Would we be more effective if we were in full time ministry?

Office building
Photo credit (Creative Commons) swisscan

We have some friends who think that because my husband, Tony, runs a business that supports us, we are somehow missing out on the best God has for us. "How much more you could accomplish for God," they imply or say outright, "if you were full time in ministry."

Maybe they are right.

But I think they are missing something. In God's eyes, there is no difference between sacred and secular. God doesn't regard full time ministry as more "spiritual" than running a business. Life is a whole.

Tony has many opportunities to talk with people who would never speak with a "minister." Some open up their lives to him because he is willing to be vulnerable by saying something like, "I believe in a God who cared deeply about your situation. Would you be open to me praying for you?" Often they are in tears by the time he has finished praying.  

It's hard for someone to work in our company without becoming a Christian. (We employ the best person for the job, not necessarily believers.)

A businessperson can reach other business people, just as a skateboarder is more likely to be touched by another skateboarder.

We are called to live full time for the Kingdom, no matter how we make our living.


10 replies on “Would we be more effective if we were in full time ministry?”

I remember Wayne Jacobsen once saying something like, “Whenever you are dependent on others for your livilihood, you can’t help but be tempted to manipulate them.” I’m sure that’s not an exact quote, but he said something along those lines.
I personally think you are a lot more of an authentic person to those you serve when you aren’t worried about convincing them that they need to give you money for serving them.

I really appreciate this post. A book I’ve been reading that communicates this topic more extensively is, “The Call” by Os Guiness. We often think that the auto mechanic is “less” of a job than the missionary. What counts in the end is loving our Lord, loving our neighbor, and being stewards with whatever talents and spiritual gifts we have been given.

Heather, you are right. And it can go the other way round too. If you pay someone to any significant extent, you feel you have a say in how they spend their money.
Nathan, the only thing that really counts is obedience to what the Lord is asking of a person. We know an auto-mechanic whose “ministry” is keeping the cars running of those in the church who can’t afford to pay for maintenance. I’ll bet that’s more of a blessing than many a sermon.

I can’t tell you how well-timed this whole topic is for me.. I am on the cusp of jumping (free-falling) into this world of working for a living while doing ministry and I am fearing more than faithing at the moment. But, this gives me hope and confirms that God is in this… So, thank you!!! Keep these posts coming. They are on my home page and I read them diligently…

I believe the real issue is calling and obedience. Our Lord speaks into our hearts and minds (Heb. 8:10). This is part of our covenant relationship with God. His calling is different for every single individual. He may call some to be full time missionaries, which has its advantages and drawbacks. He may call others to be tent makers, which has its advantages and drawbacks. Other he will call to be a plumber or investment banker, each with its own unique set of issues. But if we try to understand this as the which is better, being called full time, part time to ministry or having a “secular” job we miss the point. What we should be doing is asking God what he wants us to do and responding in obedience. If we have a friend who is struggling with this issue we lovingly help them discern what God’s call is for their life. The issue is obedience to a loving Lord.

Felicity, you have also stated concisely and powerfully the essence of business as mission. See for many similar stories.
Besides that, your husband’s question pierces my heart and gives me an example to follow.

If we’re all really honest, most full-time ministers only practice ministry part-time anyhow. Most of their time is spent running the business, providing the entertainment, etc. So, at the end of the day, it’s a wash for accomplishment; although there are many other psychological factors at play when a group of people looks to a human to run the spiritual business.

Who am I? Am I an ordained, full time minister of the Lord? Am I qualified? You bet your life I am.
I was ordained by the one who saved me, who also declared me a king and a priest unto Him.
Many decades ago, when I came to know Him, I decided to take these notions literally, and start to act in my working life as if it was really really true, that He really was Lord, and I really was his son, and that he could really lead me on my journey.
My walk ever since has had little to do with what passes for church on a Sunday. In fact at least four local churches have either denounced me and thrown me out, or forbidden me to speak to anyone.
I long ago gave up being concerned what church thought of me, I just get on with the day that God made and see where it leads. I don’t need the approval or awards of churchmen to walk like this, I just need the Spirit of God within me, and to learn by my mistakes as I go along.
Some time back, I ran my business on an industrial estate. There was a guy opposite who we rented some storage space from, so we got to know him quite well. He was having some struggles in his business and would often come over to our office for a bit of relief from his woes.
He would just sit amongst our staff and someone would get him a coffee, and he would enjoy the atmosphere. We ran a Spirit led manufacturing business and there was a pervading spirit of joy and laughter in the office despite the pressures of work.
One day as he got up to leave, he passed the comment that our office was a lifeline to his sanity. He always felt so good when with us, and found it so depressing when he went back to his office. “What is it here?” He could sense something different but to that point nobody had cornered him with the gospel, it was just the different spirit he could sense but not explain.
I called him back into my inner office, and he opened up a little more about the struggle he was finding his work to be.
I said to him, “Dick, you need to know that God never meant you to be a beast of burden, sagging under a heavy load. The reason that we are so light hearted here is because God reigns in this business, and he promises to really take all our burdens.”
I carried on in this vein for a while. He asked various questions and I answered, and he returned to his office. Before he left, I reminded him to let God carry his load, and that all he had to do was ask and surrender it all him. He agreed he would seriously think about what I had said.
A few days later he returned again looking glum and again we sat over another coffee. He readily opened up about the same old stuff. I quickly challenged him with “Dick, I already told you, God never intended you to be a beast of burden.”
“Yes, I know you said that, but I don’t know how to stop it” was the reply.
I asked if he had prayed, and he rather sheepishly admitted that he didn’t really know how. I suggested that maybe he could followed me in prayer, which he readily agreed to.
I just went straight to the problem, with him following in step, and prayed something like this,. “Lord, this load is far too much for me, I know you are God and are able to help me, so I surrender all these burdens and hand my business over to you, that you might reign there, and I trust you to lead me in my work from now on”
His jaw suddenly dropped, he went deadly silent, with his eyes nearly popping out of his head. “Dick, are you ok…. Dick, what’s up.” I got up out of my chair and went around my desk to look closer. “Dick, what’s up?”
A dam suddenly burst. “I’m gobsmacked….. I’m gobsmacked……. I’m gobsmacked,” was all he said with a glazed look on his face.
Now for those, not of English extraction, “gobsmacked” is a declaration of shock, ie. left speechless. Gob being northern slang for mouth.
“…..Something’s happened…….something’s happened………something’s happened he breathlessly panted”
He was having a real problem in grasping the majesty of the God he had just asked to help him carry the load. The fact that God had actually grabbed hold of that load shook him rigid.
“All the heaviness is gone, the weight, its gone”
His look of total shock was truly amusing, and admittedly I had never heard anyone react anything like that before.
Dick’s salvation had happened right were it was hurting him the most, and the fact that God was so deeply personal, piercing right to the heart was a revelation to him.
Sadly we make talking to the Lord so ritualistic and preprogrammed that there is little space for real experience or expectation of answered prayer- that has any feet on it.
The following sunday, he decided to go to the local church, and reported to me on the Monday. He declared it totally fake and a waste of time and he would never set foot in there again. He had experienced reality in the office, and that is all he wanted. So, as an outsider he kept coming to our monday morning staff prayer meetings. He also came to the monthly meetings of local Christian businessmen. To this day he still won’t go to church as such, but he enjoys walking with God.
And me, I am still in full time ministry.

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