Saturday

Full Time Ministry

“Full Time Ministry.” What an interesting phrase.

I hear a lot about Full Time Ministry. I hear it from my brothers and sisters in my church, and in pretty much every church, every conference, every home group I visit. I hear it on many of the blogs and twitter streams of brothers and sisters that I follow. I hear it most often among those who are most passionate about their faith. I hear it explicitly and I hear it implicitly in many of our conversations.

And the thing that I hear is this: a consistent desire to be in Full Time Ministry (and yes, it’s spoken with capital letters!).

This is what I hear: I hear so many believers that are frustrated with the limits of how well they’re able to express their commitment, their appreciation, their devotion to God, in their secular workplace, and they’re looking to Full Time Ministry as a means of satiating that need. “When I’m in Full Time Ministry...” they say wistfully. Some of them are tired of dealing with “Non-Believers” (as if “believing” is the thing that defines us) and wanting to work among Believers so they can let down their defenses. But mostly it’s a longing to serve Christ better.

First of all, I understand the desire for more freedom in living out our faith; I understand the desire to have a job that allows me to express my joy in the One who ransomed me from sin and judgment during my work day; I understand the frustration with feeling like so many of my hours working are wasted in the sense that they are building something that will make no eternal impact.

And so we have a large part of a generation of the Church longing to be on staff at a church, wishing they could be part of a Christian missions group, thinking and planning about starting some sort of ministry so that they can be in Full Time Ministry.

Here in America, we have a tendency to define ourselves by our jobs, our careers. We talk about “Pastor John” or “Dr. Miller” because of that force. When we introduce ourselves, there’s very often a need to describe what we do for a living, because that’s how we know each other in this country. It’s not the only way we define ourselves, but it’s a bunch of it.

And so we have a second motivation for wanting the Full Time Ministry position: it defines us publicly as someone who’s committed to Christ, who’s given themselves to the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. It’s not that we’re looking for public recognition (well, not usually), but that we want to see ourselves that way: I’m committed to the gospel, because I’m in Full Time Ministry.

I say again: I understand and I applaud the desire to serve God with our whole day. I need to make that clear because of what I’m going to say next.

Every time I hear about people wanting to be in Full Time Ministry, I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and shout, “You’re aiming too low. Aim higher!”

Yes, it’s true that for most of us, working 40 hours a week for a Christian cause would represent a larger fraction of our lives spent in furthering the cause of Christ. Assuming we get an hour a day in our “Quiet Times”, and that’s almost 50 hours a week! Fifty hours a week with God; what a wonderful thought!

Again I say, “You’re aiming too low. Aim higher!”

The standard that we’re given in the Word, the example modeled for us by Jesus and Paul and the rest is that we don’t limit ourselves to serving the cause of Christ a mere 40 or 50 hours a week. Fifty hours a week is an improvement, but it’s not our goal. Our goal is … (let’s see… 24 hours a day x 7 days a week…) our goal is serving Christ 168 hours a week. Every breath we take, every word we speak, every relationship, every conversation, every email, everything we do is part of our life in Christ.

My relationship with Christ is about who I am, not about how I spend my time. A friend of mine put it this way: we were made to be Human Beings long before we began to be humans doing. I am a Christian not because of what I do with my day, but because Christ lives in me, because I am in Him. Which means that all of my day is His.

When I worship, that’s an expression of the Kingdom of God, of course. When I help church volunteers overcome their technical challenges, that’s an expression of the Kingdom; I understand that. But when I talk to the mechanic who’s fixing my truck, I’m an expression of the Kingdom, because I am the ambassador of the Kingdom, perhaps the only one he’ll talk to today. When I go grocery shopping, or pay my bills, I’m doing the work of the Kingdom, because I am a king and a priest in this Kingdom. I’m not an ambassador only when I’m talking God Talk or doing God Things. I am an ambassador. That’s who I am. That’s who you are.

Let me be more direct: I don’t need to be doing something expressly “Christian” to be doing the work of the Kingdom. I am not an ambassador, a king, a priest because I happen to be talking about Jesus or about my church at this moment. It’s not about what I do. It’s about who I am.

The other end of the spectrum, then, is also true: when I snarl at my kids, when I grumble at the guy who cut me off in traffic, I am still doing that as a king and a priest of the Kingdom. Which leads me to change my behavior, but not because I need to do the right things, but because of who I am. I am a king, a priest, an ambassador. I need to live like that. I need to make choices based on who I am, not on what’s right and wrong. (We’re still eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, aren’t we?)

So here’s my encouragement: live like you mean it. Be who you are, you ambassador, you. Live in Christ 24/7 and be an ambassador in all you do.

And quit settling for the goal of only Full Time Ministry.


1 comment:

Dave Hayes said...

Thanks for posting this. I haven't struggled (yet) with the desire to get a job in ministry. But the problem of diving my secular and sacred lives is real. I don't believe it's God's desire for us to compartmentalize our lives. Being spiritual around spiritual people and secular around secular people is maddening. As a recovering people - pleaser, I've given up on trying to be two different people. As God matures us, we must be able to live a consistent spiritual life regardless of the setting; Jesus did. Like him, we should be able to teach, heal, encourage, and love people 24/7. As you said - we are all in full-time ministry.