Not in full-time ministry? You’re not a Christian

Every individual follower of Jesus is called to be in “full-time ministry.”

Allow me to explain.

The word ministry means service. The first servant of the country is called the Prime Minister. The phrase “full-time ministry” means “full-time service.” Someone who serves all the time.

The Bible’s demands upon the Christian

The Bible instructs all disciples of Jesus to be in full-time service. Let us look at Galatians 5:13-14

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

The demand of the law upon those who would follow Jesus is to love your neighbour as yourself. We love our neighbours by serving them. Jesus himself emphasized that loving God and loving one’s neighbour are the summation of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Jesus said that whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must carry their cross and follow Him. This is not a requirement for only those people who would be missionaries or pastors. This is a call for whoever would be a disciple of Jesus. In other words, it is a call for whoever would be a Christian.

But how do we serve?

The service of feeding, clothing, driving, and building software

Who gives us our daily bread?

According to the prayer taught by Jesus, God gives us our daily bread. Yet, from experience, I know that I receive my daily bread from my local supermarket. The way I reconcile the two truths is that God gives me my daily bread through

  • the service of the store employees who arrange it on the shelf,
  • the service of the baker who baked the bread,
  • the service of the farmer who grew the wheat,
  • the service of the truck driver who transported the bread from the baker to the supermarket,
  • the service of the software developers who created software that enables the store to keep records of sales and inventory
  • the service of the government officials who build roads and maintain law and order so the process does not have hindrances,

and many other such people. All these people served me bread. They were used by God to feed me.

Who gives us good health? Exodus 15:26 tells us that God is the One who heals us. Yet I also know from experience that He does so through the service of the doctors, the nurses, the pharmacists, etc. All these people are in “full-time ministry”, being used by God to bring me good health.

Who convicts me of my sin, leading me to repentance and faith in Jesus? According to John 16:8-11, it is the Holy Spirit. Yet, he often does so through the preaching of pastors, missionaries and evangelists (Acts 13:48, Romans 10:17). Pastors, missionaries and evangelists are in full-time ministry, being used by God to bring me to repentance and faith.

It is the Lord who nurtures and feeds small babies who can’t feed themselves. He did so through the “full-time ministry” of their mothers or fathers who feed them.

It is the Lord who protects us through the service of the policeman and the Government. The policeman and the government officials are in full-time ministry, being used by God to protect our lives and belongings.

We could go on and on.

Why does the phrasing matter?

Is it a problem if we use the phrase “full-time ministry” in a narrow sense? We all know that all of us are serving the needs of people around us. We also understand that when we say “full-time ministry,” we mean the specific work of being a Pastor, evangelist or a missionary. So why does it matter?

Some of us may be used to thinking of people in “full-time ministry” as having a greater commitment to Jesus because they are usually paid less. This is a problem.

In God’s Kingdom, every part of the body is equally important (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). Why then should pastors, evangelists and missionaries be paid less than, say, a policeman or a pharmacist? If all of them are equally in “full-time ministry”, why then should their pay and remuneration be different?

While re-thinking the phrase has implications for how we think about the salaries of pastors, evangelists and missionaries, it also has implications for how we think of our own work and salaries.

Imagine a pastor telling you that they changed the church where they served because it did not pay well, and they moved to a different church. Would hearing such a statement from a pastor make you uncomfortable?

Now imagine a software developer telling you that they are moving out because they found a job in a different city that pays better than the current company. Therefore, they will be moving churches as well. Is that easier to hear?

While the expectations we have of our pastors, evangelists, missionaries, etc. might be unreasonably high, is it possible that we expect too little spiritual maturity of ourselves — us engineers, architects, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and finance professionals?

The cost of discipleship is equally steep for all disciples.

Jesus told all his disciples — not just pastors and evangelists — to not worry about what they will eat or what they will drink. He instructed all disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and he promised all his disciples — not just the pastors and evangelists — that all these things would be added to them as well. (Matthew 6:33)

In certain church circles, evangelists, missionaries and pastors may unduly be put on a pedestal. We might imagine a halo around such people, thinking they are “great” men of God (implying in some sense they are greater men and women of God than us). Phrasing all our work as “full-time ministry” helps us avoid thinking that pastors, evangelists and missionaries are superhumans much more than us. We can think of them as humans, just like the rest of us (James 5:17).

Re-thinking the phrase “full-time ministry” would change our approach to our work. The question we ask would not be “How much does it pay?” but rather, “How can I serve?”

Re-thinking the phrase “full-time ministry” would help us better pay and honour our missionaries, pastors and evangelists.

Re-thinking the phrase “full-time ministry” would help us not put evangelists, pastors and missionaries unduly on a pedestal and honour them without questions.

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One response to “Not in full-time ministry? You’re not a Christian”

  1. Abhilash avatar

    >> is it possible that we expect too little spiritual maturity of ourselves — us engineers, architects, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and finance professionals?

    This is very good. The high call of following Jesus is the same for all Christians.

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