Why aren't you in the ministry?

I sometimes get asked this. I provide this Biblical answer.

First some background. I was once in the vocational ministry as a Pastor. My career looks like this:

  • I graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1971
  • I worked on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for 1 year after graduation
  • I was a ministry intern in a Baptist church in Cincinnati in the Summer of 1972
  • I enrolled at Tennessee Temple in the Fall of 1972 and left after about a dozen weeks (I didn't flunk out ... I just did not fit in! An expensive mistake)
  • I was hired by IBM in January or February of 1973 and worked for IBM in Tampa Florida for 3 years.
  • I then worked for Digital Equipment Corporation until I went to seminary school in Grand Rapids in 1978
  • After I completed seminary I was an assistant pastor for 3 years in New Jersey
  • I then pastored a Bible Church for three years
  • And then I pastored a church in Denver for 9 years
There's some overlap with my career starting with Norwest / Wells Fargo because I was bi-vocational for 2 years. It paid the bills and was the Lord's way of providing.

Altogether I was in the vocational ministry for either 16 or 17 years depending on whether the time with Campus Crusade in counted.

So ... am I in the ministry or not? And if not why not?

Well to be clear I am not in the vocational ministry! Wells Fargo pays me and it is God's way of providing for us. And the provision is abundant. I have health insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, a retirement plan and a 401K plan. I am blessed financially,

I did not leave the vocational ministry because of finances. In 1987 I had a very serious accident that rendered me paralyzed. The Lord is sovereign and His ways are right and good and I praise him for this aspect of my destiny. I am handicapped today but move around fairly well. There is no confusion about my handicap. I've often observed children asking their parent - "what's wrong with that man?"

I reentered the secular workforce to provide my living. My first salary was not that spectacular but over the years I have advanced and I am well-paid.

I was fortunate in the vocational ministry in that I was hired (called to a church) immediately after seminary (actually before I finished my final classes!). Altogether I candidated (the Baptist process for hiring a pastor) three times and was hired three times.

So am I in the ministry or not? I'm often surprised that Baptist Pastors are less clear on this than they should be.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

  • The ones who have experienced the new birth are new creatures in Christ (KJV phraseology)
  • Christ was our substitute: "to be sin for us"
  • We have Christ's righteousness
  • And to us He has given the ministry of reconciliation
  • We are ambassadors for Christ

Luke 10:2, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest"
  • The Lord is sovereign over His harvest.
  • He places men and women in various opportunities as He sees fit
  • As the Lord himself emptied himself I do not see a need to promote myself in ministry. He will place me as He sees fit.
  • John the Baptist declared "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30). This is my own credo. I desire to exalt Chirst
Luke 9:46, Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.
  • There are many (most) who are greater than I in ministry
  • I never pastored a large church
  • I've never published
  • I'm rarely asked to speak and have never spoken at big name conferences.
But I am in the ministry. I'm satisfied with the position that the Lord has granted me.
Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Romans 9:14-16, What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Romans 12:1,2, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God
  • The Lord has a marvelous plan for my life that began long before my birth (Ephesians 1:4)
  • God, to Him be the praise, chose to show compassion and mercy to me. This is totally undeserved!
  • My right response is to surrender self to Him. I daily pray Romans 12:1-2.
  • And day by day His plan for my life is unfolding. And that plan is perfect!
  • I am not a man of high aspirations. I like the anonymous life. I do look daily for opportunities to  testify of my Savior. Recently (late last year) God used what could be perceived as negative circumstances to place me in the presence of a gastroenterologist. Had I not had C-Diff I would have never met this man. I was able last Christmas to present a Bible to him
Mr Professor, you are not my Lord! I don't mind your asking me but my reply is more Biblical than your question. I am in the ministry. It's not the ministry that God has given you! It's the ministry the Lord has given me! And I am satisfied in the ministry.

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