Minister or Volunteer?
“Here’s your tag,” were the words I heard upon my arrival at a Christian food bank. The tag had big bold letters emboldened across the front that spelled, “MINISTER.” I liked my tag, but much to my surprise only a few Christians present were wearing them. The majority were fashioning different tags labeled, “VOLUNTEER.” Although this characterization of God’s people may not seem unusual in today’s church, it would have been drastically foreign to the church of the 1st century:
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
The word, “minister” in the New Testament is the Greek word diakonos, which can be defined as “one who executes the commands of another.” Diakonos is used 29 times in the Greek New Testament. It is translated 26 times as either “minister” or “servant” and three times as “deacon.”
According to Scripture, a minister is a servant who exercises his or her gift to serve others for the glory of God. All Christians have been gifted for ministry and all Christians who use their gifts to serve others are “ministers.” Contrasting a “VOLUNTEER” from a “MINISTER” is simple: A “VOLUNTEER” donates his time, whereas a “MINISTER” exercises his gift. Anyone can serve as a “VOLUNTEER,” but only a child of God can serve as a “MINISTER.”