To minister is a purpose of government.
I am sure that, in today’s political climate, with so many anti-government types running around, the first responses to this statement include the following:
Say what?!? Since when? What do you mean?
What this means is that government exists to serve the people. Here is how those long-ago authors of the USA Declaration of Independence put it:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (emphasis added)
Okay, they did not do so well on the “all men are created equal” part (since they allowed slavery and mistreatment of the Native peoples to continue and failed to enfranchise women), but the ideals expressed here are good ones.
From this, we can see that they expected government to secure the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and to “effect” (promote or cause) the safety and happiness of the people. In other words, to minister to them in these areas.
And they took it even further when they adopted the US Constitution, which begins with these words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (emphasis added)
While some would argue that only those people who have been ordained by a religious body may properly be called ministers, I would suggest that history has shown the term used by many government officials whose office had little or nothing to do with religion.
In fact, this function of government is reflected in the titles of officials in many countries (Prime Minister and various other Ministers in the UK and other countries that derive their government from England; Minister of this-or-that in other countries), as well as in the names and purposes of various departments, bureaus, or other divisions of government.
Some of the major so-called “culture war” battles have been and are being fought over these divisions of government, with some people convinced that any such purpose is foreign to the proper role of government and others that it is the only saving grace of government.
Personally, I find that it is important that a notary public (which I am) is known as a ministerial official because his role is to help people. We notaries do not administer a program, enforce a law, execute a decision, legislate a compromise, or rule on the justice of a situation — we just help people who need an official witness. In short, as a notary public, I am an example of the government fulfilling its purpose to minister to the people. (Yes, an American notary’s role is rather limited, but it is still vitally important in many respects.)
Other examples of government “ministers” include teachers, fire fighters, and social workers, among many more.
I tend to lean rather heavily toward the view that government is best when it is ministering to people.
Spying on citizens, waging war in far-away lands, continuing increasingly-obvious institutional racism and sexism, interfering with those cherished rights mentioned in the Declaration and the Constitution, allowing those with access to big piles of money (either through corporations or their own personal fortunes) to determine elections and legislation — these are the the areas where government is at its worst.