Lots of people in churches use the terms ‘Mission and Ministry’ interchangeably, but the concepts of the two and how we practice them within the church are different.
Mission, is really God’s Mission: The redemption of the world. We were created to be in perfect relationship with him, but we do fall short. The Church is to be God’s partner in that Mission by proclaiming the Kingdom of God in both word and deed. We are to follow Jesus’ example of healing, feeding, teaching and preaching, especially to those who are not already within the church.
Ministry, on the other hand, is the work of the church – the activities that keep us going. Ministries provide a very important function within the church, but more for those who are already there or visiting. These are very necessary for the church to function through worship, administration, programming, maintenance, teaching and more.
The fine line between the two comes into play when we think of the people who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ but do visit or attend church. Some of our church ministries can be instrumental for helping people to become disciples. Ministries of a church are certainly necessary and good, so please keep doing them. Where the distinction is important, however, is when churches believe that their ministries (Bible studies, Sunday School, etc) are all that the church needs to be doing.
The difference between mission and ministry reflects an internally focused church and an externally focused church. Where does your church focus your time and efforts? For the people who are already there, or on the people who still need to find their place there? If it’s only on the people who are already there, your church is missing out on a huge part of what discipleship means. When we become disciples, our calling does not end there. Part of being a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ is making new disciples. And making new disciples requires going outside the church.
Take a moment to reflect on your own church’s programming. Who are the main beneficiaries? Your own members? Or those who are not yet members or may never be members? There are always more people who need to know the loving grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What are you doing to reach out to them?