My day job is all about career development. I help people achieve their goals by analysing their skills, providing development training, and arranging targeted job interviews. It is satisfying to help people grow their careers, achieve their objectives, and increase their pay packets.
Ministry: A career?
However, I have previously spent time in paid pastoral ministry. One thought that vexes me is “Is appropriate to consider pastoral care a career?” Should not serving the Lord be a call? However, from a structural standpoint, there are pecking orders and job pathways in Christian organisations. Consider progression from deacon/youth worker to elder/pastor to senior pastor. Alternatively, pastors are often recognised and paid more based on the size of their church membership or the number of church staff they oversee.
God tells us that if someone desires the office of an elder, they desire a good thing. So, I am comfortable with the concept of growing ministry responsibility based on the leadership gifts that the Lord provides. However, one of the qualifications for a pastor is that he must not be motivated by money or greed. Therefore, the modern practice of desiring ministry career progression can seem somewhat incompatible with following the Lord’s calling into ministry. Does that mean all pastors should be paid the same amount regardless?
Ministry: A call?
If someone seeks to enter full-time paid ministry, part of the common ordination processes is verification of a calling on their life. This is often done after one graduates from Bible college or after demonstration of certain gifting or skills.
However, if going into ministry is a calling and not a career choice, then should it follow that entering pastoral work is a one-way call? From a spiritual standpoint, I have seen plenty of people laud praise when a talent vocational Christian changes tack and enters paid ministry or missionary work. The Lord’s call is celebrated. But what about when someone leaves paid ministry for vocational employment? If someone leaves the pastorate to work in the secular world, have they necessarily abandoned the calling?
The whole concept of ministry is confused in the modern day church. Why do we place unique values on dedicated ministry compared to vocational ministry?
I suspect that the above questions often haunt our ministers and in particular our bi-vocational and part time ministers.