’s part and my part. It’s all “God’s part,” the whole thing. He purchased it at the cross, when he redeemed me from a life of hopelessness on earth and eternity in hell. My life does not belong to me in any way, shape, or form. God owns me and everything my life contains.
This means that I have been brought into relationship with God not only so that I could be rescued from myself, but so that I may be part of God’s rescue of others. My life exists for his purposes. I was given life and breath to help maximize the glory of Another. This is why life is ministry.
Excerpted from Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad by Paul David Tripp.