Question: What is ministry? What is ministering to God vs ministering to people?
The word ministry is used in scripture on several occasions. In Luke 3:23 we are told that Jesus began His earthly ministry when He was about thirty years old. In the book of Acts the apostles searched for another to occupy the ministry of Judas when he fell. Paul speaks of his apostolic ministry. Timothy was told to endure hardness and fulfill his ministry. Then we have examples of someone like Archippus, a Christian teacher in Colosse who is told to take heed to the ministry he was called to in order to fulfill it. (Col. 4:17) I could go on, but this terminology is common. The word ministry literally means service, but it also seems to be connected to specific callings and directions. If you read 2 Corinthians 10, and really the chapters leading up to it, you’ll see that all Christians are called not to boast beyond their measure, meaning their sphere of influence, but rather to fulfill that which has been entrusted to them to fulfill. This is what is spoken of in Romans 12:6-7, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching.” The overarching theme of scripture regarding ministry is that we are all called to be of service in some way.
Service to others is part of our ministry, “service” to the Lord. Galatians 5:13 calls for Christians to “serve one another.” Also look at Philippians 2:4, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Of course, we again see this concept in Galatians 6:10 where Christians are told to especially do good to those in the household of faith. Then, the five leadership positions as seen in Ephesians 4 have a specific directive to prepare the saints for, “…the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12) It’s interesting that there’s a major emphasis on how we serve other believers all throughout the scripture. Many christians miss this when trying to focus on those on the outside, but we must not neglect these directives. Yes, do good to the people of the world, but first learn how to be a unified body within. This not only glorifies God, but it is an ultimate witness of His glory to those who observe. When we live this way, it is service to the Lord.
The terminology, “ministering to God” is not explicitly used in the Bible, but there is an overall theme of dedicating one’s life to God throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, you’ll find various rituals and duties as a form of service to God, things like offerings and sacrifices, for example. In the New Testament, we could say that the idea of ministering to God is found in things like worship, prayer, and living a life in obedience to the Word, as well as in service to one another as unto the Lord as explained earlier. Romans 12:1, urges believers to present themselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as an act of spiritual worship. As we strive to be doers of His Word and to keep His commandments, it is service to Him. This is ministry.
Most of all, we must not put our own desires of what we want our “positions” or roles to look like as God’s stamp of approval. Ambition in the body of Christ is not pleasing to the Lord. What pleases the Lord is when we work within the measure that He has given us, fulfilling all the directives within our individual spheres of influence. Ask yourself each day, “how can I be of service to the Lord today?” Make yourself available and you’ll be surprised how much He’ll show you to do.