Writing As a Ministry

Published on June 1, 2010 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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My friend Ed Cyzewski recently wrote a blog series on Writing As a Ministry, and he asked me if I would share a few thoughts on this well, which I’m more than happy to oblige.  As a reader, you may also be a writer, or you may be a mom, or a pastor, or in business, or a carpenter, or a student, or any number of occupations.  But I invite you to consider why you do what you do and whether you consider what you do as a ministry or not.

I would love to say that I write books and this blog purely as a ministry.  I would love to say that because I desire for this to be my heart’s deepest desire.  What I can honestly say is that I write in order to:

  • Be affirmed
  • Express a gift
  • Force myself to think more deeply about daily life
  • Prove I have something worth saying, or prove I am valuable because of what I do
  • Attempt to know more of God
  • Share ways in which the gospel touches our daily lives
  • Satisfy my ego
  • Proclaim Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings
  • Feel important or impactful

You will notice a mix of pride-filled motives and grace-filled motives in this list.  My confession to God is that I am not ready to fully submit my writing to Him and His purposes alone, and my prayer is that He will help me remove my own selfish motives and replace them with His motives instead.

With that being said, writing (or _____) as a ministry is a worthy pursuit.  We probably shouldn’t go much further in this before understanding what the Scriptures have to say about ministry in general.  What follow are a few examples from God’s word:

  • The apostles viewed their primary ministry as ministers of the word (Acts 6:4)
  • Paul considers us as ambassadors for Christ, or ministers with a message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 20)
  • God gave gifts to His people in order to equip them for the work of ministry, for building up His church (Ephesians 4:11-12)
  • Paul assumed Timothy had a ministry which needed to be “fulfilled” (2 Timothy 4:5)
  • Jesus obtained a ministry of His own which he appeared once for all at the end of the ages as a sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 8:6, 9:26)

So what can we say about ministry, and how does this impact our own ministries in turn?

  1. Ministry is others-oriented.  The apostles ministered the word to others, the saints are equipped for ministry to others, and Christ’s ministry saves sinners.  Our ministry must continually be self-denying and others-focused.
  2. Ministry comes with a gift.  God is the giver of gifts to His people in order that they may use them to build up His church.  Finding our ministry means discovering and using these gifts in order to build up the body in love and grow in maturity in Christ.
  3. Ministry is a call.  Timothy had a ministry which he needed to fulfill.  God had prepared good works for Timothy to walk in, and He has done the same for us as well.  Being an effective minister means asking God to lead us into these good works.
  4. Ministry requires prioritization. We may be able to minister in many ways, but we should follow the example of the apostles and consider before God where our gifts may bear the most fruit.
  5. Ministry is sacrificial.  Ministry means giving, and giving means sacrificing.  Jesus gave of Himself to obtain His ministry of mediation, and we must give of ourselves in order to obtain the fruit of our own ministries.  We don’t minister to gain; we minister to give.
  6. Ministry exists to glorify God. Jesus’ ministry on the earth, on the cross, and in the Father’s presence exists in order to bring glory to Himself and to the Father (John 17:1-5).  As all things exist for Him (Colossians 1:16), and since we are to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), let us embrace the sacrificial, others-oriented ministries of our gifts in order to magnify the glory of our God.

Question:  How do you think about your own ministry?

  • Pingback: Writing as a Ministry: Chris Tomlinson, Author of Crave, Weighs In | :: in.a.mirror.dimly ::

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/raincitypastor raincitypastor

    Some of us who write have day jobs and spouses. When this is the case, I've found that it's vital for the spouse to see my writing as part of my life's calling. Otherwise, when I zip away to the writing cabin for a week to finish a manuscript that's due, it could be perceived as a little self indulgent…or a lot. I'm fortunate to have a supportive wife in this stuff, and profoundly grateful.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/eeguy32 jtrhart

    I've been thinking about the definition of ministry – seems we can go to one extreme or the other. One says because I am a Christian everything I do is ministry because I'm doing it out of love (1 Cor. 16:14). The other says only those who are fully employed by a local church can do ministry.

    So where is the middle ground?

    Paul seems to imply something in 1 Cor. 7:32-35 when he says that a married man is divided between the things of the Lord and the things of his home. Do you think this means that I don't minister to my wife? At what point does a man fulfilling his responsibilities to his family cross the line between duty and ministry?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Jason, good thoughts. I'm not sure I have captured a full definition of ministry here, but with what we're working from above, I would tend to lean a little more towards the ministry in everything we do side. I say that because I think our posture in marriage, in relationships, in community, in the world should be oriented towards others, based on our gifts, focused on obedience, sacrificial or giving in nature, and all with the aim towards glorifying God.

      The 1 Corinthians 7 passage you brought up is an interesting one. I think you're right–there is an implication that the married man or woman cannot full seek to "please the Lord" because of their divided interests. This is also an interesting passage in that he leads with "I do not have a command from the Lord," so it's that whole "this is Scripture because it's inspired by the Holy Spirit but maybe not a direct command from God" kind of thing.

      It doesn't seem that Paul is so much getting at ministry but "pleasing the Lord," (although the difference, if there is one, would probably merit a discussion), and his statements are also in the context of the time being short due to the present distress, so I wonder if these words would apply at the time or in general.

      All in all, very interesting points you make. Any thoughts you have on this?

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/chadestes Chad Estes

    Regarding #5, Ministry as sacrifice.

    Maybe it's just me, but I think we throw the 'sacrifice' word around too much in our Christian circles. First off, we don't have to appease God any more with our actions, but we often talk like he is more pleased with us when we are giving something up meaningful to us or doing something that hurts.

    When I read the NT verses that actually talk about our lives as spiritual sacrifices, taking care of each other, and worship, they seem to be totally redefining what excites God, not what appeases him.

    But when ministry is defined as something we should, ought, or need to do instead of something that is naturally being birthed out of who we are becoming, it can quickly cross the line into works, guilt, and performance based religion.

    I realize this probably wasn't at all the type of feedback you were looking for on your article. I certainly appreciate many points you have made. I guess I just cringe when we separate out what is ministry and what isn't; what is secular and what is sacred; and therefore what is acceptable to God and what isn't. It tends to divide instead of bring the Church together.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    For my money there is something inherently prideful in a writing ministry. Other people need to hear what I have to say! And yet there have been so many times when my life was changed by the printed word. My earliest mentors were C.S. Lewis and A.W. Tozer. I'm so fortunate they gave in to that pride.

    My friend Jason Chatraw referred to writing as "stewarding the word God has given you." I'm sure he did not mean Divine dictation: I suspect he meant that God chooses people for all kinds of tasks. Ours may well be delivering his messages. And that is humbling.

    In both cases, a writing ministry calls for mastery of craft in the service of God.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Mike_McArthur Mike_McArthur

    Hi Chris,
    I find maintaining good motives to be a constant battle so this post is a real encouragement and reminder to think of myself with sober judgment (Romans 12:3), as also was your recent post about board games.

    While we do need to be aware of the mixed and sinful motivations that can be involved in any ministry, I am thankful for the encouragement you give here that once God does open up a ministry to us we need to exercise the gift He has given and fulfill the calling. It is giving, does require prioritization and sacrifice, but the gift of ministry is not just in abilities to 'do' the ministry tasks, it is also in the gift to us as ministers of grace to experience Christ in us as we give to others.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/5minutesplease 5MinutesPlease

    Chris, you are truly an instrument of God. I need such reminders.

    I really like Mike McArthur's comments!

    We have a creative God. (Look what all God has made!)
    We were created in God's image.
    I believe that God wants us to enjoy our life.
    Thus we have a NEED to create.

    Allow me to interchange ministry with vocation. (Some may have more then one vocation at a time.)

    I suggest that we encourage recognition and openness to individual gifts (ourselves and others).
    Next, we set aside the dictations of society (9-5 traditional job, high income, big house, etc).
    We are then more open to using those gifts as God intended: toward the community.

    This brings affirmation. Let's admit, who wants to keep giving without recognition. We fill the buckets of others, while our bucket is also being filled. (Do you know that story?)

    Chad Estes said, "When I read the NT verses that actually talk about our lives as spiritual sacrifices, taking care of each other, and worship, they seem to be totally redefining what excites God, not what appeases him."

    Love it, Chad!
    God wants us to create and enjoy life. God wants US to be excited about this life God has given us!
    Yes! Let us look at our gifts as a way of life–that WE will be excited about our vocation. Then WE will be exited and that we will Glorify God.

    The Mystery of The Dipper and the Bucket http://www.jesus-cares.org/the_mystery_of_the_dip...
    My recent post Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Mother’s Dedication

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/samanthakrieger samanthakrieger

    "We don’t minister to gain; we minister to give."

    This really struck a chord with me. I have to often remind myself that all that I have is by Grace and is a Gift! Our gifts and our faith mean nothing, unless we give them away.

    This is a great challenge for all of us. I'm also reminded how I need to encourage others to stir up their own gifts. I find a lot of people my age just getting by or wasting time on a lot of things, and not really giving themselves away. It's amazing what could happen if we put the gift of encouragement into action.

    Thanks for your words, Chris.

    • http://www.yahoo.com/ Jera

      That’s more than sienslbe! That’s a great post!

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  • PeterBahi

    Please view my ministry blog

    blogofbahi.blogspot.com. God bless you!! =)