Two years ago, I wrote a post called “Examples and Models.” In that post, I tried to explain how my course has changed from seeking “full time ministry” to seeking full time ministry. Of course, a few years before that, I thought that the only way to seek full time ministry was to be in “full time ministry.”
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.