“Don’t make your ministry your vocation.”
I looked up at the teacher. Wait, what?
He continued, “If God has called you to be a farmer, but you’re out being a pastor, you’re disobeying God.”
When my instructor said this, I understood that he wasn’t discouraging us from teaching the Gospel. After all, this was the Focus Leadership Institute; its main purpose was to train and equip us to lead others to the Gospel, which includes serving in ministry. But his statement brought up a good point: How often do we neglect the jobs we’ve been designed for to do something “more spiritual”?
We Christians have a nasty habit of categorizing things into “Christian” and “secular.” Once we’ve decided what belongs to which category, we decide that the “secular” things aren’t of God, and we throw them out. Now, if we are throwing out sinful things or things that cause us to fall into sin, by all means, throw it out. But we can end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater when we do this.
I’ll explain what I mean by that. Let’s go back to my teacher’s example for a moment. If I asked you what jobs you think are honoring and pleasing to the Lord, farmer probably wouldn’t be the first job to come to your mind, would it? You would go toward maybe pastor, missionary or theology professor. But think for a minute: Adam was a farmer. God designed and built Adam for that job specifically (Genesis 2:15). Does that mean Adam wasn’t to teach about God or do missions or work for a church? No. It just meant that he was to make tending the ground his main task, because he was built and skilled for that specific full-time trade. He didn’t refuse his position for something he considered more spiritual, or turn his knack for gardening into a hobby. He did what God designed him to do, and because he loved God, he surely brought God into his work.
Now, let’s take this concept a step further: What if Christians didn’t limit themselves in their career paths? What if Christians stuck themselves in those places they thought to be secular? We have been called the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and the world could use a little more salt. Salt is used for cleansing and healing. We as Christians can cleanse and heal the world around us with our vocations. Can you imagine what it would be like if there were more Christian movie producers in Hollywood? Or more Christian business owners in large cities? Or more Christian writers on young adult bookshelves? Can you imagine the impact our so called “secular” world would have if we stopped trying to make a ministry into a full-time job, but instead brought our ministry to our full-time job?
Don’t read this blog as a “don’t get involved with ministry full time” speech. It’s not. If God has called you to full-time ministry, that is your calling, and you are responsible to fulfill that calling. But as for the rest, know that if you have chosen a career that is “secular,” you just may be in the right place. If we have been gifted to a trade, we should add our salt to that trade. Careers are not holy, God is. And if God has called you to a vocation, that is the highest calling you can fulfill. God is not confined to “Christian” vocations; He works through His people in all types of careers, trades and jobs. It’s not so much that we need to find a full-time job in ministry, but that we need to live our ministry full-time wherever we are called.