What is a “call to the ministry” ?
by Ken Temple
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What is a “call to ministry” ? Is it more subjective or objective? It is just for preachers and pastors and missionaries, or is it also for the Christian businessman and plumber, the housewife and mother? Is it only one’s vocation, or does it also refer to salvation and relationship with Christ ?
Os Guinness, in his book, The Call, writes: “Calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to His summons and service”. Calling is primarily a calling into relationship with Jesus, and it includes all of our life, not only our job or vocation. Mark 3:13-14 says that Jesus called His disciples that they would first and foremost be with Him, and then to go out and preach and cast out demons. Drawing on the writings of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, Guinness elaborates further: “For Luther, the peasant and the merchant - for us, the business person, the teacher, the factory worker, and the television anchor – can do God’s work ( or fail to do it) just as much as the minister and missionary. For Martin Luther and subsequent reformers, the recovery of the holistic understanding of calling was dramatic. Writing about the “Estate of Marriage” in 1522, Luther declared that God and the angels smile when a man changes a diaper. William Tyndale wrote that, if our desire is to please God, pouring water, washing dishes, cobbling shoes, and preaching the word “is all one”. William Perkins claimed that polishing shoes was a sanctified and holy act.”
This is very helpful for those who want to serve God in “creative access” fields such as the Muslim world or Hindu countries or communist countries where they do not give “missionary visas”. The Muslims, especially, need to see modeled a true believer who works hard at his job, and who is not being paid to be a holy man. Many Muslims are disillusioned with the religious leaders of their societies today. Phil Parshall makes the assertion that Islam spread more rapidly in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangla Desh through trade and business: “Islam, in its early years, was propogated through the influence of a dedicated network of lay people. Members of this army of traveling businessmen took every opportunity to share their faith with those they met. This is why Asia today embraces almost two-thirds of the Muslim population of the world. These “tentmakers” ( see Acts 18:1-2, a reference to the apostle Paul, who made tents in order to earn money to live, and then preached the gospel without pay) were amazingly successful. It is now time for Christians to implement a similar strategy. These approaches will need to be characterized by a spirit of innovation and flexibility.”  In fact, an Iranian pastor, a colleague of mine, who works a secular job in teaching engineering 4 days a week and pastors a church 3 days a week, has been asked many times by the Iranian Muslim community, “How much do the Americans pay you to be a pastor?” He can honestly reply, “nothing”, “I am a professor of electrical engineering and work at a regular job to pay the bills and take care of my family. I preach and minister the gospel because I want to follow and serve Jesus Christ for who He is, not for money.” This is a powerful testimony of his faith and attractive to many Iranians, who are burned out and disillusioned with ‘religion’.
Churches that have emphasized an inner, subjective, mystical “call” of God to preach, missions, pastoral work, etc., have done something in an extreme way that sets up a dichotomy between secular work and “spiritual” or “religious” work and gives an air of pride to those who have been “called” of God to the ministry....
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