A few years ago, my search for a better understanding of the call lead me to do some research. I discovered that the New Testament talks about several calls that Christians experience rather than just one. I did publish an article about these calls but instead of pasting the article here, I will just list what I found with one or two references to each here. If you are interested in the full article, let me know through the comments section and I will email it to you.
I discovered the following calls:
1. We are called to faith in God through Jesus Christ. Matthew 11.27-30; Romans 1.6
2. We are called to receive blessings as a result of accepting the call to faith. Ephesians 1.18
3. We are called to express these blessings of our call to faith in our lives. I Thessalonians 4.7
4. We are called to engage in ministry as God leads. I Peter 2.9. Acts 1.8
For me, one interesting result of the research was the lack of a fifth call, a call to certain individuals to become pastors or other church leaders. It seems to me that the call to engage in ministry is directed towards all Christians in whatever state or situation they find themselves. It is not that God calls people to faith and then issues a special call to a few to special ministry.
Rather, the New Testament pattern is that to accept the call to faith is to accept a call to ministry. This is perhaps most clearly and most powerfully seem in the results of Stephen’s martyrdom, which is recorded in Acts 7. Acts 8 begins talking about the consequent persecution of the church that broke out after his death. Jerusalem became a difficult place for Christians to live and many fled their homes, becoming religious refugees.
But Luke records an interesting fact about these refugees. Rather than become fearful people who ran from their lives and abandoned their new found faith, Luke says in Acts 1.4. “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” NIV. Persecuted, afraid, running–but still engaging in ministry. These believers were fulfilling their call.
Certainly, some of the early Christians were engaged in what we would today call full-time ministry–and there is ample evidence in the New Testament that they received an income for this or at least were eligible to receive an income for this. The Apostles as well as individuals like Paul and Timothy engaged in their ministry as their occupation. Other believers engaged in their ministry either in addition to or as part of their occupation.
The farmer who was a Christian was engaged in ministry as well as farming. Paul often functioned in this way–he made tents to support his mission work. He acknowledges that he has the right to be paid for his ministry but didn’t always make use of this right. (I Corinthians 9.7-18).
For me, the results of the research was an understanding of call that doesn’t distinguish between laity and professional, ordained or not. All are called to ministry or some kind. A few may be called to make their living from their ministry while many others are called to engage in their ministry as part of another way of making a living.
This takes away a lot of the aura and prestige that we who get to call ourselves “Rev” like to surround ourselves with. We, like all believers, are engaged in following the calling of God to be his servant to his needy world. The fact that we get paid to do ministry while others get paid to do something else while doing their ministry doesn’t make our call different from theirs. The fact that we have different gifts for our ministry doesn’t make our call different from the call of those with different gifts.
This is not to say that pastors and church leaders are not important or their ministry isn’t important. Rather, it is to say that all ministry is important and all who respond to the call to faith are called to ministry. If we as individuals and churches could understand that, there would be a lot more and much more effective ministry happening in our churches and communities.
May the peace of God be with you.