Do you ever wonder what God does with all that time He has? Do you ever think that God just sits up in Heaven, twiddling His thumbs until the return of Christ? It sounds silly, but I'm being serious - if you had to summarize God's current job description, what would you write?
The Bible is clear that we'll never fully understand the character and plan of God (Job 11:7 and Romans 11:33), but there are two places that clue us in to what God is working on. Romans 8 says the whole world is groaning, waiting for redemption (vv. 19-23), and John writes that God is "making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
Here's a summary of God's job description: right here, right now, God is in the process of completely restoring this terribly broken world and everything in it.
Portions of God's redemptive plan might be a mystery for us, but there's really no confusion* about how we fit into that plan. The Apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20).
An ambassador only does one thing - represent. A good ambassador will represent the will, desire, work, and agenda of the leader and nation that sent them. For Christians, our only calling is to represent, or reflect, the character of God here on earth.
But here's where we run into trouble: we think it's acceptable to "clock out" from our representative duties. We would never admit that, but we actually have accepted the mentality of stepping out of ministry into our "normal life" and then back into ministry again.
Imagine if the ambassador for your country was caught stealing from a a local food vendor. When questioned by the media about how this would reflect on his country, he said, "It was my lunch break - I don't represent them during lunch." Hopefully he wouldn't be an ambassador for much longer!
FOUR WAYS YOU LIMIT YOUR MINISTRY
Much like that hypothetical ambassador, we get ministry wrong because we have incorrectly defined ministry. Here are four common ways in which we limit what God has called us to do:
1. Limited By People
We wrongly think that only trained professionals are called to do ministry. We think that the pastor, the biblical counselor, and the international missionary are the "full-time" ministers of the Gospel; everyone else simply serves when they can. That's unbiblical.
The Bible makes it clear that all believers are called to be ambassadors. The paid staff are responsible for equipping the body of Christ for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). When you don't view yourself as qualified because you don't have a degree from seminary, you're limiting your ministry.
2. Limited By Place
We also wrongly think that ministry can only take place in formal locations. We think that Sunday school classrooms, the sanctuary, and the mid-week Bible study are the only places where ministry happens; everywhere else is just normal life. That's not true.
Every dimension of human life is at the very same time a forum for ministry. Your office is ministry; your leisure is ministry; parenting and marriage is ministry; your relationship with your neighbor and Christian friend is ministry. Life is ministry, and ministry is life.
3. Limited By Schedule
Another way we limit our ministry is by demoting it to just another category of life. The Bible makes it clear that the most important thing we can do is participate in the glorious work of the Kingdom of God, but we're easily seduced to pursue our little kingdoms of self-glory.
Just like we schedule our morning exercise, our weekend BBQ, and our work meetings, we schedule ministry events. Sunday worship, small group, and church events are just one more thing to squeeze into an already-loaded schedule. I'm not saying that you should drop all other plans and live at your church, but take a humble look at what your schedule reveals about your priorities.
4. Limited By Activity
Just like we limit ministry by place, we limit ministry by activity. We think that preaching, leading Bible study, setting up for a church event, or witnessing explicitly to a non-believer only qualifies as ministry activity. That's an unhelpful way of viewing ministry.
Remember our definition of an ambassador - one who represents. Whatever you're doing, and whomever you're with, you're called to reflect the character of God. Talking with your spouse is ministry, because you should speak in a way that represents God. Disciplining your child is ministry, because you should express authority in a way that represents God. Serving your neighbor, even if you don't mention Jesus explicitly, is ministry, because you're representing the service of God.
REMOVE YOUR LIMITS
What am I trying to communicate? Widen your definition of what ministry is. Realize that God’s call to be a minister is not a certain set of activities, but a call to a lifestyle of ambassadorship.
You’ll never be in a location where there’s a lack of need for ministry. Ask God to open your eyes to the need and ask for a spirit that seeks to do anything you can to be part of this thing that God is doing in making all things new.
* By "no confusion", I mean in terms of big-picture calling. Certainly, there will be elements of God's call on your life that will be confusing. For more clarity, read my Article, "The Secret Will of God."