Brothers, we are not professionals and neither are they.
In evangelical ministry circles and discussions it is looked down upon to discuss the pastorate as a profession. John piper’s excellent work, Brothers, We are Not Professionals, laid out this exact argument. Piper lays out the foundational of the differences between the pastoral ministry calling and the profession of business CEO leadership type pastors, and rightfully so, Scripture guides us by scouring its pages and prayer, not the MBA. Simply, we must realize as pastors we do in fact have a calling of God, a task that is divine and by its nature otherworldly. We’ve been gifted by God, then tested and affirmed by men that specific gifts and talents have been bestowed upon us by the Triune God himself to execute a supernatural task. Dave Jenkins at Servants of Grace has written extensively on this here, I would commend it to you.
But in calling for pastoral ministry to return to its historical supernatural roots, have we implied a caste system within the church? Have we necessarily caused a divide between the minister and laity? Have we reversed what Martin Luther so eloquently laid out for us as the priesthood of all believers?
Brothers, we must confess that in this corrective action we have overlooked or may have an extremely lopsided view of the callings of the many necessary and God ordained vocations of the men and women that sit in the pews before us. We cannot on one hand affirm the sovereignty of God over all things and confess the Lordship of Christ over all areas of life and creation, then on the other hand imply that the hundreds of other vocations that do great good for mankind and give glory to God’s kingdom without necessarily affirming the lordship and God ordained sovereignty over the callings, in other words, the work, of the men and women we aim to equip and serve. To deny the goodness in the created world is simply a new gnosticism that must be avoided. Brothers, we are not professionals and neither are they.
I stand with you in reverence and thankfulness to my God that has called me to such a great task. His very words say through the apostle Paul that I have indeed “desired a good thing.” Has not the teacher desired good thing? Has not the registered nurse desired a good thing? Has not the mother that stays at home to care for her family desired a good thing? Has not the carpenter desired the thing? Or maybe the question should be: has not God desired that those people do those very things? Has not God ordained certain men and women to intervene on the operating table, to care for our families, to protect and serve the public, to instruct the children in reading and writing and arithmetic, to construct the buildings in which we worship?
Brothers, we are not professionals and neither are they. These brothers and sisters in Christ carry on the very tasks that enable the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who walked this world as a carpenter himself, to go forward to the ends of the earth.
One hesitation is often given rightfully: “but we have the task of making disciples.” How are they to hear if we cannot fund to send? How are they to be sent if there are no pilots or automobile factories? How can we be sent if there are no roads? How can they hear if we do not speak and how can we speak we cannot read?
But further, how is mankind to love their city as we read in Jeremiah if there is no city, or no builders to house mankind, to heal the sick if there are no doctors or nurses? if there is no medicine? How is their medicine if there are no scientist?
Brothers the list can go on and on and on, We must affirm that they need us as much as we need them. God’s kingdom requires them as much as it requires us, not because God cannot accomplish this means without us, but because he has chosen to include us in his grand story.
The post today is meant to spark the thought process, to ignite the fire of curiosity, or provoke discussion at the elder meeting. My aim is then to ultimately point you to God’s word and within his word find the biblical truth that God does indeed call people to do all things to his glory. Brothers, we must help our people take their faith outside of the church and necessarily make them whole as Christians by helping them understand how their faith necessarily influences the 40 plus hours of the week that they devote to their calling. This is, by God’s design, where they will be Salt and Light. Let us make disciples for sure. But, let us make disciples that are whole and apply Scripture to all of life.
If we are honest today most of our churches fail at this task, but don’t take my word for it, read John Knapp and many others(1). If we are honest today many of us would be ill-equipped to counsel a church member on how they must glorify the Lord and Savior in their work on account of the fact that we have a lopsided view of their calling. Yes, they have a God ordained calling too. So brothers, I hope to engage with you the next few days on this topic beginning with an understanding of biblical doctrine of vocation. This is the crux of what Work and Keep is about. We must do something about it and it must begin from Holy Scripture.
Therefore I advise no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed, I advise everyone against it – unless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone.
– Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520)