Ministries essential to the church: when no ministry might be better

What ministries and roles are so fundamentally important to the church that, were we to do away with them, it would cease to function?

Our church recently held a conference titled ‘Serving without Sinking’, based on the book of the same name. John Hindley, author of that book and founder of Grace Church Manchester, spoke helpfully on our motivations for serving Christ.

Many good things were said but two particularly stuck with me:

  1. There are usually fewer ministries necessary for the life of the church than we think. There may be good ministry opportunities, and many excellent things to do, but Jesus managed perfectly well before they existed and doesn’t insist they continue come what may
  2. Perhaps it is better to have no ministry at all than one that badly reflects Christ. For example, it may be better to have no children’s work than one that reflects Christ falsely through the motivations and actions of those serving

John suggested the areas of service necessary for your church to function: (1) someone to open up the building; (2) someone to preach. Other things, it was suggested, may be good and have their place but are not fundamentally essential.

If that is the case, are we better placed to strip away all extraneous areas of service – singing, children’s work, etc – until there exist people whose motivations for serving Christ are right and who will, through those acts of service, properly represent Jesus? Are we best to stop certain activities until those running them serve based on their love for God and that of other believers?

What is better: to have unsuitable individuals serving in the church – non-members, divisive individuals, those who make service about themselves, etc – or simply to have no non-essential ministries until suitable individuals are able to serve gladly, willingly and properly?

Need may be a good motivator for service but if that is our only consideration perhaps our service will do more damage to the cause of Christ.

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