Monday, January 10, 2005

"Full-time Christian Service"

[EDIT: Below, I try to describe the differences and similarities between professional ministry and non-professional ministry in terms of qualitative and quantitative differences/similarities. I'm not happy with these heuristic categories. Can you think of a better way to describe the differences I'm talking about? END EDIT]

When I was a kid--lo, these many years ago--people in the church would always talk about whether a young person was going into "full-time Christian service." What they seemed to think was that Christian teen-agers should be encouraged to commit to spending their lives in professional ministry or mission work, etc.

Now that I'm older, I have a real problem with the whole concept of "full-time Christian service." My problem is NOT with young people committing their lives to ministry, or committing their lives to PROFESSIONAL ministry (i.e., ministry in the Church.)

My problem is with the idea, which the old-timey attitude conveys, that there is a qualitative difference between a Christian in a secular career (e.g., working at a bank) and a Christian getting paid to serve as a youth minister. Hear me on this: EVERY CHRISTIAN IS CALLED TO BE A MINISTER. EVERY CHRISTIAN IS CALLED TO "FULL-TIME CHRISTIAN SERVICE," NO MATTER WHERE THEY WORK.

There are clear quantitative differences between "secular careers" and "ministry careers," between working for a profit-driven organization and a mission-driven organization.

The priorities are different. A person working in a bank, for example, MUST have "making a profit" as one of their priorities. It's just part of the job. If they're not willing to make "making a profit" one of their priorities, then they shouldn't work in a bank. And if I was running the bank, I don't care how spiritual their priorities were, I wouldn't want them working for me.

But I'm not satisfied with the way I've framed this difference--"qualitative" and "quantitative" don't seem to me to capture the essence of what I'm trying to point out. Must think on this--more later.


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