It is official: the word ministry has been overused. Sadly, this overuse has made ministry – one of the primary purposes of the church – little more than a catchphrase or a slogan. In most churches everything is a ministry, which basically means that nothing is a ministry. So, how do we rescue this word from its churchy abuse and allow it to have the importance that God intends? We define it and we live it.

Most website definitions focus on ministry as a group, not as an activity. Thus, a ministry is a governing body, or a collection of ministers. On the other hand, the Bible defines ministry as activity, but not just any activity. Ministry is any activity in which the church, a.k.a. the body of Christ, serves their brothers and sisters within the church. So, simply stated, ministry is any service activity done by the body for the body.

At first glance, this seems selfish . . . but it is not! If you don’t believe this, then read John 13. In this very powerful section of Scripture we are allowed to see the heart of Jesus. Jesus is eating His last meal with His disciples, His friends. As He sits and shares with them, He knows that His betrayal, abandonment, and death are imminent. In this emotionally charged context, Jesus gives His disciples this command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He does not say love the world: He says love each other. In other words, Jesus is saying practice ministry – love and serve each other!

This is incredibly important, not just because these are some of the last words that Jesus spoke, but because He knows that if we follow this command, a watching world will see and take notice. If you keep reading in John 13, you will see that after Jesus issues this command He follows it up by saying, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So, Jesus commands us to do ministry – to love and serve each other. Then, He promises that if we do this, if we love each other, the world will see, and they will know that we love Jesus.