What is missions? What is ministry?
That was a question I posed to the director of our Global Outreach (missions department) at church almost two years ago when I was finally ready to admit that missions is where my heart is; but what is it?
I grew up in the church and on mission trips. In my mind, missions trips were blurbs of ministry- a lot of hard work to meet a need. During that time, you do more than you typically would in a week’s time- you give more, you complain less, you work together with people you may not usually work with, you swallow your pride a little easier, you work hard and sleep less.
In my head, I had separated missions and ministry and life. Missions became what you went out to do on purpose to “reach the lost” – those outside the church. Ministry became what you do while working within the church- aka, everything else church-related, such as Sunday School, Wednesday night programs, special programs, etc. Life was everything else remaining: school, extra curricular activities, family life, friends, etc.
However, I don’t think this is true. I think life is meant to be for ministry and missions is the outpouring of this choice. I have tried for years to compartmentalize these areas for concern over the amount of work required to live this way- it’s a lot to pursue a different way of life than what I am naturally inclined towards. I am selfish. I like my time and energies to be at my disposal instead of constantly being used and exercised.
But it is in the places I let go of my concerns and my time and energies that I am most refreshed and alive. These are the places I find myself at home. I think this is because I am living in a different way- depending on God more and moving towards him instead of my own ideas of what I think will be fulfilling.
I think this is one reason this return has been the best and most difficult. I am leaving a small time of community and ministry in it’s most concentrated form. I am returning to a place of routine – which I love – but a life of requirement in different ways. I have to get up and go to work. I have to make sure the dishes and laundry are done. I have to pull my weight as a co-worker, a roommate, a friend, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a church member, and missions team leader. I begin to see my time and energies become fractioned off into these roles. In this place, it is easier to complain and feel my selfish wants and let them become my motivation for behavior instead of humility and desire for God to be glorified. I am back to commitments and requirements of my time. And none of this is bad. None of these areas, roles, places are bad. My life was meant to be a ministry to others- ministering to their needs. I can minister at work, at home, in all of these roles. I can rely on God for all of this, just like on a mission trip. And that’s what this is, this life is a mission trip.
So I am becoming less concerned about the terminology used and more concerned about each moment God has called me to, led me to, met me in; each place of ministry to others.