You are Called by God to the Ministry

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.

Provocative Worship: It is NOT About the Music

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
Colossians 2:17

One cold and snowy winter weekend a group of people from North Park church outside Pittsburgh went away for a retreat that focused on spiritual disciplines. The setting was a local convent that rented out space for such things. I don’t remember a whole lot about that weekend. I do remember it was cold. There are also vague images of lots of candles, John Michael Talbot music in the background, and a time of communion that was done very quietly and it was cold. Did I mention that it was cold? The cold was an important part of the weekend because it set the backdrop for something I learned in a most profound way. No matter what you do, it can and should be an act of worship to God. It should be done in the name of Jesus, for His glory, for His honor, to the praise of His name.

The nuns at this convent raised honeybees. One afternoon there was a nun out by the beehives. Her traditional black nuns habit made for a stark contrast to the snow and ice on the ground. As she was tending the beehives she noticed something on the snow at her feet. Bending over she made a cup with her hands and scooped up a seemingly frozen and dead honeybee. With great tenderness she actually spoke to the bee and then blew ever so gently on it with her warm breath. There she stood in the cold and snow, patiently, gently, breathing warmth and life into the bee. After a few minutes and many soft and gentle wisps of breath, the warmth that she blew on the bee revived it. It began to stir. As the tiny wings gave evidence of buzzing movement she eased it towards the opening from which it had fallen and ushered it back inside the familiar and protective surroundings of the hive.

Many people watching that scene would have observed a woman in funny clothes risking getting stung by a bee that would never have been missed out of a hive of tens of thousands. Others would have paid her no attention in the first place. Maybe it was the spiritual emphasis of the weekend, or maybe it was her demeanor as she worked. Most likely it was a bit of both, but those of us who observed her saw an act of worship. This was a woman who projected a sense that no matter what she did, saying prayers, singing songs, reading scripture, or breathing life back into a honeybee, all of life was an act of worship, lived for the glory of God.

Clearly the Bible calls us to worship God. But just what does that mean? For most Christians worship is something that happens for an hour on Sunday when we gather with other Christians in a building designed for worship and sing songs to and about Him.  The songs seem to be the important component. Worship leaders will even introduce the time of singing my saying things like, “Now let’s stand and worship together”. Even the language of the people attending shows what we mean by worship. We tell people that we are going to worship, not at all meaning that we are about to let everything we do and say be done in the name of the Lord, but meaning that we are going to the specific time and place of worship. I have even heard people ask, “Have you worshiped this week” meaning did you attend one of those specific events. The unintended implication being that unless you had, then you could not have really worshiped God yet this week.

Others may have expanded the definition and see worship as the singing of songs to God no matter where you are and what time of the week it is. They may even see a regular time of being alone with God as a time of worship. That time may also include reading God’s Word and praying. Certainly that is a step in the right direction. But it is not enough. We must see worship as more than an activity that is somehow confined to a particular place or time or set of behaviors. We must begin to see worship more from the standpoint of our identity and not simply our activity.

When Paul told the Colossians that they were to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus he gave us an impossible task. It is impossible if it can only be accomplished by intentionally determining at every moment of every activity, how we can do that in the Lord’s name. We would end up spending the entirety of our lives trying to figure out just how to do each and every activity in the name of Jesus and probably have no room for actually doing each thing.

The only way to do all that we do in the Lord’s name is to have an orientation of our lives towards His glory. It must be something that is so embedded within us that we are automatically oriented towards bringing glory to Jesus. It has a great deal to do with love. When I really love my wife it takes little to no effort to demonstrate that, even in the mundane things of life. So when I do the dishes or make dinner, or send her a card or flowers, those things come out of the overflow of a heart that is lived towards her. It happens because she is in my thoughts and my heart. The same is true with our worship of God. Our love for Him should be such that even in the mundane things of life we do them with Him in mind. We do them in such a way as to please and honor Him. Putting a bee back in the hive is done out of the overflow of a heart that loves God. Serving the poor, tutoring a student, fixing a broken drain pipe, going to the gym, eating Thanksgiving leftovers, all become acts of worship when we do them in Jesus name and for His glory. Maybe that is in some way at the heart of what Jesus meant when he said that by serving the least among us we really serve Him. Such things are acts of worship done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.