Local Ministry vs. Local Mission: No Competition Allowed

By Rev. Charles Mock, Executive Secretary of the Home Mission Board |  April 18, 2012

Is there a difference between local ministry and local Mission? Indeed there is. Although both share common denominators they are not to be considered the same. If anything, they should be considered as biological twins. Local ministry can be found in local Mission but not all local Mission will be found in local ministry. Often these two operate as competing claims when it comes to church responses.

Local ministry deals with the holistic needs of the church membership. Local church Mission is the church membership’s ministry to non-church members as adopts the role of brothers and sisters keeper. Local Mission also involves the local church’s witness to any given neighborhood or community as the other neighbor our lord commands us to love. Jesus loved His home town—Jerusalem. Why else would our Lord cry over His beloved city Jerusalem? Why narrowly define neighbor as only individuals? Can we not adopt a fallen neighborhood as well?  Is not this implied in that great mission text, Isaiah 61: 1-6?

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast.

Can we not see our New Testament churches as corporate bodies of believers obedient to God’s directive to His Old Testament corporate people Israel as viewed through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah? By no stretch of one’s theological imagination we see that the regenerated and re-anointed individuals of verses 1-3, of Isaiah 61 use the power of God’s Spirit to regenerate neighborhood or communities that have degenerated over the years.

A regenerated people of God use their God given anointing to not only regenerate communities that have fallen at the hands of sinful deeds by private and corporate public polices, they also have what it takes to resurrect ruined cities. In other words, God’s Spirit and anointing performs local ministry to the people of God so they can in turn become strong and healthy enough to take up and take on local Mission in their surrounding communities and cities. Such people so engaged are called by the Lord “the priests of the Lord” while humans will call such persons, “the ministers of our God.” I cannot think of greater titles to wear more proudly than “priests” and “ministers of our God.” Let us not forget the primary meaning of “priest” is intercessor and “minister” is servant.

Let us never allow local ministry to members of our churches and local Mission to non-members, neighborhood and cities to operate as competing claims on the one Body of Christ. Both are needed for the church to be the church. Local Mission starts at home with church members going through painful divorces, rebellious youth, sick loved ones, unemployed mothers and absent fathers. Local Ministry then spreads abroad, yielding to local regenerative and transformed realities that promote God’s glory.

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