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April 02, 2008

What is Ministry Anyway?

When Drew Perry came to the Summit in Tennessee the first year, he didn’t stand out. Humble and polite, we had no idea what he was up to outside of the Summit. Barely 21 years old, Drew was into real estate. What I mean by “into real estate” is that he owned 13 rental houses (eventually it was 26), had replaced his father’s income, and had assisted many of his renters in building credit and getting back on their feet financially. For Drew, this was not just a business, it was a ministry.

Well, Drew loved the Summit - so much so that he not only returned the following year, but also made his little brother come, too! This summer, I am told, we will meet his sister at one of the TN sessions.

While I always love to hear stories about Summit grads, this one is a favorite - even if we cannot claim many credit for Drew’s success in real estate (he was doing all of this pre-Summit!). One key thing in Drew’s story is worth highlighting: his definition of ministry. Drew, and his family, understand that ministry is not confined to church or missions work - it can and should be anything we are involved in.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not less than pastoring, being a missionary, or para-church work. It is just that it is, and should be, so much broader than that. There is no secular/sacred divide. Biblically, all Christians are ministers, and all of life is ministry.

Gary Phillips, my college theology professor and still one of my heroes, underscored this to me time and again in various courses and lectures, as he quoted Paul’s job description of the leaders of the church (from Ephesians): “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”

Later my understanding of this idea was expanded in the concept of vocation, that God has gifted and equipped us to be human in the way He created us, and not just to do a job. In other words, we are all called to the ministry, and the legitimate expression of this in our lives is unique to how God has designed and gifted us in light of the current needs of our culture.

My favorite line on this is from Frederick Buechner; “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Drew gets this.

In fact, Drew and his family now use his success to teach others. You can find out about their work, including their upcoming conference in Huntsville, AL, here.

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