If You Can Do Anything Else, Do It

Mike Leake wrote an article at SBC Voices Tuesday about the “internal call” all vocational ministers are supposed to have received before surrendering our lives to the ministry.  Are You Called to the Ministry?

The article explores the unbiblical expectation we often place on a pastor.  We erroneously think they had to have this mystical, internal call.  I encourage you to read the article as Mr. Leake does an excellent job in pointing out unbiblical such expectations are.

I want to talk about another unbiblical statement with regards to a call to vocational ministry.  We’ve probably all heard the advice, “If you can do anything else, do it.”  This is perhaps the dumbest ministry advice I’ve ever heard, and here’s why:

  1. I don’t want to do something else:  I could certainly do other secular jobs.  I might even be better at other secular jobs, but the plain truth is, I don’t want to anything else.  I don’t want to scare away a potential minister because he or she heard me say something unbiblical.  The truth is, every one of us could always do something else, but we don’t want to.  
  2. Why would I want to avoid doing something difficult?  The intention behind this unbiblical statement is that the ministry is really hard and you don’t want to do this really hard job if you can do something easier.  This insults two types of people.  First, it insults the non vocational minister.  I promise you, the man or woman who counts money for a living and is required to get every number right, down to the penny, will tell you that his job is really difficult.  I’m pretty safe in assuming that the job and responsibilities of an airline pilot are heavy.  If an airline pilot makes a mistake, lots of people die.  Do you know why I assume these people have difficult jobs?  Because they have difficult jobs filled with stress and anxiety.  It insults the non minister when we act like our jobs are somehow more difficult.  Are there aspects of our ministry jobs that non vocational ministers don’t understand?  Yes there are.  Can there be times when our jobs are very difficult and burdensome in a way secular jobs aren’t?  Yes they are, but it’s insulting to somehow insinuate that our jobs are mystically more difficult.  It’s also insulting to a young person considering vocational ministry.  Why wouldn’t they want to do this difficult job?  Do we think they can’t?  I believe one or more young person who was more than qualified to be a pastor has been scared away from vocational ministry because of this bad advice.
  3. Ministry is an obligation for every Christian:  When we become Christians, we become ministers, and that ministry is not an obligation, it’s a desire and that desire should exist for every Christian.
  4. Vocational Ministry is not an obligation:  This advice insinuates that vocational ministry is an obligation.  Vocational ministry is not an obligation.  It is a joy.  I don’t pastor because I have to.  I don’t pastor because no one else will pastor if I don’t.  I pastor because I love it.  Our pride is talking when we act like Ministry is something we have to do.  We’re just looking for affirmation or a pat on the back.  We need encouragement, but none of us need anyone to encourage our pride.

This is bad, unbiblical advice. We need to remove this advice from our brains.  When someone expresses desire to enter vocational ministry, we should encourage them to give it a try to see if they like it. 

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