We saints are supposed to be getting ready for “the work of the ministry” (Eph 4:12). What does that mean? Does God expect us all to preach? Are we supposed to quit our jobs and “go into the ministry,” as they say?
The Greek word for “ministry” was diakonia (dee ah kon NEE ah). It originally meant serving at someone's table. It was a job for a slave or a woman, not a free man. As Plato put it, “How can a man be happy when he has to serve someone?”
In the New Testament ministry retains much of the original concept of simple servanthood. One important ingredient was added to the word, however—the element of love! When Martha was so busy getting the food ready, it was ministry (Luke 10:40). When Mark was summoned to give aid to Paul in the Roman prison, it was ministry (2 Tim 4:11). When the Corinthian gentiles gathered money for the starving Jewish Christians, it was ministry (2 Cor. 9:1). To take care of the hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick was ministry in the eyes of Jesus (Matt 25:44). To carry the gospel to the lost and alienated world was also ministry (2 Cor 5:18).
When did we start talking about preaching as THE ministry? When did we first forget that all saints who serve in any capacity have a ministry? When will we learn that every act of service, lovingly rendered, is ministry? When will the day come that we all—in the pulpit or the pew—will simply be eager to be useful in the Kingdom?
May the Lord hasten the day that we will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I thank Christ Jesus . . . because He counted me faithful and put me into service (diakonia)” (1 Tim 1:12).