Let me make the case that we have believed three destructive lies of what it means to be a minister of the Gospel. It is the belief of these lies that keep the Church ineffective in reaching this world with the only message of hope that will truly set free.
Destructive Lie #1: Real ministry is only for those who are in vocational ministry
It is easy to glamorize vocational ministry. The thought of having a full work week of being devoted to doing the Lord’s work is appealing. You get paid to study the Scriptures and to meet with the people of God? You’re not bogged down by other “menial” responsibilities? “If only I was in vocational ministry, then I would be used mightily of God” is a destructive lie in the mind of many.
You will actually be hard pressed to find people in Scripture that were in vocational ministry. Abraham was a shepherd. David was a king. Paul was a tentmaker. Luke was a doctor. These are individuals that were used mightily of God in the midst of their everyday vocations. They didn’t make excuses. They didn’t sit out of the fight. They enlisted and they made a difference.
In addition, let’s be honest. The vocational ministers in Scripture weren’t always the greatest examples for us to follow.
Think of the priest Eli and his sons. The Scriptures say they were worthless men and that they did not know the LORD (1 Samuel 1:12), they treated the offering with contempt (1 Samuel 2:17) and they slept with the women who were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting (1 Samuel 2: 22). Eli should have disciplined and removed his sons from their positions in the temple but instead scorned the LORD’s sacrifices and offerings that He commanded and honored his sons above the LORD (1 Samuel 2:29).
Think also of the Pharisees and scribes during the days of Jesus. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They appeared clean on the outside but within were full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. Outwardly they appeared righteous to others, but within they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).
I actually want to take a moment to give caution to those either pursuing, or currently in, vocational ministry.
My first caution for those in vocational ministry is to fight for humility. It is easy to misuse the power and authority given to vocational leaders for their own purposes. It is easy to became puffed up and instead of serving the people of God, the people of God become a means for them to be served. As the people of God looked up to the priests and pharisees, it became too easy for them to in turn look down on the people of God.
My second caution to those in vocational ministry is to fight for transparency. Fight to remain a part of the body of Christ rather than above the body of Christ. If your salary is dependent on your image, then the temptation is to portray an image despite the reality. When a marriage is struggling, the temptation is to hide behind a false mask.
My third caution to those in vocational ministry is to fight to raise up leaders to partner with you. While God does indeed call some to vocational ministry, He calls all to minister the Gospel despite vocation. This is a reality that must be instilled in the minds and hearts of the Church. Until then, we are fighting a war with only a small percentage of soldiers strapped up and ready for war. No war will be won like this.
The truth is: Real ministry is for those who have a love for God and people. It doesn’t matter if they are in vocational ministry or not. We need more Christian businessmen, lawyers, police officers, politicians, teachers and the such who know they are called to minister and live out the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as their vocational pastor. Let’s not limit ministry to those paid by the Church.
*Stay tuned in coming weeks for further Destructive Lies of Ministry.