Full-Time Vocational Ministry is Not The Pinnacle of Faithfulness

I remember attending Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit as a seminary student. As a young man excited about a future career as a pastor, I was deeply moved when Bill Hybels presented Matthew 16:18, when after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord proclaimed, “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” Over the huge projection screens, Hybels beamed as he looked out at the crowd gathered that day in South Barrington and confidently stated, “I believe that the center of God’s purpose is the Church.”

Oh, how I was inspired! I chose the right vocation, that of full-time pastoral ministry, because God’s Church is what it’s all about. As I sat in that massive auditorium (the epitome of successful church ministry), I thought about how important the institutional church is with our attractive worship services, classroom Bible studies, and varying programs to meet the needs of many different people.  I was grateful to be able to be someone who will be able to lead such an endeavor.

Obviously, the highest calling for someone, so I thought, was full-time vocational ministry (either as a pastor or as a missionary). Why? Because our churches and our ministries are the main things!

But as I’ve discovered over the years, the institutional church is not the main thing. The main thing is the Kingdom of God (see my previous post, where I state that the Church functions for the sake of the Kingdom of God, not the other way around).

What if we really believed that the main thing was something else besides the institutional church? What if it’s not about me (as the pastoral leader) or about our church (our building, our worship service, our programs), or about recruiting people to the high call of overseas missions (since this is seen as the pinnacle of “God’s work”). What if all these things are good things, but are meant to serve a greater thing, that is, the Kingdom of God?

What if God wants to rise up men and women who will yield their entire lives to the Lordship of Jesus and the purposes of His Kingdom? What if these men and women were to see all aspects of their lives as ways to contribute to bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven? What if the pinnacle of doing Kingdom work is being faithful in the callings that ordinary humans are meant to have: Artists, engineers, nurses, educators, designers, homemakers, dads, moms, politicians, lawyers, carpenters, machinists, musicians, software writers, etc.?

I meet a lot of young people who want to be youth pastors or college campus ministers. Why? Because the people that have had the greatest impact on them were youth pastors and campus ministers, and they feel that they want to follow in these people’s footsteps. They have been taught (perhaps overtly but more likely covertly just by being in the presence of someone with these presumptions about ministry) that full-time vocational ministry is the most important, most God-honoring course to take in life.

Here’s a telling barometer for how we’re doing on this (that is, those of us in full-time vocational ministry): What if instead of finding the most satisfaction and joy when someone we have been mentoring and/or discipling says they want to become a missionary or go to seminary, we would find even more satisfaction and joy when we see them fully engaged in following Christ in the life they are called to live?



Nancy Mitchell said...

Totally agree!!! Am going to share this on my facebook page. It is so right-on!

Robert Winkler Burke said...

What if church is SUPPOSED to teach Christ-in-You-ness, ala Col. 1:26-27.... and what if a whole lot of pastors simply cannot do or believe this. Then you have church that doesn't really transcend... or have any true Spirit and aura of Christ.... not in leadership.... not in sheep.

BUT, what IF... leadership actually demonstrated Christ-in-Youness!!!! What if that's what happened In That Day! (But what if Christ-in-You-ness mainly happened to the out-of-churchers? Then the church would be more or less CLUELESS...

The Christ-in-You Aura
By Robert Winkler Burke
Of inthatdayteachings.com
Copyright 3/31/11

The Christ-in-You aura,
Takes some big-time explaining!
Some people will love you,
While others: you’ll be paining!

Just by being near them,
You bring calm or panic,
Healing or destruction,
It can make you manic!

Don’t worry Christ-in-You one,
Folks react to you as if seeing Jesus!
Learn to camouflage yourself,
Let Father God guide how others shall seize us!

Then again, travel with two or more,
Christ-in-You so special, indwelt ones,
And the power goes exponential,
Demons, in others, manifest tons!

Demons will manifest,
In others: In That Day,
When singularity,
In us comes God’s way!

When singularity,
Which is vertical growth in God over time,
Comes to internet ones,
Not poor-taught, but Christ-minded: with God’s rhyme!

Christ, having now come quickly,
Behold with pure-spirit eyes to see: God’s aura!
Yet it’s oft hard to manage!
Flow with, don’t fight against, this box of Pandora!

Most folks, not far enough along,
Will see evil emanating around you,
Whereas a few, more prepared,
Will rejoice: God’s power redounds imbued!