Is there something better than ministry? For those who know and love the Lord Jesus and who desire to obey his words, a statement that suggests there is something better than ministry may sound slightly off. Serving Christ and serving others is what we were created and recreated for!
Indeed, those whom Christ saves he equips to edify and serve the body (Eph 4:9-16), and he calls on every Christian to exercise their gifts for the benefit of the church (1 Cor 12:7). Serving others is a vital component of our walk with Christ (Mark 10:42-45), and we should often find ourselves standing in awe of the fact that Christ has entrusted each of us with a ministry to fulfill (1 Tim 1:12). We each have an integral role to play in the spiritual health and growth of the church (1 Cor 12:4-30).
But even ministry, as essential as it is to a stable and happy walk with Christ and to the health of the church, must be grounded in something deeper, and, yes, something better. Jesus draws our attention to this deeper root in Luke’s Gospel.
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.Luke 10:17-20
Jesus had previously, Luke tells us, sent out seventy-two of his disciples, two by two, “into every town where he himself was about to go” (Luke 10:1). Upon their return from this brief mission, the disciples express great joy at what they had experienced, specifically in their ability to subdue demons in the name of Jesus.
Jesus affirms that he had given them such authority over the demonic realm, but he notices that their joy is misplaced. Rather than rejoice over the remarkable fact that the demons were subject to them, they were to rejoice over their salvation. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
With these words, Jesus reroutes the root of his disciples’ joy into healthier soil. Biblical ministry, spiritual gifts, even Christ-given authority, though precious blessings and stewardships, cannot be the place where we anchor our joy. Our joy, if it is to endure the trials and temptations of this life, must be grounded, not in ministry, but in the fact that we are saved from the wrath of God and have been brought into, by grace alone, eternal relationship with our Creator.
Is there joy and satisfaction to be found in the ministry? Of course. Faithful obedience to Christ, serving the church for her benefit, laboring in ministry and observing others come to faith in Christ and grow in holiness, and helping our brothers and sisters make progress in their walk with Christ are aspects of the Christian life that will bring genuine joy to the believer (Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19). In fact, if we don’t obey Christ and put our hand to the plow in some kind of service to the church, we may lack joy because we are failing to fulfill our stewardship (see Matt 25:14-30).
For some, however, spiritual dryness and drift can result, not from failing to serve, but by allowing service to become the foundation upon which you build your spiritual joy. When this occurs, ministry activity replaces communion with Christ, prayer becomes a mere means of ministry success rather than a means of fellowship with God, and Bible study is either left off due to busyness or only used to prepare messages rather than hear from God for the sake of our own souls.
But Jesus reminds us that there is something better than ministry: it is the incredible reality that you are a child of God by grace alone. When this truth is kept front and center of our hearts and lives, we will find joy in the ministry, but our joy will be stable, enduring, resilient, and steadfast because it will be rooted in something better. When it is all said and done, what matters most is that your name is written in heaven.