For seven years I served God in full time ministry as the Executive Director of a pregnancy center. During that time my friends and co-workers included pastors, community stakeholders, church secretaries, and Christians.
If you have never served in full time ministry you may not be aware that those who do often wear a full time service badge of pride. “I” am in ministry. “I” am in FULL time ministry.
The people that I know who work in full time ministry do have some things in common:
- They are often not paid what they are worth.
- They often work more than 40 hours a week, or the agreed upon amount.
- They handle more than anyone else can imagine: people, finances, conflict, spiritual matters, physical matters, trial and suffering. It’s often very complicated.
- They are often consumed by the needs of others. The more they help others the more need they see, and around and around it goes.
- The ministry defines and drives their personal and home life.
Now we can all experience the same thing in a career or job, but the spiritual aspect does add a unique dynamic that other jobs do not have. Working all day to share the gospel, dealing with the weight of peoples sins, praying for those in need, and encouraging the destitute is a special calling, burden, and privilege, however we are all called to serve God.
What is ministry?
When God called me to lead a para-church organization I made a promise to Him. “Lord, when my time here is done please make it clear. I will leave as soon as you tell me to. I know that you have a job for me to do here, and when it is over I want to promptly leave. I don’t want to become a burden to the ministry.”
In the Summer of 2014 God made it clear that I was to prepare to leave, and that He would tell me when it was time to go. I left in January 2015, and immediately fell into depression and despair, for many reasons, but one was because I was lost when my life wasn’t about helping people. How would I now serve God, and others?
Webster defines ministry as:
- the office, duties, or functions of a minister
the body of ministers of religion : clergy
a person or thing through which something is accomplished : agency, instrumentality
the period of service or office of a minister or ministry
Ministry is a person or thing through which something is accomplished. Ministry can be a body of ministers of religion, or the function of a minister, but it is also a person or thing through which something is accomplished.
Matthew 22:37-39 gives Christians their marching orders stating, “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Later Jesus states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
A Ministry of Vocation
Can we accomplish loving God with all our heart and soul and loving our neighbor, at work? Does God only count work done in a church, or para-church organization, as real ministry?
Vocation refers to a career or job. God calls many to work. 1 Thessalonians 3:10 states, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” A consequence of the fall of man is “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” (Gen. 3:19)
Those of us who are called to work can serve God in our vocation. Work, or vocation, is a means we can use our gifts and talents. We can serve God in every station of life. This doesn’t mean we should stop serving the church, but it does mean that we can serve God in our vocation.
“Choose that employment or calling in which you may be most serviceable to God. Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honorable in the world; but that in which you may do most good, and best escape sinning.” Richard Baxter
We can serve God in every station of life. I have served God as a stay at home mom, teaching Sunday school, as an AWANA leader, leading a para-church ministry, counseling, mentoring, helping and serving the church. I now serve God through my vocation.
My despair ended when I realized that God was calling me to a new ministry. He was calling me to help my husband accomplish his goal of retiring early, and starting a new career. In order to help him do that I need to increase my income to offset the decrease we will have when he retires early.
God has called me to work in a place I would have never have chosen for myself. Day by day I can see why He has called me there. I can use my gifts and talents to make a difference, shine the light, love others, and make an impact for Christ. I have not been called to a lesser ministry, just a different one.
Perhaps one day God will use me in full time ministry again, in a church ministry or will call me to counsel again, but for now, He has called me to a ministry of vocation. I will serve Him in this ministry with the same vigor, passion, and dedication as I did the last.
I want to explore the ministry of vocation in future posts. I believe that Christians can make a major impact with Christ at work, and yes we can do that within the confines of separation of church and state.