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The changing face of full-time ministry

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in service | 7 comments

The changing face of full-time ministry

A few days ago, when I decided to start writing a short post about “full-time ministry,” I did a Google search on the phrase. I found something interesting. More and more people are writing about (and, hopefully, living) the fact that “full-time ministry” is not something that is relegated to a select few among the church – a few who are paid to do full-time ministry.

Instead, more and more people are realizing that all of Jesus’ followers are called to follow him into full-time ministry – that is, to love God and love others and serve people all the time, wherever they are, regardless of their vocation. (In fact, there are some who are recognizing that those who are paid as “vocational ministers” may be actually doing less ministry/service than those who are working in other vocations, but that’s a topic for another post.)

To be honest, I was surprised (and excited) to find that so many people are beginning to define “full-time ministry” in the way that we find in Scripture – that is, full-time ministry is not about being paid as a vocational pastor to do certain duties for a church-based organization. People are living as full-time ministers while working as sales people, mechanics, programmers, teachers, and many other occupations. People are living as full-time ministers while living as mothers and fathers, students, retirees, etc.

When I read the New Testament, this is the description of ministry that I see – everyone serving others as they share their lives with others (both brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are not believers). When all believers see “full-time ministry” as what happens when they follow Jesus in loving and serving others, I think we’ll begin seeing the kind of response that we read about in the New Testament.

But, as long as we continue to see “full-time ministry” as the responsibility of only a few who are paid to serve on behalf of the whole church, then the spread of the gospel and the maturity of the church will be hindered.

So, like I said at the beginning, I’m excited to read about more and more people seeing “full-time ministry” as their responsibility – at least when it comes to interacting with unbelievers. Unfortunately, I think many still see “full-time ministry” among the church as the responsibility of only a few paid professionals.

God has placed us among people – both unbelievers and believers – in order to work through us to demonstrate his love for them, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and to build up the church so that we all grow in maturity, unity, and faith in Jesus Christ – that is, God has placed us among people to work as full-time ministers.


7 Comments

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  1. 2-18-2013

    Wow. The seminaries and seminarians are not going to like this. You have invaded some pretty exclusive territory and while I think it is great, I have an idea that most occupational staffers will find this very frightening. Those of us who are preaching tentmakers thank you.

  2. 2-18-2013

    I’ve noticed that this kind of full-time ministry seems to reinforce the need for a participatory / non-hierarchical form of church, where those who lead do so out of demonstrated character.

    Kind of like what we seen in the New Testament…

  3. 2-18-2013

    Recently posted this Facebook Note: “Who says elders (pastors) should serve the church ‘for a living?'”

    http://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=427700027310381&id=100004454106202&_rdr#!/note.php?note_id=150703085088161&__user=100004454106202

  4. 2-18-2013

    Meant to say, Alan, thank you for sharing this biblical perspective so tactfully. I’ve passed it along to several others.

  5. 2-18-2013

    Great blog, Alan.
    Actually, we’re excited about what we’re seeing at many of the seminaries where a trend in theological preparation includes marketplace professionals. You, actually, seem to be one of these, Alan. Until recently, if someone felt a call to the nations, they were often advised to put their vocation behind them, get some seminary training, and apply to go with a missions agency. This is still the pathway for some. Yet, we are all called to the fulfilment of the Great Commission. God equips us with special giftings, experiences, passions that propel us along a path which He must intend for us to use in taking the Gospel to all peoples. Missionaries can reach many, pastors can reach many…but some may only be reached by programmers, teachers, engineers, athletes, artists, builders, contract workers, health care professionals…both in the States and around the world. The seminaries have nothing to be concerned about. Marketplace professionals can benefit by theological education tailored to equip them to be witnesses and disciple-makers within their vocations. We are living in exciting times. Let’s get it done. http://www.imbgsm.com

  6. 2-19-2013

    Great post – have to share it with others!

    I love the new vision you gave me for what “full time ministry” means.

    Up until I read this post I would always get a certain visual & understanding of that phrase. I didn’t like the implications or use of the phrase at all.

    I’m glad I can use that phrase in a new way — one I DO agree with —- and it fits perfectly!!

    Imagine if I start telling people though that I am in full time ministry – I can’t imagine the looks and discussions it would start!!!!! I’m gonna do it! :)

  7. 2-19-2013

    Jon,

    Some seminaries and seminarians would probably think I was off the track, but I know many who agree with this completely.

    Tim,

    I think it works better that way also.

    Rick,

    Thanks for passing it on! I hope it’s helpful.

    Abby,

    Yes, I think this is true for those who travel to other countries, and for those who do not travel. Like I said in the post, I’m glad that more and more believers are recognizing themselves as and living as full-time ministers.

    Randi,

    Yes, you are a full-time minister. :)

    -Alan

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