Wednesday, December 15, 2010
A note to my brother’s seeking vocational ministry.
Dear brothers, there are two types of wisdom: the wisdom we gain through our own experiences and the wisdom gained through the experiences of others. I am of the opinion that it is better to learn from the experiences of others. I say this because of my own folly. The majority of what little wisdom that I have gained has been mostly through my own experiences and I have the scars to prove it.
In the last few years, many men have asked me about entering into the ministry. By “entering into ministry” they mean that they desire a paid position as a pastor, preacher, evangelist, or missionary. Many want a methodology for breaking into this “career field.” They believe that if they went to the right seminary or acquired the right training they will have the qualifications for ministry. While it is true that for some men it appears to work out that way, we should not judge the outward appearance of success with being effective for God. My advice to those who are seeking a cushy, well-paid ministry position is to simple find a cushy well-paid secular job.
I will relate a story I heard recently from a pastor friend. He had gone to interview a young man who was leaving the church he currently served in to join the pastor’s staff. The man wanted assurance that he would not face opposition if he came to serve in this pastor’s church. It reminded me of another story I heard a few years before. The young man had left his involvement in a church plant to join a more Biblical church. Naturally, upon moving he needed a job. He was offered many jobs by the church and by members in his new church. I asked him why he had not taken the jobs he had been offered and I was shocked by his answer. He said, “Well, I have a lot of education (M.Div.) and I think I would be wasting that. I also have students loans I need to pay off. Besides there is not a lot of security in the types of menial labor jobs I have been offered.”
I chuckled inwardly. In both of the above cases my first thought was, “If you are seeking security then the Gospel ministry is the wrong place for you!” There is no security in Gospel ministry only in Christ. The Gospel minister must truly be willing to forsake all. Frankly, Christianity itself is a call to leave behind the comforts of this world but the Gospel ministry requires even more sacrifice. It is not possible to build your kingdom while laboring to forward God’s kingdom. You may have one or the other but you will not have both.
1) Count the cost.
If you must have a certain standard of living that resembles “normal” in Western society you may wish to consider another “profession.” If you (or your wife) must have the “best” of everything you will have a problem. If maintaining a standard of living to look like everyone else is important to you then you will face difficulties and be limited in your use by God.
Gospel ministry will cost you your life. Certainly, some will die for the sake of the Gospel but that is not the norm. All men who are effectively pursuing God will pay with their lives minute by minute. By that I mean it is a time and self consuming endeavor. Prayer, personal devotion, private mediation, study, preaching, outreach, evangelism, counseling, visitation, etc., etc. will eat up the minutes in your day. Add to this the necessity to provide materially, emotionally and spiritually for your family and you will find that there is no time for self. The Gospel ministry will only cost you everything.
2) Avoid debt.
Debt is a harsh master who calls the tune. By placing yourself in debt you will be pressured to make compromises. When forced to choose between standing for God and possibly losing your ministry job the pressure to capitulate will be great. Rather than acquiring debt and hoping you will not be placed in that position, you would be better off to avoid the issue. Some would argue that it is acceptable to go into debt for major “necessities” (education, home and a car). Are these truly necessary for your survival or are they mere desires and comforts? Food and clothing are necessary and the Lord has promised to provide them. Anything else is extra. There is no scriptural support for voluntary debt but there are many scriptures in opposition to debt. You will either be the slave of God or the slave of money. You cannot serve both.
Next time we will look at Part 2: Security, Bi-vocational and Modernity