Philosophy of Ministry

African American female Reverend praying

Ministry in Relation to God

My vision for Christian ministry in relation to God is to engage in an ongoing quest to know the One in whose image I am made and, in doing so, to discover my own identity. In Disciplines of the Spirit, Howard Thurman has observed that finding one’s identity becomes a single-minded pursuit “that pulls to one point of focus all the fragments” of a person’s life and makes that person whole (Thurman, 2003, p. 29). In many respects, my vision for Christian ministry is also like being in covenant relationship with God, a commitment that entails having a divine calling to engage obediently in a special type of work.

The Hebrew Bible provides a number of descriptions regarding the covenant relationship established by God with Abraham and his progeny. One specific reference can be found in Deuteronomy 25:18-19: “Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God as he promised.” Moreover, in the New Testament, the Apostle Peter attempted to explain the concept of being set apart by covenant. He wrote in his first epistle, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).

Based on this view, certain people are chosen by God to move from a state of darkness to a state of light in order to accomplish specific goals. I believe that St. Teresa of Avila understood this to be the case. She once observed that “Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours; yours are the eyes through which He looks [with] compassion on this world; Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”[1] In the spirit of St. Teresa, my vision is to use my hands, feet, eyes, and all that I am in the service of promoting love, hope, and peace in God’s world.

Ministry in Relation to the Church

My vision for ministry includes work in the body of Christ, whether that body is defined by a brick-and-mortar edifice or through its digital counterparts in cyberspace. The book of Ephesians indicates that certain people in the church have been endowed with spiritual gifts that are to be used to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). To state it another way, the job of ministry in the church involves equipping congregants to have strong faith as mature believers united by love. This work sets the church apart as one of the places where people may engage in the work of justice, worship, and praise. The epistle further describes the mission:

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (vv. 14-16)

My vision for the church also encompasses the institution’s ministries and the power of those ministries to pass along the Christian heritage from one generation to the next. From examples set by my forebears and other influential people of faith, I have garnered wisdom about the often-stark realities associated with trying to live righteously in a biased world. And I have been blessed beyond measure for having known these courageous pilgrims.

Ministry in Relation to the World

Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer and kingdom work are concepts that define discipleship, which is equivalent to my understanding of ministry in the world. If I had an opportunity to actualize my notion of discipleship, the plan for doing so would be based on the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus shows concern for the least, the last, and the lost (Luke 14:13-14). This gospel appeals to me because it emphasizes the idea that Jesus is on a mission, which began before his birth and continues even after his ascension through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus laid out in broad terms what disciples are to do when they are called and sent to carry out a divine assignment.

Not only that, based on Luke’s account, Jesus provided on-the-job training for his disciples and made it very clear to them that their work was to minister to others. For example, after announcing his mission in the temple, Jesus began speaking with authority, casting out demons, and healing the sick. In addition, among the first signs and wonders Jesus performed was healing Simon’s mother-in-law of a high fever (Luke 4:38-39). Once cured, Simons’ mother-in-law immediately got up and began to serve those around her. Using this as a model, my vision for discipleship/ministry in the world is linked to service. Furthermore, a ministry of service obligates me to carry out fully the work of discipleship: “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20a, NLT).

My ministry in the world is designed to help people of faith attain wholeness and fulfillment in their lives, especially those who have experienced trauma and have a need to engage in spiritual healing. Sanctuary, peace, deliverance, and compassion would definitely be words I associate with this ministry.

 

[1] A Nun’s Life Ministry: Catholic Sisters and Nuns in Today’s World, retrieved from http://anunslife.org/2006/09/20/saint-teresa-of-avila-prayer/ , 2011.

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