For all those who know me they know that one of my big passions for the past 20 yrs or more has to been to challenge people to full time ministry, but more specifically into pastoral ministry (Hmmm. this is a good topic for a blog). There is such a chronic shortage of ‘good’ pastors out there that it’s a crying shame that churches are not doing enough to raise up more workers. Tragically, it seems that most church leaders and even pastors continue to live in ignorance of this. Everyone keeps thinking there is an ample supply of pastors in the world and all they have to do is to put an ad in the local or worldwide Christian paper and within minutes (well maybe weeks) they’ll have a truck load of applicants banging on their doors for the job. How wrong can you get. Let me say this to everyone out there and tell all your leaders -there are not enough good pastors around.
This is why I’ve been passionate to challenge people about full time Christian work, but more specifically pastoral ministry. Anyway enough about this. On the subject of full time ministry it’s something I’ve been thinking about for many years. Here are some of my initial reflections.
a. Every Christian is called to full time ministry. I think this is something we keep forgetting. Remember Jesus’ words to his disciples
25 ¶ Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27
In other words the call to full time ministry is not just for some but for all. Indeed unless a person is willing to do full time ministry he cannot be Jesus’ disciples. In short to be a Christian is to be in full time ministry. Nothing more and nothing less.
b. While being a Christian is to be in full time ministry, how this works out will vary from person to person. For the majority full time ministry means serving God wherever we are eg in our work place, as a lay person, part time etc etc. But for still others it will mean having to give up their job to go into ‘FULL TIME ministry’. However what is important is that, whether we are in lay ministry or in ‘FULL TIME ministry’ we are all in full time Ministry.
c. Given this how do we decide whether I should do ‘full time ministry’ as a lay person or do full time ministry FULL TIME? I think it all boils down to giftedness. There are some who, because of their giftedness, their ability to teach, to lead others etc etc, that, given more time, they could be an even greater blessing to the church. Doing this FULL TIME only make sense.
d. The difference between full time ministry and FULL TIME ministry then is not essentially, that one has been called and the other has not, but whether one is gifted or not. Everyone, without exception has been called to serve God full time, but only some can serve God in a particular type of full time ministry.
e. How do I know that I should be doing full time ministry FULL TIME? Well this is where we can talk about the call of God but I don’t want to go down that road because I know people are divided on this. For myself I’m not convinced of any divine calling. I do believe that a person needs to be convicted that he should do it rather than be pushed into it. Whether that is a call from of God is a matter of debate but that’s another blog.
However, ‘call’ or not, what is important is the confirmation of the church. We need to remember that it is the responsibility of the community of believers to affirm a person’s ‘calling’. If the church took more responsibility in this I think we could have saved a lot of unnecessary heart ache for the church. That also is another blog.
How do I know I have the gift? I think it comes down to something even more simpler – money. This is not the only test or a full proof test but itis a good test. Are people willing to invest in you? And here I’m not talking about our family and friends. I’m talking about the church community? Does the church see in you something that is worth investing in? But like I said this is not full proof. There can be many reasons why the church would not want to invest in a person? It could be because they are stingy, worldly, basically anti gospel etc etc. But that aside, assuming the church is a gospel centred, mission minded church will they invest money in you? This is not whether they can but whether they are willing. Their willingness is a great vote of affirmation of your giftedness. As everyone knows it’s when we have to talk money that our true colours shows. This is why I like the term Paid Ministry. It brings the whole idea of FULL TIME ministry down to earth and puts it in perspective.
In summary I think we need to think remember the distinction between the full time ministry which is part of being a christian and the FULL TIME ministry (or PAID Ministry) which is part of our own giftedness.
I think the reason why we do not have many people doing FULL TIME ministry is simply because we do not have many Christians doing full time ministry.
If people took full time ministry more seriously, then the question of doing FULL TIME MINISTRY is really a secondary question.
That being said, I’m still on the hunt for more people to do PAID ministry. There are a lot of guys out there who are really gifted in teaching, in leading a church, in evangelism, mission etc etc and they are still giving their gifts to the business world. This is not fair. So if you have the gift then full time ministry should mean doing FULL TIME ministry or at least PAID Ministry.