As I listened to Tim Tebow’s mother address a full house of people who support a pro-life ministry, I heard her use the word mission instead of the more common word that folks in church settings often automatically use: ministry.
It made a powerful difference in the message of her speech. She recapped the history of her marriage and how, as missionaries, she and her husband and now her children had followed their respective missions to serve Christ. I thought: That’s what makes the difference. Knowing that you serve the Lord with talents, gifts, and money with the mission of building the kingdom, not only ministering to it but acting on behalf of it.
As someone who occasionally (and with no more expertise than an interest in how language is used) advises others on how to raise money for various ministries, like organizations in the pro-life movement, I told the serial writer of fundraising letters for the pro-life movement: Hold onto that word mission. It motivates people more than the word ministry does. That word mission gives meaning to work; ministry puts it in a category.
Substituting the word mission for ministry has strengthened her persuasive argument that people who support different ministries can find more meaning in the investment of their treasures when they understand—and are renewed in their understanding—that people with a mission build. They act. Caregivers in a ministry have a different set of verbs and they are not lesser activities; but when you are trying to motivate other people to move, the set of action verbs associated with building a mission have a greater capacity to motivate others to join the mission.
Furthermore, I think it likely that people who know how to use that word mission authentically become better stewards of their gifts and their time because they keep their eyes on the One whose Great Commission established the plan that makes our lives meaningful in Him. Their progress is understood inside His pleasure—and not because of the dollars or numbers that may or may not grow according to his good pleasure.
Good stewardship happens in many ways and through many choices, but sometimes the most powerful first step can be the substitution of one word for another: the exchange of the word ministry for mission in this instance. When you do, you actively ally yourself with the One who actively came here to fix what Adam broke, and actively does it now through the good stewardship of his followers’ gifts in motion.