Missions or Ministry?

A group of six soldiers in the Ukraine in casual and camouflaged attire standing in front of a white car with a blue and yellow emblem. The environment is an outdoor setting with trees and a rustic wall in the background.
Missionaries The More You Know

Missions or Ministry?

There is a difference in MISSIONS and MINISTRY.

In my understanding of scripture, missions take the gospel to the people/places where Christ is primarily unnamed and unknown.

That’s why our mission statement for Final Frontiers has been from day one, “Through the funding of national preachers, we endeavor to effectively advance the gospel where it has never been preached before.” 

And now, with over a half million churches planted in nearly ninety countries, we have made a dent in our mission, and I long to see it fulfilled in my lifetime. But what about ministry?

A group of people, dressed in winter attire, seated on wooden benches in an indoor setting with rustic, bare plywood walls, attentively listening to a person standing in front of them.
  Aid delivered to persons displaced by war led to a church plant in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.  

Churches almost, without exception, confuse missions with ministry, and since many ministry opportunities are at our doorsteps, they typically get the bulk of our mission’s funding. Rescue missions, anti-abortion clinics, Christian schools, children’s homes, and orphanages are noble and worthy causes that churches feel it imperative to support. We are no different. When we began to help fund our preachers with their ministries beyond the support of their mission (around 1992), we made an effort not to confuse the two and started our Touch a Life ministry. (Originally, our children’s ministry was called Child Care, but in 2005, we changed our name and refocused our purpose from only supporting orphans to feeding any hungry child. It has grown from one ministry in one country to serving dozens of ministries in ten or more.)

If a ministry is a spoke on the mission wheel, then I am happy to use mission funds to support it. Still, if it is a stand-alone ministry with nothing to do with taking the gospel where Christ is unnamed and unknown, then I prefer – not to ignore it – but to support it with ministry funds, not missions funds. 

I like to see ministries that affect a church or organization’s mission, goals, and purposes. Touch a Life does just that. Let me explain with a few examples.

A large group of children and a few adults wearing matching black t-shirts with the word "Grow" printed on them, posing outdoors in front of a building and garden. Many of the children are making playful gestures and expressions.
  Touch A Life in Cairo, Egypt  

Years ago, we were referred to Lori and Oleg Enskyy in Ukraine, whose work our last Progress Report focused on. 

Oleg and Lori started Final Frontiers Ukraine and Touch A Life Ukraine. They had children’s soccer teams that competed nationally and table tennis teams that competed throughout Europe, often being televised wearing their Touch A Life uniforms. It was common for Oleg and Lori to be interviewed on national television as they helped the youth and cared for Crimean refugees fleeing inland to evade Russian troops. As the war escalated, Touch A Life has remained and offers food, medicines, clothing, and a place to sleep to fleeing refugees. As they consistently return to the homes of Believers, they offer these items to all who need them, along with a gospel witness and a Bible. Touch A Life does not support national church planters; Final Frontiers does. And Final Frontiers does not feed hungry children; Touch a Life does. We use your funds as you designate them.

Is theirs a dangerous ministry? Indeed, it is since bombs and missiles continue to rock the country daily. But the Enskyys continue the ministry and deliver the gospel (missions) and goods to those in frontline cities and foxholes, particularly to Ukraine’s citizen-soldiers, some of whom, having accepted Christ, have already joined Him in Heaven. This is a fine example of how a ministry can be used to affect missions. 

A group of people of various ages gathering and conversing outside old apartment buildings. The buildings show signs of wear and age, with a mixture of balconies and windows. A tree shades part of the gathering, and a car is parked nearby.

Touch A Life in Ukraine offers food, medicines, clothing, and a place to sleep to fleeing refugees. As they consistently return to the homes of Believers, they offer these items to all who need them, along with a gospel witness and a Bible

Another example is our Touch A Life ministry in Cairo, Egypt. We started this work with anonymous locals when Nolin and I visited our men there a few years ago. We waited until dusk so we would not be so evident being white foreigners in a low-rent slum complex. Still, as we walked through, heads began to pop out of windows, and questions became abundant. We finally entered a building and walked up several floors to a tiny, two-room apartment, no more than 400 square feet in size. In the room were about a dozen adults, mostly saved already due to the labor of their Egyptian pastor and his Timothies, but there were about two dozen hungry children. That night, we decided to begin their feeding on a regular basis. Since then, seeing what we do and what we teach, a church in Cairo has given us its beautiful modern building, not just to use but to possess. And now we are feeding scores of children both physically and spiritually, and their parents are coming to Christ as a result.

Several children seated at a long table, enjoying a meal with various dishes including rice, meat, and sliced watermelon. They are focused on their plates, using utensils to serve and eat.
  In Cairo, Egypt, Touch A Life is feeding scores of children both physically and spiritually, and their parents are coming to Christ as a result.  

If anyone would like to help Nolin and me fund this feeding center, please designate your offering to Touch a Life Cairo. We could use about $250 monthly to meet the growing need.

Now, let me share one more example of how our Touch A Life ministry has helped with missions (church planting). There is a particular country in the Levant region of the Middle East that has been in turmoil for nearly twenty years. In this land, we have buried over a thousand church members, including scores of our pastors and national missionaries, their wives, children, and church members. Recently, thirty-eight of our young men, all servants of the gospel, left against our recommendation to go to Europe as refugees. As Timothies, we have been giving them $2 a day for food, and they felt they could no longer live on that. They planned to plant churches among the hundreds of thousands of their compatriots living in Europe, get jobs, and finance our mission and ministry in their homeland. We said goodbye to them with tears as they boarded the ship and, a day later, received word that the ship had sank in the Mediterranean Sea; more than three hundred souls perished, and among them were our thirty-eight. 

Paul listed all the sufferings he had endured for the cause of Christ, but the most significant suffering he saved for last, that of having “the care of all the churches.” This is the same burden we bear; still, the Touch A Life ministry in that land has enabled us to help those afflicted by last February’s earthquake. We have cared for our own and thousands of Muslim families. Now, so many of them have come to Christ and attend our house churches that they are bursting with new converts, leading to new house churches being started (missions). Lest you think a house church is an insignificant thing, our house churches meet daily, but on Sundays they typically have four to seven services with different attendees of about fifty souls. So, each house church has an attendance of 250-350 people.

A group of young girls seated around a wooden table, each holding white styrofoam containers filled with food. They wear various outfits, from dresses to t-shirts, and some have their hair adorned with bows and hairbands.
  Touch A Life feeds many children daily in the Middle East.  

Some American Believers are interested in missions, others in ministry, but most of us are concerned with both. We open the door for you to help in any way you feel led. How? If missions is your cup of tea, you can support Final Frontiers’ Great Commission Fund, through which we fund our network of over 28,000 church planters. Obviously, we need help with that. But if ministry appeals to you more, consider supporting our Touch A Life ministry, where your donations will be used to feed hungry and destitute children cared for by one of our local churches and its pastor. Or better yet, if able, why not do a little more for missions and ministry?


  • Jon Nelms

    The Rev. Jon Nelms is the founder of Final Frontiers. Called to missions at the age of eleven, he has been winning souls since he was twelve. Jon was a street preacher, pastor, church planter, and missionary before founding Final Frontiers in 1986 at the age of 30.

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