The Nature of Ministry
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey argues that grace is the church’s single most important contribution to our broken world. One need not be a Christian, Yancey correctly contends, to do wonderful humanitarian acts, i.e., feed the hungry, build houses, heal the sick. There is one thing the world cannot effectively do—it cannot offer grace.
Building on this theme, Yancey offers what I believe to be a correct interpretation of the image Jesus used to describe the church’s destiny—“the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Rather than a metaphor of defense, this figure signals an offensive posture. “Christians,” says Yancey, “are storming the gates, and they will prevail. No matter how it looks at any given point in history, the gates guarding the powers of evil will not withstand an assault by grace.”
As we explore what it means to be a ministry-oriented church, keep at least three important points firmly fixed in mind. First, all ministry belongs to, and is of, God; we are simply participants with Him. Unlike worldly humanitarianism, godly ministry is done in the name of Jesus, and by His power. Second, ours is not a struggle against physical forces. We are at war with the spiritual powers of evil that attempt to keep our world shrouded in darkness (Eph. 6:12).
Third, true ministry occurs within the vulnerable sphere of personal interaction. Jesus did not develop highly organized—and impersonal—“kingdom growth” programs to see how many people he could collect at a given location. No, Jesus simply “went about doing good.” He dared to touch lepers, grieve with those who mourned, and rejoiced with those who experienced God’s deliverance. No program will ever replace the power of a personal touch.
Each time we minister to people in the name of Jesus we apply a solid blow at the gates of hell. May kingdom people wield the weapon of God’s grace boldly as we reach out to our world.