Means of Growth: Ministry

By James M. Rochford

Helping other people will help us to grow spiritually more than any other thing, because it motivates us to read more, pray more, and fellowship more. “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

Loving others brings happiness to us

(Jn. 13:12-17, 34-35) So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

(Acts 20:35) In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

The Greek word for “blessed” is makarios. BDAG defines it as being “fortunate, happy, or privileged.”[1]

(2 Cor. 9:10-11) Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

(Jn. 4:34) Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”

This passage is given in the context of the disciples asking Jesus if he was hungry (v.31). He felt that ministry filled him. When the disciples spent all day passing out fish and bread to the 5,000, they were each given a full basket for themselves at the end (Jn. 6:13). When we make our focus on serving others, God (Jesus) meets our own needs.

(1 Pet. 4:10-11) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.

God meets our needs as we love others.

(Lk. 9:24) For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

This is Jesus’ most repeated teaching in the NT. It appears in all four gospels at least once (Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:25), in Matthew twice (Mt. 10:39; 16:25) and Luke twice (Lk. 9:24; 17:33). The key to a fulfilling life is to give out to others, rather than trying to keep our lives to ourselves.

Loving others speaks powerfully to our lost culture

(Jn. 13:34-35) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Loving others is the key to good fellowship

(Heb. 10:24-25) Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

(1 Jn. 3:16-18) We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

(Eph. 4:11-16) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…

The role of the leadership of the church is not to do all of the ministry themselves, but to equip the people for this great work.

Importance of ministry

Since the ministry aspect of Body-life is practicing biblical love, it is central to the goal of Christian instruction (1 Tim. 1:5). Ministry counteracts a selfish, temporal value system by replacing it with investment in eternal things—people (see Mt. 6:19-21 and interpret in light of 1 Thess. 2:19-20).

Victorious love output, based on knowledge of God’s love for us, is the biblical key to fulfillment in life (Jn. 13:17; Acts 20:35; 1 Jn. 4:16-19). Ministry gives an outlet and an unselfish purpose to the other means of growth. Apart from ministry, the other means of growth will tend to be viewed as purely self-serving tools, and thus will not result in long term growth.

Practical suggestions

Look for needs you can meet, or ways you can build up other believers. This could be as simple as sharing encouragement or wisdom. If you find needs beyond your ability to meet, look for someone who is competent to give you advice on how to serve.

Learn from the example of older believers. You can read ten books on counseling, or you can watch as a gifted counselors listens, draws out a friend, and gives them insight into their problem.

Pray about who you could share your faith with. Sharing what God is doing in your life with others often creates curiosity and could lead to successful evangelism—an important ministry (see also “Evangelism”).

Personal discipleship by an older believer is very helpful in the development of ministry skills. The older believer can often answer questions or suggest solutions for problems encountered. Discipleship within the context of cell groups is especially helpful for a number of reasons. In cell groups younger believers can learn to work together and offer each other the encouragement, prayer and advice that is essential for effective ministry (see also “Discipleship”).

Any Christian can become highly competent in ministry, but such competence is the result of much effort, study, and failure. Often, those who are less gifted succeed in ministry because they have the determination to keep going.

How do we teach the importance of ministry to others?

Don’t skip the theology of ministry. As with all practical theology, argue this from Scripture—not just making emotive calls for ministry (“It’s so much fun” “It’s good for you”). Convince the believer that we cannot pursue God without serving others in love (1 Jn. 4:20).

Define your terms clearly. Christian ministry means more than simply “having a disciple.” It is an entire lifestyle of self-sacrificial love. While having discipleship is a good sign of ministry, it isn’t a complete sign of it.

Encourage effort. Ministry is fraught with failure and doubt. We need to explain how important a person’s contribution was. Our encouragement and enthusiasm goes a long way. Demonstrate a lot of patience when the person is trying but failing to build a personal ministry.

Pray weekly for opportunities to serve. It is important to pray for people by name—whether for Christians or non-Christians whom they are pouring into. It is important to serve alongside this person, and meet their friends whom they are praying for.

Teach ministry ethics. While it is good to desire to serve Christ, this never refers to competing or stepping in front of others to do so.


[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.