When will appeals for vocations to the ministry end? And when, in their place, will the church encourage all of its members to seek God’s will for the area of ministry in which they can most effectively be used by Him?
Good question. But before I look at it, it brings up an interesting phenomenon I’ve noted in the church. My wife was mentioning to me how every pastor she has ever talked to about testimonies in the church service (having someone other than the pastor talk a bit on Sunday morning) says it sounds like a good idea. (Hint: Read 1 Corinthians 14.) Yet nobody ever actually does it.
Similarly in youth ministry, I’ve encountered many, many people who think young people should be more involved in the church in general, including leading and speaking, but it rarely happens. I recall one church that agreed generally in a meeting that the young people should be made welcome in the service with the adults and allowed, even encouraged to speak. But it didn’t actually happen.
Thus back to the call to ministry. I can’t remember anyone I’ve talked to who doesn’t agree that every Christian is called to ministry, to service. There’s some disagreement as to the distinction of different calls, for example, is a call to full-time ministry substantially different from a call to teach Sunday School? But when it comes right down to it, much of the ministry is done by the professional staff.
I recall a conference at which my wife Jody and I were both speakers. The other speakers, three of them, were all ordained. We were teaching about prayer. During the last session, the local church pastor made a call for people to come forward for prayer, and invited the pastors to come forward and pray. Odd, isn’t it? Is prayer a function of the ordained clergy? It reminds me of a former bishop here who was speaking at our church. He remarked that he really loved to have people praying for him who weren’t paid to do it!
In the Methodist church we have a long, daunting process through which we put young people who are “called to ministry,” but we’re pretty random about anything else. When I first discussed how I could serve in the United Methodist Church, already equipped with an MA in Religion, the only thing the pastor could think of was to become a candidate to be a pastor. When I pointed out just how little my training or gifts had to do with pastoring a church, he had no idea what to do. I worked at it and found a place, but the church as a whole didn’t know what to do with me.
Then there’s the multi-page survey, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but cannot possibly be the only thing we use to get people involved. Some people won’t identify their own gifts. I wouldn’t have checked a box for children’s ministry, for example, yet I’ve been invited to teach the third grade class at my church twice so far this year, with good success. (If you know me, you’ll realize that all glory for that must go to God. It’s a miracle!)
I think there would be an incredible transformation of the church if we just began to do the things we all know we ought to.
So I have a different question: Why is it that we don’t do these things that we’ll all generally agree we should do?