Are You In Ministry or Do You Have Ministry?

Someone asked me recently how it feels not to be in full-time ministry. I had to smile. In all my years in full-time ministry I have rarely if ever had more opportunities to make Christ known than in the last 5 months working in prison. Don’t get me wrong. Full-time ministry as I’ve known it these past ten years especially on staff at a large church has its benefits – nice office, almost twice my social worker salary (and you thought pastors were underpaid), international travel, flexible schedule, conference invitations, and more time to write. I miss it sometimes but not much. It’s a nice gig if you can get it and I don’t begrudge anyone who has it. However, one thing I missed in all that was daily interaction with people in need of Christ. It’s no one’s fault but my own and sometimes the unintended tendency of ministry. Now, as my dad used to say who was a correctional officer – I have a captive audience.


Now I have caseload of 30-35 men, all drug addicts, who have to meet with me individually at least once a month and once a week for group therapy. Like I tell them, they don’t have to talk to me but they have to meet with me. I do an extensive background interview with all the new guys assigned to my caseload – family history, drug history, education and work experience, previous arrests and incarcerations, and addiction treatment programs. The stories are often horrendous – broken homes, poverty, child abuse, multiple arrests, male prostitution, and disease. These are mostly men in their 20s since the older drug addicts are usually claimed by death or by state prison for longer sentences.


Recently I listened to one particular heartbreaking story which would’ve brought me to tears if I didn’t need to retain some clinical objectivity. After listening for a while I began to speak of forgiveness in Christ, new life, freedom from addiction, and eternal life. The young man began to weep openly. I don’t know yet if they were tears of hope or of hopelessness but on his way out of my office he picked up a New Testament with helps especially made for inmates and on the cover written “Free on the Inside.”


For now I am not in full-time ministry in a conventional sense. Yet I thank God I have ministry and long to see God at work in the lives of imprisoned drug addicts. If you find yourself in ministry but don’t have ministry then maybe it’s time to get out of your office and find some people who need to hear the good news of forgiveness and new life in Christ. Go to your local prison. They might let you volunteer. It’s good to be in ministry. It’s better to have ministry.

2 Responses to “Are You In Ministry or Do You Have Ministry?”

  1. Every believer is in the ministry – Ephesians 4:12

  2. It was great to meet one of your men last week at Grace – I’m praying for His ministry through you bro – H.

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