Ministry is a many-varied thing. There is pulpit ministry, education ministry, pastoral care ministry, children’s ministry, a ministry of presence, just to name a few. In this section of Numbers, though, is a wonderful example of what all ministry is. The Israelites have rebelled against the Lord once again and a plague was sent because of the disobedience. Here is what happens next:
Moses said to Aaron, “Take the censer, put fire from the altar on it, place incense on it, go quickly to the community, and seek reconciliation for them. Indeed, the Lord’s anger has gone out. The plague has begun.” Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the middle of the assembly, for the plague had already begun among the people. He burned incense and sought reconciliation for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped.
Aaron stood between the living and the dead and made intercession for the people. Then the plague stopped. This is ministry. Whatever kind of there is in which we participate and in which we engage, ministry is standing in the gap between the (spiritually) living and the dead and making intercession for all. It is going to where we are most needed (in the midst of the plague) and fulfilling our calling where it may save lives.
Aaron still offered sacrifices at the Tabernacle and still did all the priestly functions he was called by God to do, but he was also thrust out to a situation into which he would not have normally ventured. Priests were not supposed to be anywhere near dead bodies. It would make them ritually impure and unclean. Yet for the sake of the people and the ministry of intercession to save lives, Aaron ran to where the people were perishing in order to save some of them.
This is ministry–to go where we are needed most, to stand in between those who are perishing and those who are alive, and to intercede for both so that the plague of sin can be halted. As all Christians are priests because God has created us into a royal priesthood, we are all called to minister in this way according to how God has gifted us. We go to where the people are hurting and need us most, and we bring God’s presence with us to offer hope and healing in those hopeless situations.
Ministry is active, and it is not confined to the Tabernacle, Temple, or church building. There are aspects of ministry that occur in those places, yes, but it also occurs where people need to hear from a priest most.