Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When is Writing Ministry?

Here's an interesting question: Is Christian writing a ministry?

I've heard people talk about writing as a ministry, though I've never thought of my books in that way. I've been involved in other things that I thought were ministry, including our church's website, which involves a great deal of writing, but I've never seen my novels in that way. Nor do I consider this blog a ministry, though I often write about some of the same things I write about for the church website. For a while, it didn't make sense. I began to question whether it was a matter of opinion. But it turns out that it isn't. It turns out that the distinction I made between this blog and the church website is correct, even though they are similar.

In the course of responding to the topic on another blog, I looked up the term ministry and minister. Though many authors call their writing ministry because they see it as something they are doing for God, that is an incorrect understanding of the term. Before we get into that, let me ask you, when you put your offering in the plate at church, is that ministry? We expect that the money will be used for ministry, but is the act of putting your money in the plate ministry? Most people would say that it is not, even though that act is being done for God. Therefore, not every act done for God is ministry. Ministry requires something more.

When we consider the definition of ministry, a minister is a person who acts as an agent of either a governmental or religous body. The Prime Minister of a country is the agent of the state. He may report to the parliment, the king, or even the people, but he is an agent of someone. When we look at ministries within a church, what we see is that those who minister are hired by or elected by the church. The church body has the authority to overule the minister. In some cases, the minister is an agent of an association or a denomination. The thing that makes one's work a ministry is that it is being done on behalf of another.

Looking specifically at writing, when is writing a ministry and when is it not? Suppose a person is writing Sunday school literature for a church or for the publication department of an association or denomination. Because he is doing that as an agent of a religious organization, it is ministry. But if he writes a devotional book and sends it off to a publisher, it isn't ministry because he is doing it on his own and not as an agent of a religious body.

I'm sorry if some of you novelists find this upsetting because you want to call what you do a ministry, but unless your church has elected you to write novels, your writing is not ministry. Just because what you do isn't ministry doesn't mean that it isn't important or that you aren't serving the Lord by doing it; it just isn't ministry.