As an individual in occupational ministry, I’ve noticed a trap that I’ve personally fallen prey to and witnessed many other “full-time ministers” become subject to. A substituting transaction occurs from a vibrant and free personal relationship with Jesus in favor of an organizational system or formula. The system often confines us to what we can and cannot do and whether intentionally or not, it can often sympathize with the sacred and secular divide that society holds. Out of a growing, vibrant, personal, relationship with Jesus, we are often led to our greatest areas of creative influence and impact. But the system, by nature, can stifle and control that impact.
Out of a growing, vibrant, personal, relationship with Jesus, we are often led to our greatest areas of creative influence and impact.
William Wilberforce, for example, concluded it would be a personal and societal injustice to have resigned his position as civic leader in favor of becoming a pastor or full-time occupational minister. If Wilberforce would have chosen to give up his God-given talent and desires in his realm of influence, who knows when the slave trade would have actually ended? Would it have been another 10, 20, 30 years, or more? Would God have sovereignly chosen someone else to abolish the slave trade? Or would the window of change have passed because William had chosen another road? All these questions leave us in the realm of mystery. What we do know is that, Wilberforce, had a personal confrontation with the system of his day—choosing between a life in his public sphere of influence or to resign to a clergyman. History tells us the path he chose.
There are suggestive undertones within the system that inform us that one’s spiritual awakening is best expressed through the function of “full-time ministry”. This could be right for some but for many this error in thinking aborts creative impact in society. Devout and zealous Christians join a ministry system, and over time, they can become disciples of that system instead of disciples of Jesus. They succumb to robotic, predictable, rhetoric driven, behavior that is disengaged from society—the very place where Jesus calls his disciples to be salt and light. This isn’t what you find in the New Testament.
Devout and zealous Christians join a ministry system, and over time, they can become disciples of that system instead of disciples of Jesus.
The early church was a movement: a fluid, viral expression of faith knitting itself seamlessly into the fabric of every-day life in society. The subsequent result was that the church multiplied amongst the expression of purpose-driven disciples. In Acts 17:16 we see how these influential disciples were viewed; “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also[…]” They were shaping history just as Wilberforce would centuries later.