Last week, I travelled out of state for a few days for business. The trip went as planned until we were ready to fly back. Soon after arriving at the airport, we found out that our flight had been cancelled. During the next few hours (and into the late morning of the next day), we worked to get back home.
The airline that we were flying “helped” us with our travel plans. Yes, I put the word helped in quotation marks because most of their help consisted of repeating the phrase, “I’m sorry, sir.”
In the end, this experience caused me to think about the term “customer service.” From my understanding, “customer service” refers to something that is done for or on behalf of the customer. Unfortunately, in this instance, this airline did very little on our behalf. However, they called what they did “customer service.”
This experience also caused me to think about the term “service” in general, especially when it comes to the church and followers of Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament, the Greek term διακονία (diakonia) is the term normally related to “service.” The same term is also translated “ministry” and “the office of the deacon” in many translations of the New Testament.
Here are a few examples:
…that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service (διακονία – diakonia) for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints… (Romans 15:31 ESV)
And there are varieties of ministries (διακονία – diakonia), and the same Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:5 ESV)
Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry (διακονία – diakonia) which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17 ESV)
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service (διακονία – diakonia)… (1 Timothy 1:12 ESV)
In the passages above (all written by Paul), the term διακονία (diakonia) is sometimes translated “service,” and at other times translated “ministry.” (By the way, “ministry” is a transliteration of the Latin term that means “service.”)
But, what does “service” mean when it comes to the church and to followers of Jesus Christ? Is this different than “ministry”? What makes them different? Why are different terms used? Did Paul intend for “service” and “ministry” to have different meanings?
Over the next few days, I’m going to consider these questions and others in relation to the terms “service” and “ministry” related to the Greek term διακονία (diakonia).