Over the years I’ve had numerous friends who left pastoral ministry for various reasons. Some found that it was not what they expected. Others left under difficult circumstances when there was financial troubles or interpersonal conflicts. But many who left, experienced significant guilt that they had failed their “calling” because they are “leaving the ministry”. They were no longer in the “higher calling” that everyone seems to refer to when they speak of ministry as if it was the most important occupation in the Kingdom of God.
But this is clearly not consistent with a biblical understanding of ministry or calling! Just because you are earning your living as a missionary, or an employee of a church or a church organization does not mean that this is a more important vocational choice than others. In fact, many who enter pastoral ministry soon discover that the interpersonal, pastoral function that they felt so drawn to, is often overshadowed by administrative functions, endless meetings, and too often, management of interpersonal conflict. If it were not for the preaching side, pastoral ministry is very similar to any other management position in our communities!
Scripture makes it clear that there is no such thing as one member of the Church being more important than another. Paul goes to great lengths to explain this principle by using the illustration of a human body (I Corinthians 12: 12 -30). He uses humor as he imagines a foot speaking to a hand saying, “I wish I was like you because you can do so many amazing things!” He pushes the ridiculousness of the argument to the extreme: Imagine if the whole body was just an eye, there would be no hearing, no smelling, not mobility! This would be an aberration, not a body!
I think that we have wrongly devalued the ministry of the whole body to such an extent that when these friends of mine leave their pastoral roles they feel guilt and shame. But if we use Paul’s analogy, we could say, if the whole body were missionaries, there would be no pilots to fly them to distant destinations and no GPS systems to ensure they were on their way to the right destination. And if everyone was a pastor there would be no congregation. If the body is to function properly, we need technicians, mechanics, teachers, baby sitters, foster parents, nurses, accountants, and just plain mothers and dads who dote on their kids! To even consider that there are some parts that are more important than others is to envision a body that is grossly deformed and unable to function properly.
Discipleship Dynamics is a set of discipleship tools that celebrate a biblically sound vocational clarity for every believer! Every Christian needs to have a clear sense of personal purpose and calling. Within their choice of occupation, they must discover the gifts that the Holy Spirit invested in them and learn to develop these skills and gifts to serve the common good. What a wonderful community we would have if it was filled with teachers who loved their children with a passion, nurses who went the extra mile to serve their patients, civil servants who were both civil and committed to serve the public, neighbors who loved one another, foster parents who could patiently serve children who experienced trauma, town planners who could create beautiful spaces for people to enjoy God’s creation, businesses who were trustworthy and cared for their customers, industries that made products that were safe and wholesome…
This is a vision of a community that is permeated by shalom, the presence of a Kingdome mindset. Of course, within this Kingdom community, we would need those who could teach us the ways of the Lord. We need the prophets who could confront the powers when they deviated from the law. We need shepherds to watch over the flock to ensure that they are cared for. But the one cannot bring about the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer without the other. He prayed, “Let Thy Kingdom come. Let Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
That is the revolution in Christian discipleship that we dream about!