the weblog of Alan Knox

Examples and Models

Posted by on Dec 8, 2007 in blog links, discipleship, elders, office, service | 19 comments

I love the latest post by a new blogger, Trey from “One Man’s Journey“. The title of the post is “Walk Away for the Love of Christ?” I love his honest reflection and life-changing questions. I also see in his questions many of the questions that I started asking myself a few years ago. Here is an excerpt from Trey’s excellent post:

As my family and I sunk into a financial pit of despair, I began to read much in the realm of finance, investing, financial planning, and biblical financial stewardship. I grew to love this and can see many ways in which the average Christian and also the average church misuses the resources provided by God. I began to see myself as doing this sort of consultation work to families, small businesses, churches, and parachurch ministries once I gained the proper training. But what about seminary? What about my calling? What will my family think?

As previously, most issues discussed here have not been settled in my mind completely. I have been reminded in my prayer times that God certainly does not need me. He has managed eternity just fine before me and will do so long after I become one of saints on high. Also, why do I need the spotlight of an official pastor-elder of a local congregation? Can I not teach and serve in other ways just an important to the kingdom?

Several years ago, I also had this “calling”. Looking back, I think that God was calling me to a more committed life of serving himself and others – he was calling me to full-time ministry, although I don’t think he was calling me to “full-time ministry”. At the time, though, I only saw two options: 1) become a vocational pastor, or 2) become a missionary.

Why did I only see these two options? Well, those were the only two options that I saw modelled. These were the only examples that I saw of what it meant to serve God full-time. So, I picked one – vocational pastor – and did what I was supposed to do: I went to seminary. But, as my family will tell you, I struggled with the idea of being a full-time vocational pastor from day one. I did not think that this accurately reflected what God wanted from me, but I did not have any other categories, models, or examples to compare to.

I knew what God wanted from me: he wanted me to serve him and serve others in everything that I said and everything that I did. But, this couldn’t happen if I worked a regular job, right? I mean, regular people are distracted by work and commuting and co-workers and business trips and office parties. But, God didn’t want me to be distracted by these “secular” things, so I needed to give all of that up, go to seminary, get hired by a church in order that I could concentrate on “spiritual” things.

As Trey expressed in his blog post, I thought that the real work of God was done by those people who prominently stood before me each Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, etc. These were the people who knew God and what God wanted from me and others and how to teach the Bible and how to put on Bible studies and where to find the lost people and when to schedule the Children’s program.

A strange thing happened on the way though. As I was happily preparing myself for just this type of “spiritual” vocation, I took my professors seriously, and I read Scripture to find the answers to my questions. It began with recognizing that Scripture does not call the Sunday morning routine “worship”. I asked myself, “If that’s not worship, then what is worship?” Again, I turned to Scripture for answers. From those answers, I was forced to ask other questions and search for more answers.

In fact, the more I studied and read and asked questions, the more I realized that the type of “spotlight servants” which Trey mentions – and to which I was aspiring – was not described in Scripture at all. In fact, I would suggest that “spotlight servants” are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, Paul, Peter – in fact, all the books of the New Testament. Instead, Jesus calls all believers to be servants – not “spotlight servants”, but servants.

And, slowly, I began to understand that “vocational pastors” may be necessary to carry out what we typically see associated with church today. However, when we examine church in Scripture, we see that “vocational pastors” seem out of place. Instead, we see people shepherding as they work, and discipling wherever they are, and teaching in any context, and caring and comforting wherever they find people who are hurting. We find leaders who lead by example, not from the spotlight. We find elders who are mature and wise and known, not hired for their education and speaking abilities. We find prophets and teachers and apostles who are willing to dialog instead of monologue. We find disciples who are constantly and consistently attempting to live for Christ with the help of other brothers and sisters. We find that there is no secular and sacred divide. Through the indwelling Spirit, all things become sacred – every place becomes a sanctuary – every believer becomes a priest and a temple.

In other words, God can use me as his full-time servant when I am selling cars, or writing code, or running a business, or seeing patients. I can pastor while I am teaching in a school or college, or taking care of the home, or packing boxes, or delivering mail, or selling clothes. I can meet with other believers as the church in a church building, or in a restaurant, or in a park, or in a home, or in a car, or in an office. God was calling me – and he is calling others – into full-time service, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.

It is my desire to live the rest of my life as an example of following God and serving him full-time in whatever vocation he provides for me. I hope that the believers who come along after me will see my example as another option when God calls them also.


19 Comments

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  1. 12-8-2007

    Good post. Given that you’ve given so much thought about ministry here – in the context of your initial choice of vocational pastor – how do your thoughts impact what you believed being a missionary would be? I think we have pigeonholed mission work in much the same way. How does the call to go impact your current thinking?

  2. 12-8-2007

    Alan,
    Thanks for a great post!

    Almost a blueprint for my own study and experience, and I suspect for many more, who are afraid of the reaction if they voice it.

  3. 12-8-2007

    Bryan,

    Honestly, I haven’t given “missionaries” the same consideration and study that I’ve given elders. I think there are some differences between those who remain in one place and those who travel away from their homes and places of business. Perhaps this is a study that I can do later, or that someone else will decide to do.

    Aussie John,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I think you may be right about some who may be afraid of others’ reaction.

    -Alan

  4. 12-8-2007

    While Jesus was in ministry, did he work?

    How would we know if Peter, James, John, others, did anything other than pastoring/ministering? I agree that we all need to be ministering, as Christians, because that is why we are Christians, but I don’t know why that means there can’t be people who do that, for pay, to minister to the flock. That’s the one thing I don’t understand, but I also haven’t studied it as much as you have.

  5. 12-8-2007

    Interesting post. Let me chew on it a bit.

  6. 12-9-2007

    Bryan,

    You’re right that we know very little about how Jesus and his followers supported themselves. I’d love to hear your further thoughts on this.

    gman,

    Welcome to my blog. I’m looking forward to hearing from you after you chew on it.

    -Alan

  7. 12-9-2007

    Alan,
    Awesome post!
    You do such a great job of explaining this in a way that is both simple and thorough.

  8. 12-9-2007

    Alan, I think we do know (or at least have information about) how Jesus lived. In Luke 8 it tells us that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others helped to support Jesus and His disciples out of their own means.

    And, in Paul’s writings we see him encourage every kind of income for ministry. Self support, others support, mixture, etc. Moreover, i don’t think you can entirely discount how God set things up for the Israelites in the OT.

  9. 12-9-2007

    Alan,

    I am honored that you enjoyed the post and even more humbled that it would inspire this magnificent posting. It is great to know that I am not alone in this. Thank you so much for your example and writings to spur me on to a deeper love for the Savior.

    –Trey

  10. 12-9-2007

    Bryan,

    I didn’t mean to suggest that we do not know anything about how Jesus was provided for. In Mark 15 we see that there were some women who provided for him while he was in Galilee. It makes sense that other people provided for him while he was in the region of Jerusalem – people such as Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. However, we do not know HOW these people provided for Jesus. Did they give him money, or did they provide hospitality. I think this would be very important when considering how missionaries – that is, those who travel away from their homes – could receive support while they are travelling.

    However, remember that the point of this post was to offer another alternative to vocational pastors/elders. This post was not intended as an argument against paying a salary to an elder/pastor (although I have offered that argument elsewhere). Instead, I simply wanted to point out that God can use anyone – and that all believers should consider themselves to be in “full-time ministry”, and that you do not have to quit a “secular job” in order to pastor.

    Trey,

    I enjoyed your original post, and I’m looking forward to reading more about what God is taking you.

    -Alan

  11. 12-9-2007

    Alan,

    It is helpful to hear about your pilgrimmage on these issues.

    Just curious. How familiar are you with the Plymouth Brethren movement? It seems to me they have, or at least, some within the movement have had, some similar thoughts to yours on these questions. Maybe not exactly the same, but, at least, similar.

  12. 12-9-2007

    I completely agree, Alan. I think we are all called to minister. We all have been told to go and we all have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

  13. 12-10-2007

    David,

    I have read a couple of articles by Brethren authors. But, I’m not very familiar with them.

    Bryan,

    I’m sure we’re very close on this issue, as on others. Thanks for the discussion.

    -Alan

  14. 12-10-2007

    Alan,

    I always enjoy reading your blog. A paid pastorate will likely remain with us. However, it is important to point out the Scripture does not mandate it. While many folks accept it, people moving away from it are not going against God.

    If we are like the men of Issachar, knowing the times, then it is not difficult to understand the way money introduces politics into a group of believers. Should we not respond to these times with alternatives to problems that are guided by the wisdom of the Word?

    Further, if we see service as the mandate of believers regardless of their vocation, and accept that pastoral service can be pursued effectively without pay, that does not stop anyone from offering financial help to another brother.
    It is best accomplished in secret.

    If pastors and all others are simply serving, then gatherings may become simply family together. It is an interesting and strenthening transition.

  15. 12-10-2007

    Alan,

    I think the theme of what you are saying treads on the toes of a lot of contravercial issues!! Tithing, control, politics and so on. I like Ded’s comments to much to add anything else!

    I am pleased that so many are seeing the “family” shape of church rather than the “army” shape. Older brothers rather than generals. Bu that is irrelevant really, it is the scriptural picture that people are seeing rather than what is modelled, as you say!

    I think what I want to add to the debate is that it has been my experience that there is a great divide between “The Minister” and the rest. If we think that “commiting” means going into ministry then we are saying there are a lot of uncommited Christians out there! How many times the minister will remind us that we are all ministers, yet the will be a ministers only meeting that we are not invited to!

    John Maxwell, (unfortunately an advocate of proffesional ministers) ironically said that if you go to a basketball coach and he throws the ball in the net and it hits the rim, rolls round and drops in, then you would have a go. However, if he does a tripple back somersault and slam dunks the ball, you will probably rather sit and watch.

    I like to remind ministers that whereas they are paid to be good, I have to be good for nothing!

    Richard

  16. 12-10-2007

    Alan,

    Something else on a slight tangent to this post is the idea of living by faith.

    I know a full time Bible teaching elder who “lives by faith” that is he isn’t salaried from his church. I used the term with a friend and he said that only those with a special calling live by faith!

    My thought is surely we all live by faith! (or should) If God is our provider then our employer isn’t. God taught me this quite early on. At a time when we needed money we prayed and the supervision gave out extra shifts which meant we could buy the bed, chairs and dinning furniture we needed in a very short time. The next time we needed money and prayed, the supervisor came round again handing our extra shifts, only this time I didn’t get them. I was so sure I would get them I was effectively telling the supervisor that they were mine! Then I felt God tell me, “Shifts are not my provider, God is!” at this same time my mom got extra shifts and without knowing our need wanted to give us some of the extra money she got as she didn’t need it!

    What you were saying about being a minister wherever you are. I have learnt that we do not go to work to earn money, we go there because that’s where God wants us! God is our provider and uses our employer to provide for us. But neither us or our employer should think that we are the source of our income.

    Richard

  17. 12-10-2007

    David (ded),

    Very good comment. We need to leave room for God to work through paid pastors, through non-paid pastors, and through all believers in all vocations. I like the idea of gatherings becoming family together!

    Richard,

    Thanks for the comments. I agree that we need to make sure that we are not making distinctions between “ministers” and other followers of Jesus Christ. We are all ministers – servants. Similarly, living by faith is difficult for all of us. I’m glad that God has provided his Spirit and other believers to encourage us toward maturity in the faith.

    -Alan

  18. 12-17-2007

    I skimmed rather than read all the comments, so this may have been brought up and I missed it, but a thought:

    Some were set aside for sheer “ministry of the word of God” (Acts 6:2-4). They didn’t say their ministry was more important than the other they were about to launch (even though they called it “waiting on tables” in one translation), and in fact prayed over and chose people who were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” for the ministry to the widows. Rather, it sounded more like a question of who was supposed to be doing what.

    On being a missionary, however you define it, one should consider the availability of the Gospel: here, it’s freely available, but in many parts of the world so many people have never even had a chance of a glimpse of the Gospel, whether in print or in the person; where there are no Christians within miles and miles.

  19. 12-17-2007

    amateur,

    I’m not certain that I understand your comment. I agree completely that people are called and gifted to do different things. In this post I’m suggesting that there are other options for pastors besides the normal “full-time vocational pastor”.

    It is interesting that after Acts 6, the men who are selected by the people to “wait tables” are only shown “ministering the word”. I’m not sure that has anything to do with your comment, I just find it interesting.

    I have not talked too much about missionaries on my blog. I think it would be a fascinating study, but I haven’t had the time to study that topic.

    -Alan

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