I might take a minute to get where I’m going today, but I hope you’ll stick with me.
In April I, along with my good friend and colleague Katelyn Wilson, will be presenting at the Oklahoma Deaf Ministries Workshop. (So, if you’re involved with Deaf Ministry and near Oklahoma City, we hope you’ll come join us! But I digress…)
Our workshop will be about the overlap of professional interpreting ethics with ministry (and I promise it will be much more exciting and fun than it sounds!)
In order to present a full picture, we will be discussing both the RID Code of Professional Conduct (which governs certified American Sign Language interpreters) and the Ministerial Code of Ethics of the United Pentecostal Church International (the organization which is hosting the workshop.)
I had never read the UPCI’s Code of Ethics until this week, but I found it fascinating.
Many of the tenets apply specifically to pastors, but the very first phrase jumped off the screen of my computer at me.
It says, “Striving to be a good minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, I will constantly prepare myself in body, mind and spirit.”
I took a day or so to contemplate why this phrase resonated with me so deeply.
Finally, it clicked.
First, this is a mirror concept of Deuteronomy 6:5, known as the Greatest Commandment and (coincidentally?…or not…) the verse I’ve been working with Abby to memorize for the past two weeks.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)
Second, the idea of being in a state of constant physical, mental, and spiritual preparation to do the work of ministry…well, I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds an awful lot like stewardship.
To be honest, I’ve been struggling the past few weeks to come up with posts for this Stewardship series, because, as I’ve mentioned, I feel weird posting tips and tricks which I haven’t yet successfully implemented. And while, as I concluded last week, there is value in posting about my process of growing in stewardship, maybe I’m trying to zoom in on this topic, when I really need to zoom out.
So today I’m attempting more of a big-picture approach and we’ll see where it takes us.
What is Ministry?
I once experienced a paradigm shift in the middle of a junior high Sunday School class discussion of Mark 1:29-31.
Those three short verses tell the story of Peter’s mother-in-law, whom Jesus healed of a fever. Verse 31 (in the KJV) says, “And he came, and took her by the hand, and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”
I remember vividly the comment by someone in the room, “She didn’t get up and start preaching to Jesus and his disciples. She probably started cooking and serving them food.”
My mind was mildly blown. Up to that point, my understanding of the word “minister” was usually the noun form…as in, a preacher. As far as the verb “ministering,” I’d always heard it used in reference to the work of a preacher…ie. preaching.
Now, part of this misconception was due to my childish inability to conceive of all the work a preacher, or minister, does outside the few short hours a week he or she stands on a platform and speaks.
But it was also revolutionary to my conception of what constitutes ministry.
Ministry is any work we do which assists the needs of others. Preaching qualifies, but so does cleaning the toilets. As does driving someone to church, or working in the nursery.
Ministry is not something to which we should aspire for glory or fame.
A close look at the Old Testament requirements for sacrifices (Leviticus; Numbers) shows us, the priests and Levites were held to a higher standard.
In the New Testament, Paul lists out fairly stringent qualifications for anyone who would serve in early church leadership (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).
The original apostles literally gave their lives for the positions they held and the cause they represented.
Ministry is not always glamorous.
And in way, isn’t that freeing? I want to be used of God to minister His love, but if glamour and flash were a requirement, I don’t know if I’d make the cut.
I believe, as Christians, we are all called to ministry.
After loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, Jesus taught that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:38-40).
Love is work. If you don’t believe it, look at 1 Corinthians 13… and don’t read it in the context of a wedding. Look at how it is saying we should treat others in general.
It’s a lot.
We are all called to serve each other in love (Galatians 5:13).
Elders are instructed to teach and lead the younger in the faith (Titus 2).
We have all been commissioned to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).
Ministry shouldn’t be confined to the relatively few hours of the week most of us spend at the physical location of our church buildings.
Ministry happens in our homes, at our schools, on our jobs. Whether we are leading a Bible study or changing a diaper, teaching from a pulpit or sharing an encouraging word in the grocery store aisle, if we are showing forth the love of Jesus, we are ministers.
Preparing My Body, Mind, and Spirit
So if we are all ministers, how should we apply the idea of continually preparing our bodies, minds, and spirits for the work of the kingdom?
First, we need to identify the responsibilities and activities we are engaged in, which we might not have viewed through the lens of ministry. For me, these include more obvious responsibilities, like being an interpreter in our church’s Deaf Ministry, leading MOPS, and co-leading and hosting Hyphen (young adults’ ministry.) But it also includes how I lead and teach my daughter, how I love and serve my husband, how I encourage and support my friends, and how I approach this blog, my social media presence, and any other opportunities I have to write or speak.
What might it look like to prepare myself in body, mind, and spirit for these diverse tasks? Here are some ideas:
Preparing my Body
- Eating well and exercising, so I can remain healthy and active
- Getting enough sleep so I’m alert and energetic
- Getting up early in the morning to give my brain a chance to wake up before I need to start parenting
- Taking naps or scheduling lighter on days when we’ll be hosting Hyphen dinners, when I’ll be leading MOPS, or when I’ll be interpreting for church
- Using best practices while interpreting to avoid over-working my body
- Scheduling regular maintenance and care for my body, such as check-ups and massages (which always seems selfish, but is actually enabling me to continue serving both my church and my family in the long-run)
Preparing my Mind
- Continually educating myself in the areas where I’m ministering by listening to parenting podcasts, reading books on theology, etc.
- Staying current on trends and new ideas so I can relate to people in conversation
- Maintaining the Continuing Education requirement on my interpreter certification
- Practicing good listening skills
- Reducing distractions and striving to be mentally present with others
- Preparing content and studying the Word before I get up to speak or sit down to write
Preparing my Spirit
- Developing and maintaining a dynamic prayer life
- Spending time each day in the Word
- Fasting so as to reduce my reliance on my own strength
- Practicing times of silence to increase my ability to hear God’s voice
- Journaling to uncover patterns in my thinking or behavioral habits which might hinder my walk with God, and to maintain a record of answered prayers and victories
As you can see, some of these items are very specific to a certain area of ministry, while others apply to all areas of my life. That’s encouraging to me, because this is a pretty long list! I’m definitely not doing all of these things, or even most of them on a daily basis.
Because I am a human being, and not a robot, I’m not segmented into categories with strict firewalls between them. What I do as preparation for one area of ministry naturally influences the rest.
Having enough sleep and drinking enough water prepares my body for any and all tasks I might face in a day.
Similarly, I’m incredibly grateful the time I spend in prayer, fasting, and study of the Word, though maybe less than I’d like some days, can flow into all the places where I hold influence and impact every person I encounter.
A life lived in ministry should be a holistic experience. It should originate from who I am in Christ, and not be dependent on where I am, what my title is, who is watching, or anything other than my deep and abiding love for my Savior.
Like Moses admonished the Israelites, I want to love my God with all my heart, my soul, and my strength.
I want to steward my body, mind, and spirit for the work of loving others as myself.
I want to be a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere I go.
Where do you need to reframe your ideas of ministry? What steps are you taking to prepare yourself for the work of the ministry before you?