Quitting My Job For Full-Time Ministry...

I've been there guys - multiple times. Full of zeal and zest for Jesus. Passionate and focused like never before, consumed with living for eternity. My motives were pure. All I wanted (and still want) is to meet God face to face and hear Him say those words that affirm my efforts on Earth:

"Well done son. You lived life to the full and made every second count".

This affirmation is inspired by the affirmations in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). It's where we see the contrast between lives of faithfulness compared with a life of complacency. I didn't want to waste the gift of life that God gave me. So like many of us, I had to decide what to do with my days left on Earth. Do I continue working a day job that does "little more than meet my earthly needs"? Or do I live a life of sacrifice and lay it all down for full-time ministry?

What is ministry?

The way we answer this question will shape everything about how we live. Let's think about that for a moment: What happens if we only see ministry as the "Churchy" things like pastoring, teaching the Bible, ushering, making gospel music etc? Well, the more passionate we become about God, the more we'll start to feel like our day-job, university, business and other "non-churchy" things are a waste of time. It'll corner us into thinking these things hold no value in God's eyes, to the point when we might eventually put these things to death. I know this oh too well, and it's why I've previously quit a full-time job, shut down my passion for business and came very, very close to not making it to the end of my degree (Uni's another story for a different day altogether! #DroppedOutButCameBack).

Ministry in it's simplest form is this - service. It's all about how we serve one another as humans and how we ultimately serve God. We're called to both love God with our all, and love one another (whether the other person is a Christian or not) as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). So our service to one another and God isn't just about how much time we spend carrying out traditional Church roles. It's a matter of how we serve one another both inside and outside of Church settings.

God's heart on non-Churchy workplaces

This might come as a shock to you, but here's the truth: the workplace is not Egypt (see Exodus for more). It's not always the case that we need to look at our jobs as those burdensome places we need to escape in order to go and serve the Lord (at least, so long as there aren't ethical standards that our workplace/role violate). God is far bigger than that. His desire is for each of us to serve Him where we are and wherever we may go. So whether we're leading a Bible study in the middle of the week or stacking shelves in our local supermarket, all of these are a form of service to God and His creation. Our attitude and heart when doing these things matters. Let's take a look at some relevant verses:

"Servants, in everything obey those who are your masters on earth, not only with external service, as those who merely please people, but with sincerity of heart because of your fear of the Lord. Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve" - Colossians 3:22-24

It doesn't matter who signs off our paychecks, we're ultimately serving God - even in the non-churchy workplace. We represent His family and are ultimately doing everything in His name as His children (see Colossians 3:17). That's right - each email we send, each customer we serve, we're doing it on God's behalf - as though it's His business. This is one reason why it's not just enough to do good when our bosses are looking. It's also why we have to be wise in how we respond to those provoking emails and colleagues (God knows how many times I've got this wrong! #Discipleship).

Work is good - godly in fact. God showed us this at the beginning of time when He created the universe in six days. No mention of a Bible study, no mention of a choir, no mention of a seven day revival conference. He just created. And He served us by creating an amazing world with endless amazing features. He then took things further by loading us up with the power and potential to rule the Earth (see Genesis 1:28). We did nothing to deserve this - it was free of charge. He gave away so much for free!!! (#LessonsInBusiness)

That's not to downplay the importance of the traditional Church forms of service. It's simply to highlight that our service (aka ministry) goes beyond these walls. So wherever we are, Church setting or not, we're all in full-time ministry. And with the ebbs and flows of life, our place of ministry will typically change. Whether that's moving from being a full-time accountant to being a full-time Bible teacher, or from being a retail assistant to a project manager. The important thing is that we remain consistent wherever we are.

Embracing our own lane

God made us a collective reflection of Himself (Genesis 1:26). So excluding sin and its effects, we each individually reflect different parts of God and His nature. Keeping this in mind, we're not all called to be full-time pastors and teachers, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Romans 12:4-8). We have different gifts, skills and passions from God. So for those of us inclined towards serving God and His creation through traditional church roles, that's great! For those working in retail, the corporate world or running a business, that's great too! What matters most isn't the details of where we work and who we report to on Earth. Beyond that, it's more about us being faithful to God in our service to Him and His creation wherever our place of work may be (read about Joseph and his journey through different roles and environments for an example of this - Genesis 37 - 50).

An important caveat...

Jobs, businesses and careers, both in and out of Church settings, are generally good and godly (provided they don't require us to sin). But we still have to make sure we don't make the mistake of idolising these things - this applies to traditional Church roles too. From the pastor to the banker and the entrepreneur, there's something we must always remember. Whatever our role is, we have to make sure we don't love them above God and the people we're serving. Practically speaking, this means avoiding the mistake of being so focused on pastoral success that we forget to actually love the people we're shepherding. It means resisting the temptation to lie to customers in order to get the sale. When we love God and the people we're serving more than our roles, our decisions will be driven to best meet the needs of those we're serving (Philippians 2:3-8). It's not selfish, it's selfless. It's sacrificial. It's love. That's what good service and ministry is about, and it's something that goes beyond Church settings.

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