Thursday, February 26, 2015

Is It Really "The" Ministry?

I did a quick scan around the blogoworld to see what people have been saying about "the" ministry over the past week. Let me share a little with you that's being said out there. These are just four. Three think one way about "the" ministry. One quite the opposite.

A Lutheran pastor has written a letter to other Lutheran pastors talking about "the" ministry. He writes, "Moreover, you have not chosen your vocation by yourself. Sure, God gave you a desire to study for the ministry (1 Tim. 3:1)." And he quotes Martin Chemnitz's Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion a number of times referencing "the" ministry.

An article in the Philadelphia Tribune about one church's pastor adds a little more about "the" ministry. Here's a snippet: "The journey to that point began when he was growing up at Vine, heard his calling, and did not know that it was a calling. During his college years he drifted away from attending church. After graduation he felt a pull to return to church, but he resisted. Instead he immersed himself in his financial industry career. His company promoted him to become division accounting manager and relocated him to Westminster, Md. It was during this time he said that his calling was becoming more intense. Yet he felt secure in his new position and rebuffed the need to join the ministry. 'I used to think that people only went into the ministry if they couldn’t do anything else,' [he] admitted. 'I also felt that being called to the ministry was about wanting to have a title or make a lot of money. So, I felt secure in my job and I was excelling."

One church put up some descriptions of their pastors online. There was this one: "He received Christ as his personal Savior as a young boy and then was called to the ministry while at college." And then this one: "After graduating from Pensacola Christian College and receiving a Masters of Bible Exposition from Pensacola Theological Seminary, God called him into the ministry where he served 7 years as a youth pastor in a large ministry."

Okay, so those three think about "the" ministry one way. "The" ministry is synonymous with being a pastor. So I saw one more. Here it is.

Proclamation Presbyterian Church posted their bulletin online. It features a number of quotes from different Christian authors. How about this one they included by Ed Stetzer: "In John 20 Jesus tells his followers that He is sending them as His Father has sent Him. Thus, the Bible teaches everyone is sent on mission and everyone is called to the ministry (John 20:21, 1 Peter 4:10). The only questions are to where, among whom, and doing what."

Here's the thing, folks. We can keep referring to the ministry synonymous to pastoral ministry. Or we can do what PPC did and put it right smack dab in the bulletin for every single member of the local church to see. Everyone is in "the" ministry. Everyone is "called" into "the" ministry if in fact they have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. The ministry can either be the stuff pastors do, or it can be the Great Commission. Well, it really can't be both. But what I'm saying is, we have to make a decision. It's one or the other. And if we really believe the latter, then we have to do away with this seriously unhelpful expression and abbreviated reference to pastoral ministry.

A few things have to happen. (1) Pastors have to stop referring to what God did in their lives as being "called into the ministry." Why? Because it automatically, consciously or unconsciously, tells everyone who hears it who doesn't serve in that capacity that they haven't been called into "the" ministry, or, at least, that how they are serving Lord in different capacities is somehow minuscule and insignificant in comparison to what it is that pastors do. (2) These same pastors need to emphasize the importance of being granted the amazing privilege of being able to make Christ known to a lost and dying world. (3) Everyone in Christ who isn't a pastor has to take up a Great-Commission jersey and get into the game. Stetzer is so right. "The Bible teaches everyone is sent on mission and everyone is called to the ministry (John 20:21, 1 Peter 4:10). The only questions are to where, among whom, and doing what."

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