Called to Ministry?

We discussed something pretty powerful the other morning in our Staff Meeting. We were talking about protecting our family relationships from the work of ministry, the church. It’s so easy for us as church staff to blur the lines between church stuff and family stuff because we do it in the name of our “calling”. And we tend to feel like we’re doing what God wants by pouring the best of ourselves in to the church and giving our families the leftovers (if there is any).

Many people say they are “called to ministry”. I’m called to be a pastor, a worship leader, a deacon, a missionary, a greeter, teacher, usher, soundguy, etc. And that “call” is from God and is almost like a permission slip that says God will take care of everything because I am being faithful to my “calling”. So a simple concept came to mind as we were sharing.

I know I’m called to ministry. So are you.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:9,10

Where we get confused is on the definition of “work”, or “ministry”. I think we (church people, church staff, pastors, etc.) think of ministry as “church work”, even though we would never say that, we live our lives like that. Devoting hours upon hours to things like “furthering the kingdom”, or “shepherding the flock”. We don’t hear many church people talk passionately about “ministering” to their families, or their spouses. We don’t see them investing the time and energy that it takes to build a strong foundation in the home. We don’t see a lot of them pursuing self-leadership in their own personal lives. Oh yeah they can lead a church or a ministry, but not their homes or themselves.

I’m reminded of this scripture:

For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
1 Timothy 3:5

I mean it really doesn’t get much simpler than that does it? Yet over and over we see the church filled with gifted (“annointed”, a christian term for “they got the right stuff”) leaders who have no business leading a church because they can’t even manage their own household. And the church just shines it right along, even encouraging it by forcing pastors, staff, leaders, and volunteers to serve and give until they’re completely useless, then they are thrown out, left with broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken families.

Here’s what I know. I am called to ministry. I am called to minister to myself first. I know sounds selfish huh? But if I can’t lead myself I have failed. If I can’t call my own life into the standards I set for others, then I am a hypocrite, a liar, and a failure as a minister.

I am called to minister to my wife second. There’s a ring on my finger that reminds me of that every day. It is my “calling”. If I fail at that, I’ve failed as a minister.

My next calling is to be a father. I have two living, breathing, wild and crazy kids that remind me of that every day. They need my love and leadership as a dad. If I fail as a father, I’ve failed as a minister.

If I am failing in my primary areas of ministry then I have no business ministering to God’s church.

[And yes we all fail. But if I am consistently failing, there will be consequences]

Come back soon for a synopsis of a little message I heard yesterday at the SW Church Planting Forum. It’s along the same lines, with some great “take home” stuff.

Are you called to ministry?

9 thoughts on “Called to Ministry?

  1. Peter

    Hmmm…I think it is vitally important to have these types of reminders. Especially for people who work in the church. So often we can get caught up in the hub bub of ministry that we really lose it’s purpose and ultimately its pure affect.
    I am a firm believer that God does take care of us, when he so chooses. But I am also I firm believer that he has created us all to be good stewards, hence we are responsible for our bodies, finances, family vitality. God is in the business of creating people he can trust to make the right decisions. FREE WILL yay!
    Good Post! I like to hear church people think intentionally about their lives and callings from God.

    Peters last blog post..Bands I like!

  2. Miranda

    This is weird. I “happened upon” your blog because I was looking for information regarding “blackberry vs. treo” as I’m going to be needing a new … one-or-the-other pretty soon. One of the first articles I came across was on FredMcKinnon.com, and before I knew it, I was here!

    Your title caught my eye, because it’s been a topic of conversation around here, too (Omaha, Nebraska, USA – small world, huh?). What we’re coming to is close to where you (Alex) ended up, but I would differ with you at one point. That is what our first calling is.

    I believe our first calling is not to minister to ourselves. It is to “Follow Me”. It is to nurture our relationship to HIM, to pursue intimacy with HIM, to seek His face and listen to His voice. It is easy to say, “Well, yes, of course, that’s a given,” but the fact is, it’s NOT a given – especially when you look at the pace at which life is going – and will whisk us completely away if we let it. No, it can’t be a given, it must be a purposeful, highly prized priority.

    When that first piece is firmly in place, the rest is easier to settle out. It doesn’t just automatically “fit together”, but if we can learn to hear His voice in our ear saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it,” we are much more likely to lead some semblance of a … I wanted to say “balanced” life, but I don’t know if that’s God’s plan either. Jesus’ life, Paul’s life, Moses’ or David’s life … not exactly “balanced”. I guess the key is seeking to live the life that HE has planned for us to live – whatever that looks like.

    “Whatever that looks like” for me may be totally different from what it looks like to you. That’s why we have to be able to hear God’s voice for ourselves and give others grace to hear what God is saying to them.

    It would be so much easier if God just gave us all a flow-chart…

  3. Becka

    Ok, for what it may or may not be worth, I believe Alex, that you are spot on! I don’t think it’s selfish at all to minister to yourself first. I think that is just practicing good boundaries. We are responsible to be good stewards of everything that the Lord has given us including our lives, families, callings or jobs.

    If we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t going to be able to maintain a healthy relationship with anyone else, much less with the Lord. Jesus even took time to be by Himself and I believe that was freshing to His soul. I think that God is most able to minister to us when we take time out to take care of us.

    I do believe that God has called us to balance in our lives, without balance we find ourselves swinging from one extreme to the other, and that just brings chaos. God clearly says I am not a God of chaos but of order. If you look at His creation there is balance inter-woven through out. Even in the lives of Paul, David, Moses and especially Jesus’ there was a balance. They expirenced extreme moments in their lives, but I believe that those extreme moments were also balanced with an equal amount of unextreme moments. Yes Moses spoke with God and performed miracles in the Lord’s name, but he also had mundane moments of giving instructions, taking cencus of the tribes, of settling disputes. Jesus spoke to multitudes, but also to individuals.

    I can only speak for me, and I believe that there is a definate balance to living in such a way as to bring glory to the Lord in your calling, but also in what He has called you to be resposible for.

  4. alex

    Wow I love conversations like this.

    Peter, I agree with your line of thinking. I think that ministry loses its effectiveness often. Business does not always equal productivity and often leads to burnout.

    Jenni – wow, thanks all the way from Nashville!

    Miranda, I think that I was very man based in my post. Ministering to self and self leadership to me speaks directly of being close to God and fostering that relationship. It is kind of a “given” in my thought process. Thanks for bringing it more into the light from another perspective.

    And Becka, another female perspective. I couldn’t agree more. We need to examine ourselves and our lives every day, every week, month, year and see if we are trying our best to wrap and bend our lives around our “calling” to minister, to be like Christ.

    As far as balanced lives. I love the conversation that is happening here. I’m still figuring out where to land on it myself.

  5. Miranda

    I think it’s a constant struggle – dare I say “balancing act”? When I said that our first calling is to follow HIM, I wasn’t disallowing the need to minister to ourselves. I’ve been through a very rough time for the past several years, and God took me “off-line” for a good portion of it. If I hadn’t had that time to heal, re-think things, rest (spiritually, physically, mentally), I don’t know how (or if) I would have made it. What I’m finding is that, as I learn to hear His voice and follow Him (“I do only what I see the Father doing”), I am starting to live again, minister again, function – really well! – again.

    There absolutely had to be time for self-ministry. I’m sure people thought too much time was taken with it. When I thought about that, I felt pressured to “get back to it”; but when I rested in Him, I knew that I was being totally remade from the inside out and that would take some time. When I finally started to come alive again, it was glorious, but I HAD to have had that protracted time, letting him have me “all to himself” first. Self-ministry. Allowing myself to be ministered to by Him, rediscovering what boundaries needed to be in my life in order to serve Him effectively, what I can and cannot do. (side note – one of the things that’s tricky about being gifted by God in any way, is that we want to take on things that we can “do” and become totally overloaded in the process. One of my new mantras – if such a word is allowed here – is “I can’t do everything I can do.” Does that make sense?)

    Any way, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear in what I was saying. Yes, we must take time to minister to ourselves. And that goes beyond just spending time with the Lord. It could mean taking some R&R to spend with the family, or just by your self. It could mean getting together with friends, or just taking a nap! Whatever.

    I just don’t feel it’s always “safe” to assume that the priority of getting to know Jesus is the top priority. It gets lost in the shuffle too many times.

    As far as “balance” goes … I’m really wrestling with that. Look at David and Moses. Great leaders, but lousy dads. Was that OK with God? I don’t see how it could be, and yet … the Bible focuses on what they DID and only a little attention is given to their failure as fathers. Also, trying to digest things like Catherine Booth’s “Aggressive Christianity”, Paris Reidhead’s “Basis for Missions”, and other such material has my head spinning. Is a balanced life just a Western thing, or is it a God thing? I don’t really presume to know the answer to that, even though it may have seemed so in my first post. I get my brain tied up in a knot sometimes trying to figure it out.

    Then, I go take a nap!

  6. alex

    Miranda that’s some awesome sharing. Please don’t ever feel the need to apologize here. This is a conversation and I’m just stoked we’re having it.

    I love the quote “I can’t do everything I can do”. That’s powerful. I also love the idea of balance vs. western culture. Interesting thoughts.

    I’m also struggling with “self ministry” and the fact that when two become one, God views them as that…

  7. James McLean

    great topic! interesting that we just talked about this in our groups the other night.

    i would like to hover around this area for a bit:
    “I know I’m called to ministry. So are you.”

    I don’t think that the majority of Christian Americans believe this. We have too many spectators and this was never meant to be. Many are convinced that the great commission and “ministry” is only for the professionals, church staff people, those who are “called”. Matt 28:19-20 is for all of us who claim Jesus name.

    Also,

    “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the CALLING to which you have been CALLED,with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were CALLED to the one hope that belongs to your CALL.”- Eph. 4:1-4

    Now Paul was speaking to the Ephesians then but if he were here today he would be speaking to our churches.

    Here is another example:
    “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,
    who saved us and CALLED us to a holy CALLING, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”- 2 Tim. 1:8-9

    So here is where it ties in with the other posts, if the church is convinced that it is called and is living according to its call, then the pastors are not as distracted in other areas of their lives because the work of the church is for the church not just the pastors! the church is the church no matter where it is, at home, at a job, at a social event, at school, be the church where you are and lets all fulfill our calling.

    Miranda,

    I also blogged on what could be called “self ministry” as well http://www.resistembrace.com/?p=5
    I appreciate what you have to add to the conversation.

    James McLeans last blog post..The Whiteboard Sessions: Mark Batterson

  8. eric

    Beautiful!!!

    I’m stoked to be in a place where my Pastor believes and practices the same thing…

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