Full-time Ministry: Fact or Fiction
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There are some Christian thinkers out there who call 'full-time ministry' a myth. By their reasoning, whatever you do is a ministry unto God and that, therefore, all of Christian life for all Christians is a ministry. While I understand the reasoning and I think it helps counter some fallacies among Christian thinking, I think the ultimate conclusion as such is a fallacy in itself.
Let me illustrate my point by way of Scripture. Somewhere in the epistles, Paul expressed the desire for other men to be like him, for when married a person's love is divided between his spouse and God. As a married person, I understand the truth of that; Laura actually quoted it to me some time ago. For the Christian who has a regular job, this is also true. The attention of a Christian in his work place is divided between the job itself and God. In that way, never can the Christian's full attention at work be on serving God. Some might argue that all that work can be dedicated to God and done for the purpose of glorifying him. While that may be true, there still is a fine distinction set in place that restricts the attention of the Christian worker who is not in full-time ministry for his attention must necessarily be divided between work and God.
The Christian worker in full-time ministry is not under the same restriction. The whole purpose and intent of the missionary's, or pastor's, or full-time worship leader's, etc, work is to give glory to God and see to the expansion of His kingdom. As such, the full-time minister has been set apart by God and for Him in a very special way. God has given the full-time Christian worker a special calling and a wonderful privilege to fully devote his or her time to God's work. That doesn't, of course, mean a full-time ministry person cannot have fun, a family, friends, etc. but the work life of such a person is devoted in a special way to God. It's an awesome privilege and responsibility.
Along with the privilege, though, comes great challenges. The full-time Christian worker often does not earn his own bread, but depends on God for the provision of such. Several of my friends currently struggle with this very issue. One couple Laura and I know have felt God's call to a YWAM school of Biblical counseling this fall after serving as missionaries the past two years. They have not the funds for this school, nor do they have money to pay for rent at the moment, and they have a second child on the way in December. All this and they are only 24 and 22 years old. Yet, they have heeded the call and shall be departing in September, trusting that God shall provide for their needs as he always has. Clearly, this dependence on God for daily bread is much stronger than what the Christian working a regular job faces. Other friends of ours struggle similarly; it becomes a crisis of faith.
Other challenges face full-time Christian workers, as well, and spiritual attacks that the Christian working a regular job does not face. In many ways, therefore, a Christian in full-time ministry is, as I said before, set apart for God in a special way.
By the same token, though, the Christian in a regular job should not so easily dismiss certain things as being for those in full-time ministry only. ALL Christians are called to be holy, which means set apart for God. This does not mean physical separation (in either the full-time Christian worker or the one in a regular job), but a separation of type. We are NOT to be like the world, but radically different from it. Anyone who has a problem with this, and with the call to holiness, has a problem with God. Those of us who have struggled with having one foot planted in the kingdom while not wanting to remove the other foot from the world are double-minded, unstable in all we do. If one Christian dismisses another as being 'too holy' for him or her, then that person clearly does not know the ways of God or God's calling on his or her life, for we are all called to holiness.
Now, the Christian in a regular job also faces challenges. Consider the person who goes on a YWAM DTS. He or she is set apart in a unique way to God for several months and comes out of it singing praises and full of the joy of the Lord. He goes back to the so-called real world with fire and passion in his heart, ready for the attacks of Satan, for Satan's sledgehammer to slam down on him. Instead, Satan comes with a chisel and chips away at the person until the things of God fall to the wayside and what's left looks little different from the world. Such is the way of the Christian in a regular job. The attacks come in measured doses, a war of attrition in some ways that comes from being surrounded daily with the things and people of Satan. Unless God's renewing touch comes often into the person's life, the things of God will truly fall away through the repeated taps of Satan's chisel until the person has strayed far off the narrow path.
How does that renewing come? Well, you see, this is why church, small groups, and all Christian fellowship comes in. But more, because the Christian worker in a regular job is so immersed in the trees, he often cannot see the forest. He needs the full-time Christian worker to point out the greater things of God, to strip away all the worries, fears, and daily grind that eat away at faith and show him the essential things of God. The one whose work is fully devoted to God can see what matters more clearly and serves to renew the faith of those whose attention is often divided. The full-time Christian worker serves as a lifeline to those who are struggling, a source of hope, encouragement and rebuke to those who are floundering amidst the turmoil of this world. The full-time Christian worker has a higher calling, not because he is not immersed in the real world with all its troubles, but because he less impeded access to the true real world, the kingdom of God, for what we think of as the real world is passing away and soon shall be no more. We need those who are fully dedicated to the true real world to give us a glimpse of it that we might grasp hold of it and show it to others.
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