Did you know that the word “mission” is completely missing from the New Testament? Even when the NASB uses the term in Acts 12:25, “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark,” it’s really not the word “mission.” What does your favorite translation say?
In discussing mission and ministry last night with our Discipleship Group, we discovered that the singular use of the word “mission” in Acts 12:25 is the exact same word that is used for “ministry,” in the Greek. The word “diakonian” διακονίαν means “service.” Even when spoken of in the plural, as in the case of 1 Corinthians 12:5, “And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord,” it still means “services.” (diaconates)
One of the most popular references used for “ministry,” is Ephesians 4:12 where the ESV translates it this way, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The NIV is truer to the original when it translates the verse this way, “to equip his people for works of service, (diakonias) so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
This means that “mission” and “ministry” are virtually synonymous, and both words spring from service. Ultimately, this also means that there are no missionaries or ministers, biblically speaking, just servants, or deacons.
What implications does this have for The Church?