Ministry is a weird word. The word gets used a lot in my circles, but it never really gets clarified.
By 'ministry,' we usually mean loving someone in order to change them. If a person is experiencing a hard time, we will pray with them that their circumstances would change, or otherwise that their perspective would change.
I don't think change is a bad thing. We all seem to think it's a good thing, actually, though if you ask 100 people what needs to change the most you'll get about 80 different answers. But I also think it's ironic how loving others in order to change them is the heart & soul of Christian ministry. Because I paid $110,000 to think theologically (!! :( ), let me go there for a sec.
Whatever you think the Christian gospel is, its starting point is the life of Jesus. At one point or another, we acknowledge that Jesus is fully God and fully human. That God even became human. In other words, God's idea of bringing good news begins with God being the first one to accommodate. If anybody became intimate with what it's like to live the life of another, it's the God who moved into the neighborhood, the God who became flesh and blood, the God who would know rejection and doubt and dirt-caked feet.
I don't know exactly what ministry means. Some words can be understood and then left alone, but words like this deserve to grow alongside of you. But two things start the conversation.
First, real life-change is the work of God. That's not too controversial.
And two, it stems out of relationships where we do the hard work of understanding the other person on their own terms. Maybe this isn't hard work for you, but I have to make a conscious choice not to assume I actually understand. I am really good at reading my own experiences into other people's daily life.
This is a corrective to ministry that listens just well enough so it can offer tried-and-true answers. This is a corrective to ministry where influence is royalty even if genuine friendships acquire second-class status in the process. This is a corrective to believing I get paid to change lives, that instead my job is to make spaces where people experience each other and, in so doing, experience Jesus.
This is me wondering how transformative relationships really are, especially when they're not trying to be transformative at all. This is me, walking out on the plank, wondering if I could ever relinquish this silly notion that changing lives is my job. This is me, wondering if I could just be good friends with my middle school guys & stop waiting for the moment when I can pull out my fancy Jesus-words, instead imitating the Jesus who subjected himself to the vulnerability of relationship.
p.s. don't burn me at the stake it's just that I read a youth ministry book by andrew root and it's messin' with me noggin