Friday, March 2, 2007

Called to Full-Time Ministry

I can't really put a date on in, but sometime recently I became a full-time minister. 'Became' isn't the right word - perhaps 'realized' is closer to the reality of it. I don't mean that I got ordained, became clergy, or got paid for doing ministry. Rather, God made it clear that I'm His servant, full-time, and that in all things I do I'm to serve people and serve His Kingdom. Christian life isn't separated into convenient compartments. Pastors don't "turn their back on ministry" when they spend time with families. Spirit-led women aren't shirking their duty to the church by cancelling a small group meeting to have coffee with a friend going through rough times.

How my view of a minister has changed over the years. In my youth, they were 'the guys with white collars who can't have any fun.' In college they were 'hypocrites'. As a brand-new Christian they were elite holy heroes, by invitation only. Later I started to understand about the 'priesthood of believers' in which we all have a role in ministry, although some of us only part-time. Now I know that my calling is no less real or important than for professional clergy - every Christian's call (to live in a way that honors God and follows His will) is unique, even though the situation we are called from and called to will differ for each person (see I Cor 7:17).

God has 'called' me to be me. No one else can do all the things God has planned for me to do, nor love the people He has given me to love the way I can. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV). I like the way it's phrased in 'The Message': "He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."

God has placed me in the marriage and family I'm in to serve them. As an adoptive father I enjoy the clarity of a profound truth not understood by most parents: my kids are not mine, they belong to God. They were His before they were born, and will be His after I pass away. Yet it's no accident we're together; God has interwoven our hearts to love and encourage each other, and He has charged me with the unlikely task of demonstrating the love of Christ for them through my actions and words. It would be an absolutely impossible task but for one thing - Christ lives in me!

God has called me to honor Him and serve people in my job. I'll spend by far more time 'at work' during my life than with any other waking activity. My projects, my co-workers, my choices made at work, have shaped me tremendously thus far. Perenniel student, visiting scientist in India, cancer researcher at Harvard, software architect, vice president in a small business - these positions have trained me, shaped or pressured my worldview, brought me in close contact with hundreds of people loved by God, and provided experience that can be used today to make a difference.

God has planted in my heart the passions and interests that shape my 'downtime'. I'm a geek, a gamer, an aging quasi-athlete, even a musician (of sorts!). These have led to me form friendships and engage in activities that not only energize me personally, but which put the soul of a person who yearns for God in the life of some folks that have no Christian witness whatsoever, or who have been burned horribly by the 'Church' or people who called themselves Christians.

Many of these activities seem mundane, but so was Jesus' washing of feet. The question is not how religious are the tasks, venues or people in your life, but whether or not you realize and live out God's call for you to minister - serve God and serve people - in everything you do?

I still have so much to figure out about what are those good works God has prepared me to do - how I can be most strategic and effective in intentional ministry within the church and community? But by being faithful in whatever assortment of 'little things' He has given me so far, I'm hopeful that He will use me to make a life-changing difference in the lives of my family, church, co-workers and friends, community, and even globally. I can't wait to see what God has got in store for me!

II Thess. 1:11 - "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." (NIV)

God is calling you to full-time ministry, serving Him in all things at all times, and to live a holy life - one that is set apart for Him.

Step Up to the Call!


Anonymous said...

Hi Larry (or is it Pastor Larry),I am convinced that God is calling me. I am also a musician, 39 years old and my inclination is towards helping orphaned and abandoned children (of which there are plenty here in South Africa). I want to start a foundation but have absolutely no idea how to start. I will ask God to direct me - and confirm to me that this is the path he wants me to follow. This is where I get stuck - am I truly hearing God's call or is it my own imagination ?? discernment is my weakness.
Thanks for the article. I am not looking for answers from you - just sharing. May God bless you.

Larry Baxter said...

Reggie - that's often a tough task, to discern the source of the call. If He is in it, you'll find answers as well as joy as you take steps to explore that possibility. Sounds like a worthy endeavor! I'll be praying for that clarity and discernment. Take care, Larry