Ministry in a box

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One of the first times I confessed that I thought I was called to use words to glorify and serve God working in Christian publishing, one of the teachers at my Christian school told me, “Save that for the lost.”

That was a devastating blow. I did surrender to ministry as a young teenager. I remember feeling compelled to give my whole life, including my career, to my Savior. Although an imperfect person, I strove to live each day considering my calling, striving to make my life count for more. This was all I wanted.

And here I was being told by someone who was influencing my life that what I thought the Lord was calling me to do was not a calling at all. In light of that,  I spent the next year or so ignoring this pull to work with words. I decided to pursue a more traditional role.

Because God always gets his sovereign way, I eventually surrendered to this new-to-me, unsure version of ministry.

Each time I question if I am actually doing what God called me to do, if I’m wasting my time and my gifts, if I’m actually making a difference for the kingdom, “Save that for the lost” echoes through my head, engulfing me in doubt.

In contrast, each time I feel like I wrote something that will make a difference, I get to tell someone’s story that I know will encourage people in the ministry, or I proofread a paper for a seminary student, knowing that my small contribution will help them get closer to their ministry, the same words echo through my mind, spurring me on.

I understand why my teacher told me that. He knew that I felt a call to the ministry. He only wanted God’s best for me.

But he was limiting “ministry,” putting it in a box. I think sometimes we all do that.

We get this idea in our heads that a pastor’s job is ministry. We have the notion that unless our 9-5 is within church walls, we are not in ministry. Furthermore, we mistakenly think that even if our employment is in the Christian sector, our ministry is our job and nothing else.

Ministry is so much more than a 9-5 job. Ministry is more than just what happens in a church. Ministry isn’t your pastor’s job either! It’s yours and mine! (Ephesians 4:12)

I know in my life, I do more ministry “after hours” than I ever do sitting at my desk writing about churches or snapping pictures of kids at Christian camp. My ministry happens when I leave my desk and go out in the world.

Sometimes that manifests itself in teaching my little Sunday school class. Sometimes it takes the form of being a blessing to someone else. Sometimes it simply looks like a text message of encouragement to a friend that’s struggling.

The beauty of liberty in Christ (Romans 7:6) is that your ministry doesn’t have to look like mine. There isn’t a box that it should fit in!

So, I encourage you, as you go out into the world today, remember if you’re a Christian, you’re called to full time Christian ministry (Matthew 28:19), and you don’t get to clock out, ever.

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