Inside-Out Ministry

images.jpgI am not sure where I first heard the expression "Ministry is inside-out not outside-in."  I may have first heard it from Doug Kostowski who preached in Southern California years ago.  I recall hearing him use this expression in a message.

I think the principle is very important though I am not sure I understood it fully for many years.  

First, every Christian is an everyday minister.  God uses each one of us for his purposes in some way.  He gifts us and then empowers us with his Spirit for that ministry.  

Second, everyday ministry is more than "church work."  It is more than doing tasks.  It is more than being on a committee or being involved in some project at "the building."  Ministry is whatever we do which is used by God in some way to glorify him and serve another.

Third, ministry is a product of the "Spirituality" of a person.  That is, the Spirit works within each one of us to create a Christ-like person (the Christ-formed person).  Out of such a heart flows practical everyday ministry.  

I like the way Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser describe "Spirituality." 

Spirituality: The means by which we develop an awareness of the Spirit of God in us and the processes by which we keep that awareness alive and vital, to the end that we become formed in the Spirit of Christ.

(Shawchuck, Norman and Heuser, Roger, Leading the Congregation, p. 39)

Bottom line: Ministry must flow out of Spirituality.  There, the Spirit is at work so that the ministry being done is not just a task being performed, but the Christ-formed life being expressed in practical ways.

Therein lies the secret of the easy yoke, according to Dallas Willard.  In order to effectively follow Jesus in public ministry, we must also follow Jesus into the lonely desert and mountains to be alone with God.  It is true that "a successful performance at a moment of crisis rests largely and essentially upon the depths of a self wisely and rigorously prepared in the totality of its being."  In other words, "We who are appointed by God to heal others, need the physician ourselves.  This necessary relationship between the leader’s private solitude and public ministry, according to Nouwen, can only be nourished "when we have met our Lord in the silent intimacy of our prayer" which will enable us also to "meet him in the camp, in the market, and in the town square.  But when we have not met him in the center of our hearts, we cannot expect to meet him in he busyness of our daily lives."

(Shawchuck and Heuser, p. 42) 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 thoughts on “Inside-Out Ministry

  1. So true Jim.  I need to spend more time alone with God.  I think that our spirit can conect with the Spirit more that way. I know that the times I have done that I have grown tremendously by it.  I pray that we can all slow down enough to spend more and more time whith Him.

  2. I have heard it said that in our early years we minister out of our energy. But we must learn to manage our energy and our inner life, in our 30’s to be able to successfully navigate and grow in ministry. Ultimately ministry is not what we do, but what we offer – the sharing out of the well of our life. For as it has been said – “what’s down in the well, comes out in the bucket.”

    We must learn to manage and nurture our inner life – for this is the source of our ministry. As has already been said, I too have found that the inner depths of my life are most profoundly impacted in silence and solitude.

    This message is so needed in the hurry-up; overly committed; too-highly programmed and success-driven climate of the church today. May God help all of us to learn that our greatest ministry is to attend to God and it is out of this alertness, awareness and acknowledgement of His presence that we will be fit to guide, encourage and nurture others.

  3. Very good thought this morning!  I’m in the middle of a spiritual disciplines study and the idea of spirituality’s essence as "love God and love people" while nice for memory work needs a little more defining for me.  I like the desciption you quoted – it has a little resemblance to Piper’s view that if we make the pursuit of joy in God as our goal, everything else falls into place.  I like that!  Simple.  But the processes, hence the disciplines that keep the pursuit alive are also key.  Thanks for this reflection this morning, Jim.

  4. Jim -This is just an outstanding post that I really relate to.  I’m older enough now and have been through enough (way too many) things to be able to look back in a lot of ways on my life and see how God has shaped me and worked in me to get to where I am today, and I must say that everything you say here is absolutely true and good.In the past four years or so I have been through many physical difficulties, some of which caused me to be confined at home and totally off my feet (my foot was broken) for a period of 11 months out of 15.  (I’m a long term diabetic and it was very long in healing.)If you don’t think that was hard.  And I fought it terribly at first mentally and emotionally and did not want to go through it.  It was really hard. But in the end it changed me profoundly for the better as a Christian and in my spiritual life.   Being alone and in solitude with God.I have to say this, too.  A large part of what changed me for the better had to do with this wonderful Christian blogging community because I had to sit here at the computer for hours on end all alone with my thoughts and reading the thoughts of others that were very inspiring (like your’s today).  It really was uplifting for me and of great benefit.  I still don’t lead a real "active" life any more like I once did, but I know now that in everything I do and think, I am serving God, hopefully to His glory.  I try to make every encounter with others a positive and beneficial thing in both their lives and mine.  I feel that my ministry is to be positive and to encourage others in all I say and do.Thanks again for this great post!  Cheers & Blessing to you all today!  Dee 

  5. Dee,Thanks for this very kind and gracious comment.  I suspect you encourage many people in the blogging world.  You’ve blessed me today.  Thanks. 

  6. Jim,  You have a great memory…left so cal 29 years ago this week!
    Good thoughts!
    all the best and God bless,  Doug