A few years ago, my family was part of a megachurch in our area. We were involved in many of the programs offered by the church organization, and we had many good friends who were part of the church. There came a time when I sensed (somehow) that God wanted something different… something more…
I talked to a few church leaders, and I was given two options: God was either calling me to be a vocational pastor or a vocational missionary. Obviously, there were different jobs (“callings”) within those two options, but everything fell within those two divisions.
After much prayer and counsel – and deciding that God was not calling me to go overseas – I decided to go to seminary to prepare to become a vocational pastor. I’m glad that I made that decision, even though the outcome is not what I expected. I am not a vocational pastor, and I do not intend to become a vocational pastor. Instead, one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that there is another option: the non-vocational option.
More and more people are beginning to understand both the scriptural precedence for and the practical benefits of serving others in a “non-vocational” manner – that is, serving others without being a vocational pastor or minister.
For example, see the Washington Post article from May 2013 titled “Seminary graduates not always ministering from the pulpit.” By the way, I’m not suggesting that you must be a seminary graduate to serve others. This article simply shows that even many people attending seminary are beginning to recognize the benefit of “non-vocational” service.
Recently, while speaking with a friend, he reminded me about a conversation that he had with a mutual friend a few years ago. Our friend was a seminary student, and had plans to become a vocational pastor. He was beginning to understand this different view of serving others, but didn’t know what he was going to do. He only had Bible school training and didn’t know how he was going to support himself and his family if he did not have a job with a church.
Lately, not only have I learned that God can use someone who works a “full-time secular job,” I’ve also been able to help others who want to transition away from a “full-time vocational ministry job.” Through this, we’re all learning that there are many benefits both to the individual and the church from serving others while also working a full time job (that is not a church job).
Hopefully, God will continue to provide opportunities for me to encourage others into this non-vocational option, and even continue to help them find jobs that provide for themselves, their families, and others – much like Paul encouraged the Ephesian elders to do in Acts 20:33-35.
What benefits do you see for individuals in being non-vocational servants instead of vocational pastors/ministers? What benefits do you see for the church? Are there any disadvantages?