Last night I sat in a conference listening to Neil Cole talk about the damage we have done to the cause of Christ by making the ministry of the professional clergy more important than that of the average Christian. I could not agree more. If you are a follower of Christ, you have been called by God to be a minister in Christ’s name. The job of the “professional” is not to do what God has called you to do, but to give you every tool and training you need so that you can do what God has called you to.
This is stated as clearly and as boldly as possible by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11-12
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
As a pastor my job according to Paul, is to equip people for the ministry they have been called to by God. It is that work, work of ordinary Christ followers, that will build up the Body of Christ. It is the work of ordinary Christians like you that will make the real difference in the Church and in the world. People in positions like me are just coaches. You are the real players who make things happen.
Throughout the Bible we get the picture of how vital you are to the work of ministry. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the church as the Body of Christ. He makes it clear that each and every person in the Body has a crucial role to play. Each person has a ministry that has been given to them by God. Each person is equally important in the functioning of the Body and the ministry of Christ. The hand is no more important that the foot, which is no more important than the eye, which is no more important than the ear. You my friend are of vital importance to the Body of Christ and if you are not doing the ministry God has called you to, then the rest of us are functioning one handed, or lame in one leg, or blind in one eye, or deaf in one ear. No wonder the church struggles.
But there is another very important point that Neil made. Do not think that your ministry that God has called you to is some “church” thing. Far too many people think that what they do from 9-5, Monday through Friday is “secular’ and what they do with the church is “sacred”. NO! All of life is sacred. Colossians 2:17 is clear, in whatever you do in thought word and deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I wrote a post on this several weeks ago. https://provocativechristian.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/provocative-worship-pt-2-all-of-life-is-sacred/ The point is, whatever you do, is to be done as an act of worship. That makes all of life sacred. All of life is ministry. If you are called by God to be an accountant, or cook, or engineer, or flight attendant, you are to do that for Jesus and look for every chance to serve others in His name.
I know that for many people this is a new concept. I know this because I teach a university course on this at Belhaven College. My students are adults who are finishing their degree at night. They are by and large people who have been Christians for some time and go to good churches. But when we talk about their job being a calling from God and something sacred, the lights come on for the first time. They never heard this. They always saw their job as somehow being inferior to that of their pastor or some other professional church worker. Real ministry is what the pastor does. That is nonsense!
When I came to faith in Christ I had never been a member of a church. I had rarely attended a church. What I did have at that point was the example of ordinary people who led me to Jesus and a Bible that talked all about ordinary people who did radical things in service to Jesus. I had no expectation or model that said “real ministry is done by professionals”. So stupid me, I just started doing what I saw people do in the New Testament and what my friends had modeled for me. All of life became life in Jesus. Whatever we did became an act of worship. If we went white water rafting it was a chance to experience the joy of the Lord and fellowship in His creation. That was no less an act of worship than when we sat down with a guitar around a camp fire and sang songs and prayed. When we went to work and became salt and light in the marketplace, it was no less ministry than when we went to a local park and talked to pot smoking teenagers about Jesus. There was no divide between the sacred and the secular and between the professional pastor and the ordinary follower.
You are a minister in God’s church and what you do everywhere, everyday is to be sacred in the eyes of the Lord.