While the Bible is clear that believers are expected to provide material and practical support to those in need (e.g., Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 5:3, James 2:16, 1 John 3:17), what distinguishes “ministry” from community service (e.g., charitable efforts, humanitarian endeavors)?
Before answering the question, please consider the following.
FIRST, a few months ago, my wife and I began picking up bread and bakery goods at a local Panera and taking it to local homeless shelters, food pantries, and schools for distribution. When people from our church found out, a typical response was: “What a wonderful ministry.” I, however, do not see it as a ministry. While we devote time to picking up and delivering physical bread to local organizations, aside from exchanging pleasantries with staff, there is seldom an opportunity for conversation. As such, I consider what we do to be charitable, NOT ministry.
SECOND, earlier this year, a local newspaper featured a story about former a Cincinnati Bengal and his wife who expanded their prison ministry – “the message he preaches is common sense.” The article highlighted their efforts to empower adult inmates and help change the direction of people’s lives. Participants in the MANA (Mentoring Against Negative Actions) Program learn life skills that promote healthy behavior. “Fulcher touches on all aspects of life. How to find a job, get a Social Security card, driver’s license, or state ID, and how to be a law-abiding citizen.” While I most certainly applaud Mr. & Mrs. Fulcher’s efforts, and presume they are believers, what distinguishes a person’s 'ministry' – referring to the way he/she gives back to the community, from the ministry of Jesus Christ?
THIRD, according to Oxford Dictionary, ‘ministry’ is defined as “the work or vocation of a minister of religion” as in “the spiritual work or service of any Christian or a group of Christians, especially evangelism.” Synonyms include teaching, preaching, evangelism. A recent post on Christianity.com (3/16/20) states, “Ministry is about giving of ourselves and our time, talents, and resources to help bless and help others.” And, in the Bible, the Greek word for ministry in Acts 8:21 is “diakonia,” and it refers to “Spirit-empowered service guided by faith.” (Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/1248.htm)
I welcome the chance to see or hear what you think distinguishes ministry from acts of kindness and community services. Please share your responses via email – feedback@ our CareMinistry URL or call 513-973-7700. Blessings, Charles Puchta