John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Ministry vs. Mission

Frost & Hirsch (remember them?) have this interesting thing to say:

[I]f we aim at ministry, we seldom get to do much mission. But if we aim at mission, we have to do ministry because ministry is the means by which mission is achieved. The established church has generally got this wrong. Most never get to do real mission with real outsiders because they aim primarily as the "saved." This we believe is a distortion of authentic New Testament faith and praxis. The church does not exist for itself but for its mission.

I had a conversation with a different church leader a couple of weeks ago. This church leader is a personal friend, and his church is currently looking for a new leader. He's one of the elders in this church, and he told me that he is primarily concerned with two questions for each of the candidates:

  1. How much time do you spend in prayer?
  2. Are you a minister or an evangelist?

That second question gets at the difference we're talking about here: Are you a minister (focused on "insiders") or an evangelist (focused on "outsiders")?

Every church has to make a decision about this. You can do a lot of work with both insiders and outsiders in mind, but eventually those two core values will come into conflict and one will have to win out. Which will it be?

In other words, you can have one of the following two goals:

  • We will reach as many new people as we can while our energy is primarily focused on keeping as many of the people we already have

or

  • We will keep as many of the people we already have while our energy is primarily focused on reaching as many new people as we can

One of these sees ministry (keeping insiders) as the end and mission (reaching outsiders) as the means. The other sees mission as the end and ministry as the means.

Which way does your church lean?