The Ministry as a Career
HOW do you regard the Christian ministry? Do you think of it as an occupation that is less important than that of a skilled craftsman? Do you regard it as a career that is for only a limited number of people? If you do, you have a misconception of it. On the other hand, if you are one who knows that God’s Word makes the ministry a responsibility for all who claim to be followers of Christ, do you regard it as the most important thing in your life? Do you consider your secular occupation secondary to it? Do you continue to progress in it? If you do, you have made a career of the ministry.
A career is a course of continued progress or progressive achievement in a certain field or pursuit. If no effort is made to progress in the ministry, it can hardly be called a career. By trade the apostle Paul was a tentmaker and Luke was a physician, but they did not make the pursuing of these skills their career. Although these occupations were important to them as a means of earning a livelihood, they made them second to the ministry. They considered their secular work as a means for aiding them in pursuing the occupation they considered to be the most important and in which they were striving to make progressive achievement. The ministry was their career, not tentmaking or medicine.
For the ministry to be your career you must make it your primary occupation and continually progress in it. If you are a dedicated Christian, you can look back to the time when you made your dedication and see where you have made progress. At first it was difficult for you to express yourself at congregational Bible meetings, but as you advanced commenting became easier. The same can be said about the delivering of sermons. At first it was difficult for you to give a sermon in the house-to-house preaching of God’s truths, but this too became easier as you progressed in knowledge and experience. Making back-calls, conducting home Bible studies and giving sermons in the theocratic ministry school became realities for you, although at first they may have appeared impossible. All these ministerial activities may have been mountainous obstacles at first, but by faith and diligent effort you were able to remove them.
You have made progress in the ministry, but now that the ministry is easier for you and has become firmly established as part of your life, are you continuing to progress? Now that the ministry is no longer something new to you, have you permitted it to slip from the place of chief importance in your life? Are you now inclined to allow other things to come ahead of it? If you make the ministry your career, you will not allow it to lose its importance because regular activity in it over a period of time may have made it routine. Regular activity should enhance its value and importance rather than diminish it. Heed Paul’s advice to Timothy: “I remind you to stir up like a fire the gift of God which is in you.” (2 Tim. 1:6) So stir up the gift of the ministry.
If your heart is in the Christian ministry, you will make progress in it from year to year. You will not permit it to become secondary to other activities. If you do, you will be tending to treat it as an incidental thing in your life as the people of Christendom treat their religions. Instead, keep your interest in the ministry stirred up. Keep it as your career by making progressive achievement in it. Make it the most important activity in your life.
ALL CAN MAKE THE MINISTRY A CAREER
The apostle Peter abandoned his fishing business to devote all his time to the ministry. Regarding this he said to Jesus: “Look! we have left our own things and followed you.” In reply Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God that is not certain to get many times more in this period of time and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” (Luke 18:28-30) By this statement and Peter’s action you can see what high value should be placed on the Christian ministry. It is more important than relatives and possessions.
Although one dedicated servant of God today may be able to engage in full-time preaching as a pioneer in a place distant from his home town and thus leave relatives and house in a literal sense, another dedicated servant can do what Jesus said in another way. How? By making the ministry his career and giving less importance to wife, children, relatives and house than to the ministry. In this sense he is leaving them, although he continues to fulfill his family responsibilities. This placing of the ministry in a position that is ahead even of one’s wife is what Paul advocated at 1 Corinthians 7:29: “Henceforth let those who have wives be as though they had none.” He did not mean that they were not to care for their wives and give them proper attention, but that the wives should be left in a place secondary to the career of the ministry.
Whether a person spends most of his time in the ministry as a pioneer or devotes a portion of his time to it while using the rest to care for his financial obligations, he can make the ministry his career. Irrespective of the amount of time he is able to devote to preaching, he must consider himself a full-time minister. The ministry is his chief occupation. His secular work is secondary to it. The same is true with a housewife who is dedicated to God. Her career is, not housework, but the ministry.
Many young persons while in school look forward to the time when they can pursue a career for which they train themselves by their educational courses. Many others go through school without any particular career in mind. But this is not so with young people who have dedicated their lives to serve God. By their dedication they have already chosen their career—the career of the ministry. They should look forward to graduation when they can pursue that career in a fuller sense, perhaps spending all their time in it as a pioneer. When of age they can, in a literal way, do as Jesus said—leave parents, brothers and sisters and home for the sake of the Kingdom. They can do this by pursuing their ministry where the need to hear God’s truths is great. This can be a step forward in their progressive advancement to other opportunities of service.
OPPORTUNITIES TO PROGRESS
There are many opportunities in the theocratic organization of God’s people for greater privileges of service for those new in it and for those who have been in it a long time. The field ministry itself offers unlimited opportunities for all to improve and progress. Then there is advancement to preaching full time as a pioneer, or working as special traveling ministers who serve congregations and assemblies of Jehovah’s dedicated people. Their work of encouraging and helping these modern-day Christians may be compared with the work done by some of the overseers in the Christian congregation of the first century. These traveled from one congregation to another to build up their Christian brothers and to organize the ministry. Service as a traveling representative of the governing body of the Christian organization is a grand privilege for those who qualify. It is a big step in their progressive achievement in the ministry.
Serving at a Bethel home that directs the ministry in a country is another big opportunity for progress in the ministry; and after this position of service is attained, advancement in the ministry does not stop. There are many opportunities for greater responsibility and service for those serving in a Bethel home.
In the congregations there are positions of oversight that you can reach out for and thus progress in the ministry. You are encouraged by the Scriptures to seek these positions: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a right kind of work.” (1 Tim. 3:1) If you do not desire to progress to positions of responsibility in a congregation or refuse them when they are given to you, can you say that you have made the ministry your career? Are you not choosing to stand still rather than to progress?
Feel encouraged when you are asked to train someone in the ministry, as that is an indication that you are making progress in it yourself. Consider the opportunity to serve where the need for the ministry is great in your own country or in another country as another progressive step. There are many opportunities of service in the theocratic organization that allow you to advance in the ministry. Leap at every opportunity for progressive achievement in it. Do not be content with being static, but show the willingness of Isaiah: “Here I am! Send me.”—Isa. 6:8.
Set personal goals of achievement so your ability to handle God’s Word and to preach it will continually improve. These goals may be better delivery of sermons, learning Scriptural arguments to overcome objections to the truths of God’s Word, learning how to explain Scriptural teachings that are difficult to understand, remembering Scripture texts, better presentation on back-calls, improvement in conducting Bible studies, and so on. When you reach one goal, set a new one so you will continually advance and not stand still.
Be a progressive servant of God, always having the ministry as your chief interest and occupation. Instead of being overly concerned with the obtaining of material things, seek “first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) Make the ministry your career.