When I was about 17 years old, several of my friends in the youth department felt called by God to go into the ministry. I was happy for them, and I was proud of the decision that they made. They were good guys and gals, and I knew God was going to do big things with them. I prayed, listened intently to God, studied His word, and did everything I knew to be right… but I was never called.
As a young and dumb kid, I wondered what was wrong with me. All of my really strong committed Christian friends were being called to the ministry. Why wasn’t I? Was God not hearing me? I definitely prayed and gave God lots of opportunities to tell me “Yes” to a life of full-time service, but He never chose to capitalize on those opportunities. So, while waiting on God, I decided even Paul had to make a few tents from time to time, so I went out into the real world, did a lot of college, and got a non-ministerial job.
That was 18 years ago (Time flies!). I am currently a youth Sunday School teacher and my family is in church almost every time the door is open. We work hard in church, and we do as much as we can, but when Monday rolls around, I roll out of bed, head to my cubical, and get ready for a 40-50 hour a week job that has nothing to do with God (aside from the fact that He blessed me with the job and the ability to do it).
Last week, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Cochabamba, Bolivia and work with a missionary that used to go to the same church I did about 30 years ago… one of the ones that God told could serve Him full-time. He has been in Bolivia for 8 years now and has made an incredible impact in the lives of so many there.
Our team of 10 ran a clinic where the local Bolivian people were able to get free heath care, dental care, and hear about the gospel. About 20 people accepted Christ! We then worked to do some construction on an unfinished church in the area. We made a sidewalk for the church, and we built a little apartment off to the side of the main building where a family of five will be living to take care of the building. We also had a mini-VBS where we shared the gospel with about 300 kids between the ages of 4 and 13. It was an amazing time, and God taught me so much, but inevitably, I had to fly home, and go back to that cubical today.
I know a lot of people will say, “You are always on the mission field, wherever you go”, and yes, they are right, but I all I want to do is serve God as my full-time job and leave the desk-flying and engineering to someone else.
I am so glad that God has given me a heart to serve. If he didn’t, this would be a very different blog, but it results in a very conflicted life. When I was 17, I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I just wasn’t in tune with God’s will or listening to Him hard enough, because surely I would be called to full-time ministry. I was just as good as my friends that were called (and humble too)!
Now, I live with the duality of wanting to serve God at every opportunity I get, but having to live with the fact that my direct service is something akin to a hobby… something I only get to do for free on nights, weekends, and vacations (again, I know my job is a mission field too, so please don’t think I’m overlooking the obvious when I say that).
However, as an older and slightly wiser adult, I have begun to understand that I am called to be a layman. I believe my calling is every bit as strong as those that go into full-time ministry, and it is the path God wants me walking. I didn’t mishear God. His non-answer to that prayer was an answer.
Yes, I want to serve more and more. Yes, I dream about how I can share God’s love with the world while I’m at my job every day. Yes, I have to work an entire year so I can give just a week. However, I have to be the pillar on which the church rests.
While it feels like people in the ministry are the tip of the spear and I get the shaft (meant to be funny in a witty, non-Dangerfield way), I remind myself that the spear is nothing without the shaft. Gladys Knight is nothing without her Pips. Kirk is nothing without Scotty “givin’ it all she’s got.”
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
I Corinthians 12:12-26
My job is to raise the next generation to be Christ-loving humble followers of God.
My job is to be a light in the private sector and share God with those around me (see – I told you I wouldn’t overlook the obvious).
My job is to bring tithes and offerings so that the ones called to full-time ministry can do their job without distraction or pause.
My job is to serve in the church, teach a Sunday School class, invest in students, and give hands and feet to the vision that God has given our pastors.
My job is to be the silent force on the other side of the ocean interceding for my brothers on the front lines.
My job is to be a layman.
It is my calling. It is hard, but I know now that it is exactly what God wants me to do. We need ministers and missionaries without a doubt, but we need laymen too. I hope God gives others the confidence to see it as a calling. I didn’t have that as a teenager, but I do now.
At the dinnermesa,
PS – Please pray for our friends in Bolivia and all of South America. God is doing some amazing things, and we are blessed to be a part of it!