Christianity 201

December 28, 2013

Is Full-Time Ministry a Higher Calling?

Today’s article is by Paul Burleson, who has been in pastoral ministry for 54 years. It appeared at his blog under the title Is Full Time Ministry a Higher Calling Than Any Other Calling?  (You’ll also find two articles from December 2013 exploding seven specific myths associated with Christmas.)

In Ephesians 4:1 Paul says this….

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called….” [the New American Standard Bible (1995)] The King James version uses the word “vocation” but it is better understood as “calling.” It is a reference to the general calling of grace that the first three chapters have described. So all Christians have a “calling” and we’re to walk accordingly.

Roman Catholic writer Michael Novak wrote a book on ‘Business as a Calling’ in which he presented four aspects of a “calling.” [His idea was in the context of business remember.] He said a calling will have …

1) An understanding that it is a personal and unique calling to you….

2) A requirement for the talents needed for the task and a love for the drudgery that may be involved in the task to which you’re called….

3) The presence of an enjoyment for and renewed energies from the doing of the task that is your calling….

4) A period of discernment and testing for [learning all about] the task to which you’re called.

Not bad.

I would think, in the Ephesians 4 context, our calling, which is to the same “Lord” Paul said he was a prisoner of in verse one and that “Lordship” calling is for EVERY true believer, might have the same characteristics about it…

1) It IS personal and unique to each of us…

2) We HAVE been gifted for our Life in Him…

3) There IS joy unspeakable in our life in Him and strength provided for the living of life…

4) We then spend the rest of our lives learning what life is all about by “hearing Him” as commanded of the Father. As I said, not bad!

I would also add what someone else has called a “fifth aspect” of a true calling and it is..

5) An orientation away from self so our goal would be the glory of God and the good of others in all things. That makes it even better.

It is obvious from all this that I believe we as Christians have accepted the universal vocation [calling] of following Christ and Novak’s ideas can be seen as relevant to that task/life.

But… is there in life a calling to a more specific vocation for all of us through which we make a living, provide for our families and, generally, live out our days on earth?

In other words, are we “called” to a career? And if we are, how do we know what we are to do for a career or livelihood? Add to that the question… is the “calling” to “full-time ministry” [career] a GREATER calling than the calling to other careers?

It is this that concept that I’m addressing today.

Since I believe ALL of life is sacred and there is NO division in scripture between the sacred and the secular [See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.] I think we are to view ANYTHING we choose to do in life as a “calling.” A better way of saying it is we are to see anything we choose to do as an opportunity to “life-out our Lordship calling.” Choose anything you wish, but see it as a commitment to express His life in you and understand that what you do choose is a gift from Him to you.

Someone may be saying “Wait a minute Brother Paul, it sounds like you’re saying we can choose however we wish in matters of life instead of finding God’s specific will in those matters.” I am. The only WILL God has revealed to you and me specifically is that we are to live as what we are…’Sanctified people.” [1 Thess. 4:3 the rest of the chapter shows what that looks like.]

When we are committed to Him as Lord we will reflect that in whatever we choose. Our life is not to be lived trying to find out what He wishes we would do in each decision but, rather, in celebrating who He is as our Lord and making ANY decision accordingly.

So, I say marry whomever you choose, go to whatever University you wish, get whatever degree you desire, and live doing wherever you long to live doing. But in EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE, see it as that which allows you to be effective for God in this world and bring glory to Him and good for other people. Your vocation or marriage or career or whatever, will only allow you to establish God’s order and virtue in your life and to assist other people to do the same. This is Christianity to me.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t an eternal and secret will that God is working out for us in His Divine Purposes. But it is to say that, by definition, that will is “secret” and we’ll understand in all only in “eternity.” Don’t worry. You won’t miss God in decisions. He really is in control. He’s unique that way.

By the way, as to whether a “calling to full-time ministry” is more sacred than anyone else’s, my answer is NO. It is different. It is unique to the one called. There are greater responsibilities for certain areas of life affected by that calling. But remember, all that is true of every christian’s life, as well in their unique way of living that life in employment. It’s ALL sacred and satisfying and spiritual when He is Lord.

So you obviously can see I believe every christian IS a full-time minister. Some are just placed as gifts to the Body as shepherds/pastors/elders/deacons, recognized by the body as gifts, but all Christians are gifts to and gifted for the Body of Christ in some fashion, [for ministry] and for the living of life however we live it. [Which is what ministry is.] “Whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.”

By the way, if I’m out in left field with this, don’t tell me. I’m having too much fun out here. ;)

Just kidding!

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for this encouraging word. I have always felt that the church creates a hierarchy of callings– to be a really amazing Christian, one is a missionary to Africa or some other third-word country, followed by being a missionary in-country, then a pastor, and on down from there. I’ve always wanted to be in full-time ministry myself, but God has not allowed us to walk that path at this point in our lives. I am so encouraged by your word that all we do is a calling if we allow it to be. I am a teacher, and I often feel unimportant in a secular vocation. I have always told myself that I must do my best as working for the Lord, that this is my true calling. You have confirmed this for me again. I needed this today!

    Comment by E.S. — April 9, 2018 @ 8:20 am | Reply


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