Summary: We are all fulltime but we are NOT all effective.
I was talking with one of our leaders about the idea of “fulltime ministry”. Very much like the virtuous sheen that covers NGO work, becoming a “fulltime minister” (at least in the Philippines) comes with the romantic idea of dedicating one’s self to “God’s work”. I’ve heard many times about how someone “feels called” to the ministry, as if their current job is not just as much a calling. It is.
Whatever you’re already doing now, you are called to glorify God and love others. In other words, you’re called to minister, which means you’re called to serve (ministry means service). If you need a career change to minister than you’re probably not going to be that effective as a minister there, because you don’t understand 3 simple points:
1. Its all God’s work
2. We are all called to fulltime ministry
3. Proof of effective ministry is fruit
It’s All God’s Work
How I serve my wife and son, how I wipe his butt, how I lead our organizations, how I serve my partners and superiors, how I satisfy my customers, how I take care of my body, how I pray, how I rest, and even more, my attitude and heart state while doing all of this, are all either glorifying God or not. I don’t need a title change or career shift to start serving. I can and have been serving right where I am. In fact, I’ve found that I’ve been free to serve in some very creative capacities because I’m daily interacting with the crazy world as it is – with all the poverty, sleaziness, greed, and corruption that exists. How I build my life, and how I address the great needs of our time, and the heart I keep as I do, determines whether I am a true minister or not. This leads me to the next point.
We are all called to fulltime ministry, as we are called to fulltime service.
Sometimes I wish I could have a break from being a leader. Like I wish I could just sleep all day, ignore whatever responsibilities I have, and just do whatever I want. But while I may feel this way, it is contrary to the call of growing to be more like Christ, and to experience life with this in mind, that I may respond to all things more and more like He would. This isn’t an 8 to 5 job that I can take a break from. It is a fulltime call, as full time as it gets. The idea that there are full-time and part-time ministers comes with the same unintended consequences of having full-time social workers. While there is a need for teams of people to orchestrate good works, we should never fall into the trap that doing community work is for a few noble professional do-gooders while the rest of us focus mostly on self-security and self-enrichment. Just think about the logic of a small percent of the population trying to undo the unintended social, economic, and environmental consequences of the majority of the population being preoccupied with selfish pursuits. Is it really reasonable to a few “earth warriors” to beat our collective pollution and garbage generation? Is it really reasonable to expect that our token donations and once-a-year volunteerism will bridge the inequality gap that our collective greed, envy, and materialism contributes to? Just as pouring an annual cup of water won’t put off a raging fire, thinking that I can do token work while someone else, some “full-time” person, does the heavy lifting is illogical and counter productive.
Instead, Paul reminds us that the hope of the world is not in a few good men but in all the saints. He says in Colossians 1:24-29
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them (the saints) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. I love verse 27. After talking about everything he’s doing, Paul shifts and says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The hope of glory, the hope of a better community, the hope of a better life, the hope for answers, the hope for rest, lies in Christ in us. He goes on in verse 28, switching from “I” to “we”. We proclaim. We warn everyone. We teach everyone all wisdom. We present everyone mature in Christ. After talking about all his personal labors, Paul reminds us that this responsibility of proclaiming, warning, teaching, being wise, and showing our results to Christ is not just for so-called full-time workers but for everyone.
This leads me to my last point, and it jumps off from the same verses: “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” To present something means to show. All of this work should lead to tangible proof of result. The result we are told in the verse is maturity. Another word we can use for mature is ripe. Are we ripe with fruit? Is our lives bearing good fruit? Being “nice” or “behaved” or “sociable” or “agreeable”or “committed” does not necessarily mean one is being “fruitful”. Despite an almost universal dislike for metrics and proof-of-concepts in religious and NGO organizations, there is proof of effective ministry. If, by our service, others become mature, meaning they are able to live out lives that bursting with good spiritual fruit, then we are effective. If not, than we are ineffective. This means that it is possible for people who are not employed by a religious or non-profit institution to minister more effectively than someone who is, simply from a fruit perspective. It is possible that someone who is not salaried by an NGO or church is actually more a “Hope of Glory” than someone who is supposed to be doing that full-time.
So here is the tension: If all people are called to minister then why are some people paid for it and some not? The answer is simple but is many times avoided due to the dislike for performance metrics when it comes to spiritual things. My simple opinion is those who are doing it “full-time” or are paid should be providing a level of ministry, a level of service, that goes beyond that which someone who is not. I like playing tennis but no one will ever pay to watch me play tennis. People would pay to watch Roger Federer. Why? Because he plays a much much much higher level than me. I like to do many things no one will pay me for simply because I do not do them at a level that provides large enough value. In the same way, since everything is a calling anyway, what determines the compensation should not simply be motivations to do good or do “God’s work” but because someone is seeking and hopefully able to serve the community in such a high level. From an organizational perspective, resources should go to the people and projects that perform or bear fruit. Despite the success of books like Execution by Ram Charam, Necessary Endings by Dr. Cloud, and the leadership series of John Maxwell among non-profit leaders, it does not take careful inspection to see that just like many businesses, non-profits are not designed to reward and promote the best people. They will reward and promote those closest to the center, and those who make them feel most comfortable, many times because they are the most like them. By like them, I don’t mean similar personalities, but similar conclusions despite not having objective, 3rd-party, non-biased metrics. This is sad because it ensures that the organization, just like with any business, will either fail to live up to the loftiness of its stated mission (like end poverty, end hunger, or reach the world for God), and most don’t even come close when looked in comparison to the populations they operate in, but worse, it ensures that the next generation will have a harder task of undoing well-meaning bad just to start doing good.
By going back to the simplicity of the Bible, and remembering, it’s all God’s work, we’re all full-time, and we’re all called to bear fruit, then we, individuals, won’t fall into the trap of thinking “we’ve done our part” when every single day holds a new part. This way we stop outsourcing our good works to a few good men and then complaining when the world does not improve. In the same way, we can build (or rebuild) our organizations to avoid a trap quite unique to well-intentioned organizations: “we have a good heart so we must be good”. Like I said, it’s very possible for well-meaning people from well-meaning organizations to be ineffective. In fact, I would argue, it’s probably more the case than other wise. What’s my proof for this? Just look at the proliferation of NGOs, foundations, churches, private charities, and personal causes and see if it has lowered poverty, crime, sex trafficking, and other measures of ills in society. This is not to say that it is the fault of these organizations that these ills exist, that is all our fault. This is to say we need to relook at our performances and see whether they match our stated purpose and stated principles. #db