Ministry in the Minus Column

I was curious about the origin of the word minister and so I went online to and found the following etymology.

Origin: 1250-1300; (noun) derived from the Latin minister, servant, equivalent to minis – (variant of minus, a lesser amount…)

Did you catch that?  MINUS – a lesser amount.  I guess minister could be spelled minuster in order to retain its unique flavor.  A minister is someone who is less than another – like a servant!  He is someone who lives and labors not for himself but for those above him, those to whom he is responsible.

Paul says that we should all minuster to one another.  He exhorts the Philippians –

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…  Philippians 2:3-5

The passage then goes on to describe how Jesus put Himself in the minus column for you and me by humbling Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant made in the likeness of men.  He considered our needs above His own and put Himself below us in order to raise us.

Being in the minus column also implies being in the red – operating from lack.  This is an essential aspect of being a minuster.  Paul captures this in the following passage –

We are not adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  2 Cor. 3:5-5

Ministry in the minus column has some wonderful benefits.  If I’m in the minus column, I’m in the red – I operate out of lack.  What comes forth from me, in reality comes forth through me as I am His vessel, His servant.  I am not a cistern, I am a fountain fed by springs of living water.  I have this treasure in an earthen vessel and the surpassing greatness of the power is from God and not from me.  When I put myself in the minus column, them I am in the plus column.

4 replies
  1. Jeanne DeBenedictis
    Jeanne DeBenedictis says:

    This is great! Thanks so much, Lord please teach me to be small in my own opinion, but truly think and act towards others as being higher and worthy of my heart felt service.
    I so appreciate this post, thank you Pastor Tim.

  2. Miles DeBenedictis
    Miles DeBenedictis says:


    Stellar! This is such a good reminder. We’ve been venturing through 2 Corinthians for 8 months now and I keep coming back to 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. I’m convinced that such a mindset/lifestyle is what made the Apostle Paul an effective minister.

    Truly, I must decrease that He will increase!

  3. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    It has always been the case and, in my 30+ years of pastoral experience is even more so now, that the congregation places the pastor in the plus column. No matter how we try and convince them that we are no different than they are, they’re not buying it. Well, intellectually they do, but in their affections and esteem, we are a cut above. I can’t dissuade them from this, I can only live worthy of it. And one way of living worthy of it is the constant reminder that I am a MINUSter.

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