Ministry practices can be defined by five simple things:
Assuming God works supernaturally in and through the fullness of His triune Self. Humans can’t initiate the supernatural work of salvation, or the miraculous working of God for conviction, enlightenment, forgiveness, healing, change, etc.; the supernatural part of ministry is only and always effected by God Himself. We, the humans, are simply pots. He’s the Potter and the Water, so to speak.
Praying for and with people.
Caring for people in the Name of Jesus—not just doing good in some abstract way but intentionally doing good because of your life from, in, and through Jesus’ work in you.
Guiding people for help into God’s Word, the Bible.
Sharing your faith simply when the time is right.
That’s it. No matter what your title or education is or is not, if you do these things, you are ministering. If you do NOT do these things—no matter what your title or education is or is not, you are not doing ministry.
So How is Ministry Supported?
The Bible (OT or NT) only shows two ways of ministry support: a) support from the believing community, or b) a side job.
Yes, I know the Levites were allegedly full time. But they were supported by the tithes and offerings of the believing community.
Yes, I know Paul defended the right for full-focused ministry workers to be supported full time (e.g., 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Thessalonians 3) but he modeled that it was not always tactically wise to exercise that right.
And, yes, I know it is assumed that ministry-related products were sold at the Temple; and that folks like Mary and Joseph at Jesus’ circumcision would bring or buy doves at the Temple to use as offerings (e.g. Luke 2:21-24).
But there is absolutely no place in the Scriptures where an indication is given that the Temple ministry was supported by sales of ministry products as a major source of ministry funding, nor are there any assumptions or direction that believers should support ministry through the sale of ministry products.
Sales are related to business, which almost every believer is to be in (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 3:10). And though ministry ought to happen in every business context (because we never stop being believers), ministry is categorically different than ministry.
Keep these definitions in mind: Business is the sale (or exchange) of products, performances, or services in exchange for value in return. Ministry is serving God; and His purposes and others on His behalf. Occupation is where you get your money. In a fallen world rarely is your ministry assignment the same as your occupation; and never is business—strictly speaking—ministry.
When am I in ministry? Because you are a believer priest (1 Peter 2: 9-10) no matter what your occupation is or isn’t, you ARE in ministry full time. If your business furthers ministry, praise God; but if it doesn’t, you are still in ministry, and responsible for ministering in that context.
When Does Ministry Happen?
When three intentions occur: 1) when you intend to engage people about the purposes of God; 2) when you are consciously faithing that God is at work (where there is no faithing going on, generally speaking no supernaturally initiated transaction goes on); 3) when you actually make contact with people about God and His purposes.
This means that, at a Christian concert where none or few of these things are intentionally going on, there will generally be no or little actual ministry effected . .. or affected.
So, do not define ministry as occupation. If you do, you are biblically incorrect!! Ministry is NOT occupation; it is simply something else that often happens in the context of occupation.
Do not define ministry as business. If you do, you are biblically incorrect!! Ministry is NOT business. You will know you are in business if, when it does poorly or fails, you think you no longer have a ministry
Also, do not buy into the strategy of trying to fund ministry by business income. Only a few have done this, and it’s only worked because they have not let the business tail wag the ministry dog; and they are still confused about what business is, and about what ministry isn’t. Jesus said that we cannot serve God and mammon (Mt. 6:24; Lk 16:13-15).
If you try to tie ministry to business and you fail at business, you may think you’ve failed at ministry, when in fact your business failure may produce a context for great ministry in your life and the lives of others. Or, on the other hand, if you succeed in business selling Christian things (and still have not been doing the five things I listed above), you may think you have ministered when all you’ve done is the natural function of selling Christian things while in substance you see no spiritual transaction moving through your efforts.
If you try to tie ministry to occupation and for some reason your occupation ends, you may mistakenly think your ministry has ended. If you keep the simple definitions in mind that I’ve suggested while continuing to do ministry (which is always free), you’ll be certain to progress in fruitful ministry—whether or not the Lord releases you to earn your living through the doing of that ministry.