One of the great heresies experienced by Christianity is the unwritten belief that the call of God is reserved mostly for the “clergy.” When I felt called into the ministry – it was assumed that most people who felt called would enter some form of full-time Christian service. This usually meant that they would become a pastor or priest because this was the only form of “ministry” available in most religious structures. Very few people or leaders understood that every disciple of the Lord is called to full-time ministry – most working out that ministry where He has called them to earn a living – in the marketplace. Everyone just understood that “real” ministry belonged to the ‘paid professionals.’
Unfortunately, too many people still believe this heresy. They call on their pastor to pray, hold him or her to higher standards than the general membership, and use their pastor as a spiritual hired gun to carry out THE ministry of the Church. When anyone receives a call to ministry, people just naturally assume that God is calling them into the ordained ministry. But nothing could be further from the truth. God calls every Christian to some form of ministry and ordination has nothing to do with it. Every member is a minister.
The Bible tells many stories about God calling unlikely and untrained people to do extraordinary things. In fact, many of the people God called were less than admirable people – David, Paul, and Zaccheus, to mention a few. None of the disciples had any formal training. We are reminded in 1 Peter 2:9 that all of God’s people “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.” In their book, “Calling,” Frank Tillapaugh and Richard Hurst remind us that “Every time we refer to vocational clergy as ‘the minister,’ we drive nails into the coffin of the priesthood of all believers.”
Never have a doubt about it; God calls every Christian to some form of service – ministry. But if you still have doubts, read Ephesians 4:11-12, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up “
This text is crystal clear: the role of the five-fold ministry (including pastor) is not to do the ministry, nor to take care of people, but to prepare or equip God’s people for ministry. God’s people are the primary source of ministry. If that is true, then the call comes to all of God’s people. The leader’s primary role is to prepare them to live out that calling. This understanding of God’s intent for the church is much different than a group of leaders deciding what program the church should do and then looking for people to make that program happen.
This text boils down to two realities:
· Leaders should set their own agenda of equipping God’s people for ministry whether their church wants them to or not.
· God’s people should seek God’s will for their lives and do whatever is necessary to live out that calling.
This heresy has caused three tragedies:
· Many Christians act as if they are second-class Christians who are cared for by the paid professional and have no responsibilities to minister and touch lives with the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. They are “kept people.”
· Most Christians who have thought that they had a call on their life to minister believed that this meant they must be professionally trained and then ordained.
· It has caused local assemblies or congregations to rely far too much on their leader (pastor).
God is shaking His Church and shaping His Church to bring this wrong understanding to an abrupt end!