It is customary in many churches to encourage young people to enter the ministry. Some ministers go so far as to say that being a pastor is God’s “highest calling,” and “there’s no greater job.” While these claims are dubious at best, there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to consider the ministry, as long as you’re not encouraging too hard.
Before you rally all the young men in your church to go to BIble college, or to hold a special meeting to call them all to the ministry, keep something in mind: the church needs more than pastors.
- Pastoral training and preparation may not adequately qualify someone for global ministry. Church planting and evangelism are still the crying need of the hour. However, many people are finding it difficult to access some countries with merely a Bible degree in tow and a request for a missionary visa. It simply doesn’t work. If your target ministry is Iran, you won’t get in as a card-carrying, seminary-trained, Bible-toting, ordained minister. It’s not just the Muslim countries that don’t welcome missionaries and pastors. Increasingly, countries in Southeast asia and Europe are doing the same. As the border protectors of these countries see it, you need to have something more to offer them than your Western religion.
- Worldwide ministry demands more than verbal proclamation. In a similar vein, there is more to ministry than good Bible training. It is important to address physical needs as well as spiritual needs. In many cases, it is impossible to address the spiritual needs without also addressing issues such as malaria prevention, the need for clean water, medical attention, sustainable energy, irrigation, education, microloans, etc. In order to enact this kind of operation, ministry needs businesspersons, agriculturalists, civil engineers, physicians, and skilled organizers and administrators. Ministry must be carried forward on the shoulders of the person with an M.Div. and the person with a P.E. (Physical Engineer).
- Ministries lean heavily on talents and training that are non-ministerial. When you think about all that goes into a church or mission endeavor, you quickly realize that there is a lot that can’t be done by a pastor. Obviously, the pastor’s gifts and calling are essential, but the pastor may not be able to set up the church network, organize and register a nonprofit, administrate a crisis pregnancy center, teach free financial recovery seminars for the community, and write high-quality worship songs. (If you know of such a person, let us know.) You get the idea. Churches need lots of people with lots of talents.
- Non-ministers have a greater ability to have influence secular spheres. In a recent article on Christian celebrities, we observed that such people can have an influence for Christ farther and wider than, say, a pastor. In a recent Time magazine article on Tim Tebow, the author made this statement: “If the measure of evangelistic activity is the number of eyes and ears one reaches, than Tebow is possibly a much more influential Christian messenger than any active Protestant cleric.” You know, he may be right. Admittedly, it is under the care and proclamation of such “Protestant clerics” that the Tim Tebows arise, but the truth remains: a pastor won’t be able to garner as many “John 3:16” Googles as Tebow. A pastor won’t have as much influence in the accounting department of a Fortune 500 corporation. A pastor won’t be living out the gospel on the construction site or on the factory line. A pastor won’t be growing a thriving business built on Christian principles. Those roles are for other people, whose testimony, talents, gifts, and calling are just as important to the body of Christ.
You probably don’t not to to entirely quit encouraging people to consider ministry. But you may not need to call people into ministry yourself. (God is better at calling people than you are.) Instead, give some encouragement to the aspring non-pastors. They are no less spiritual, no less necessary, and no less valuable to the Kingdom than pastors and missionaries. In fact, they are in their own right, pastors and missionaries who carry on God’s work in God’s world. Encourage them. Exhort them. Support them.