Twenty years. That’s a long time to hold on to a dream. But when I made the decision to follow Christ, I did so with the dream of shaping my character and my lifestyle to be like Jesus, knowing full well that I would never achieve this dream this side of heaven. But that does not mean this is a dream to put off or take for granted.
One of the first books I read as a baby Christian was The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz. Its premise was straightforward: Paul gave a list of qualifications for elders, deacons and overseers in 1 Timothy and Titus and since there is no separation between clergy and laity when it comes to aspiring to live Christ-like lives, it follows that everyone should emulate the character traits of ministry leadership regardless of our "position" within our church. An elder, pastor, bishop, or deacon are no different than you or I; we all aspire to live as Christ. After all, the word "christian" means "little Christ", hence to be Christ-like, and "disciple" means "student" or "pupil" in the context of disciples in the days of Jesus giving up everything to follow a particular rabbi. And those labels are true for everyone who declares Jesus as Lord.
So by that same token, shouldn't we all also have aspiration to ministry? Even if we are never in a paid or formally defined ministry position, should we not approach our lives, our jobs, our families as our own personal ministries? And if so, then shouldn't we strive to live, pray, and study like a minister?
Matthew 6:33 instructs to "seek first the kingdom..." This scripture can be used for everything from justifying mandatory meetings of the body to vaguely desiring to accomplish the will of God. But what if it meant to seek first doing ministry? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 that, "...our work will be shown for what it is..." In context, Paul is talking about our personal responsibility and what we choose to do (build on) with the Gospel (the foundation) we have received.
I always find myself going back to Ephesians 4 where it reads, "...as each part does its work." The idea of "church" as we apply it today was foreign to the first century disciples. The division between ministers and congregants did not exist like it does today. Yes, there were leaders and specific instructions were given to them. But all disciples of Christ had the same responsibility to obey the commands of Jesus; to use the unique gifts God has given to build up the church.
So would it be crazy to desire to "go into" ministry? Is it strange that I think about church planting, the missional movement, and building effective discipleship communities? Am I weird to daydream about visiting some impoverished Third World community to do missions work? Or should I be "normal" and settle for just showing up on Sundays, knowing full well that it is unlikely I will ever do any of the above?
Yet don’t I do all the above in my own personal ministry? Do I not plant the church in people’s hearts when I share my faith? Aren’t I being missional as I seek new ways to serve in my community? Am I not building community when I open up my home to dig deeper into the Word? Isn’t my neighborhood, made up of multiple ethnic groups and varying degrees of affluence my own personal mission field?
So in the context of right where I am, I am a church planter, missional community builder, serving diligently on the mission field. If that's the case, when do I get paid?
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24)