Monday, November 16, 2009


In Ephesians 4:1 Paul says this....

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called...." [the New American Standard Bible (1995)] The King James version uses the word "vocation" but it is better understood as "calling." It is a reference to the general calling of grace that the first three chapters have described. So all christians have a "calling" and we're to walk accordingly.

Roman Catholic writer Michael Novak wrote a book on 'Business as a calling' in which he presented four aspects of a "calling." [His idea was in the context of business remember.] He said a calling will have ...1) an understanding that it is a personal and unique calling to you.... 2) A requirement for the talents needed for the task and a love for the drugery that may be involved in the task to which you're called.... 3) The presence of an enjoyment for and renewed energies from the doing of the task that is your calling.... 4) A period of discernment and testing for [learning all about] the task to which you're called.

Not bad. I would think in the Ephesians 4 context our calling, which is to the same Lord Paul was a prisoner of in verse 1 and that Lordship calling is for EVERY true believer, might have the same characteristics about it... 1) It IS personal and unique to each of us... 2) We HAVE been gifted for our Life in Him... 3) There IS joy unspeakable in our life in Him and strength provided for the living of life... 4) We then spend the rest of our lives learning what life is all about by "hearing Him" as commanded of the Father. As I said, not bad.

I would also add what someone else has called a fifth aspect of a true calling and it was..5) An orientation away from self so our goal would be the glory of God and the good of others in all things. That makes it even better.

It is obvious from all this that I believe we as christians have accepted the universal vocation [calling] of following Christ and Novak's ideas can be seen as relevent to that task/life.

But... is there in life a calling to a more specific vocation for all of us through which we make a living, provide for our families and, generally, live out our days on earth?

In other words, are we "called" to a career? And if we are, how do we know what we are to do for a career or livelihood if there is, in fact, a calling to one? Add to that the question... is the "calling" to "fulltime ministry" a GREATER calling than the calling to other careers? It is this that I'm addressing today.

Since I believe ALL of life is sacred and there is NO division in scripture between the sacred and the secular [See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.] I think we are to view ANYTHING we choose to do in life as a "calling." A better way of saying it is we are to see anything we choose to do as an opportunity to life-out our Lordship calling. Choose anything you wish but see it as a commitment to express His life in you and understand that what you do choose is a gift from Him to you.

Someone may be saying "Wait a minute Brother Paul, it sounds like you're saying we can choose however we wish in matters of life instead of finding God's specific will in those matters." I am. The only WILL God has revealed to you and me specifically is that we are to live as what we are...'Sanctified people." [1 Thess. 4:3 the rest of the chapter shows what that looks like.] When we are commited to Him as Lord we will reflect that in whatever we choose. Our life is not to be lived trying to find out what He wishes we would do in each decision but, rather, in celebrating who He is as our Lord and making ANY decision accordingly.

So I say marry whomever you choose, go to whatever College you wish, get whatever degree you desire, and live wherever you long to live. But in EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE see it as that which allows you to be effective for God in the world and bring glory to Him and good for people. Your vocation or marriage or career or whatever will only allow you to establish God's order and virtue in your life and to assist other people to do the same. This is Christianity to me.

By the way, as to whether a "calling to full-time ministry" is more sacred than anyone else' answer is NO. It is different. It is unique to the one called. There is greater responsibility for certain areas of life affected by that calling. But remember, all that's true of every christian's life as well in their unique way of living. It's ALL sacred and satisfying and spiritual when He is Lord.

So you obiously can see I believe every christian IS a full-time minister. Some are just placed as gifts to the Body as shepherds/pastors/elders/deacons but all are gifts and gifted for the Body of Christ [for ministry] and for the living of life however we live it. [Which is ministry.] "Whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of God."

By the way, if I'm out in left field with this don't tell me. I'm having too much fun out here. ;)

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


What can I say? I'm right out there in left field with you! You heretic, you!

You say you are having too much fun playing there. Seems to me that's where our Coach played, and where He wants us to play under the contract He signed with His blood, the New Covenant.

Chris Ryan said...


If you are out if left-field, then you have company!

My 12th grade Sunday School teacher was a good friend and mentor. Any time I'm home, I still go sit in Sunday School with his class. It's always a little awkward the first time a new class rotates in, but I'm okay with that. Anyways, on one of the last times that I was home, he was talking with his class about the things that *they* thought would amount to having been faithful Christians at the time they were 50 (remember, they are currently 17 and 18). One week, we talked about "doing what God wants us to do with our lives." It was, in essence, a matter of vocation. Of course, that's a pressing matter on the mind of most kids getting ready to graduate High School, anyways. But one of the things that the teacher pointed out was that we never see most Bible characters sitting around all day praying, "Lord show me the one thing you want me to do with my life." Instead, they just did what they did faithfully and God was there in all of it. It was only in retrospect that many could see the hand of God.

Chris Ryan said...

Whoops. You don't have company anymore. I guess that there are three of us out in left field now. And three makes a crowd.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

You are not out in left field. But I would ask a different question one that I am asking even now in my own life...

God has called and I believe equipped me to function as a shepherd (there is no modern day "model" for ministry that can explain it any better)

However, much of what I find myself doing (and much of what is expected of me) leads me to function more like a maintenance man for a church culture in survival mode that is becomming increasing less and less a vibrant expression of real Christ following.

How can a believer whatever his or her function (or a church for that matter) in maintenance mode do "all to the glory of God" when our calling and gifting is designed for something else all enable the church to be the hands, heart, and feet of Jesus to a culture that no longer (as a whole) questions the existence of God but is asking which one is real?

As Reggie McNeal writes in "This Present Future"

Just when the church adopted a buisness model, the culture went looking for God. Just when the church embraced strategic planning (linear and Newtonian) the universe shifted to preparedness (loopy and quantum). Just when the church began building recreation centers the culture began a search for sacred space.

Church people still think that secularism holds sway and the people outside the church have trouble connecting with God. The problem is that when people come to church expecting to find God, they often encounter a religious club holding a meeting where God is conspicuously absent...

A lot of church leaders and church members are intimidated by all this "God interest" in the culture at large. We do not know how to hold conversations about God. We have only been taught how to sell our brand of religion. We are so intent on convincing people that thir lives are screwed up, their faith is wrong, their beliefs messed up and so forth, that we are inept at listening to and engaging people. We still look at people as "prospects" for membership rather than spiritual beings with the same quest for God. We have failed missiologically.

For centuries our approach has been to try to hold on to (or defend) God in a scientific, technological, mechanistic universe intent on destroying (belief in) him. To survive we have unwittingly adopted that modern mindset. We can argue for the existence of God and we can argue for the veracity of Scripture. We can present proof of the resurrection. But is is cold. It is mental. It is passionless. Now the world does not demand what we offer anymore. In fact more people outside of the church are more spiritually passsionate and enthusiastic about God than many church members.

These are the reasons that McNeal writes...

"We have a church that is more secular than the culture."


"People are not leaving the church because they have lost their faith. They are leaving the church to preserve it."

Another peircing insight...

"I have never had a church leader (or member) say to me "I am quitting the pagans are really getting to me." I have dozens say to me I cannot take the club members anymore."

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Why is it that when you comment you say what I believe better than I can say it myself?

This...."You say you are having too much fun playing there. Seems to me that's where our Coach played, and where He wants us to play under the contract He signed with His blood, the New Covenant" one of the best sentences I've ever read.


Why am I not surprised you're out in left field too? Now if that church who heard you preach Sunday has any spiritual discernment at all they'll call you as their pastor before someone else does.

[It is getting a little crowded.]


Boy do I hear your heart and understand the struggle with it all.

I DON'T have an answer to your question as you asked it here...."How can a believer whatever his or her function (or a church for that matter) in maintenance mode do "all to the glory of God" when our calling and gifting is designed for something else all enable the church to be the hands, heart, and feet of Jesus to a culture that no longer (as a whole) questions the existence of God but is asking which one is real?"

I do have a couple of things to say though.

One is, I gave up trying to motivate people to do [live] right a long time ago. I now realize that only the Holy Spirit is capable of doing that.

Second, I believe a christian can even "fail" to the glory of God. So that even if I'm in a particular situation where my gifts and callings are totally out of place [much as Paul's were when he was under house arrest and unable to minister so he just sent
letters] whatever I am able to do will bring Him glory. [Been there more than once.]

This is because I believe "The glory of God," as I understand the Greek for "glory," simply means God's presence manifested. Much as the Shekinah glory was His manifested presence. So for God to be seen as real and present in me in the midst of ANYTHING I'm doing means that is being done is to His Glory. Even in a failure where I'm willing to be real and show He is also in it.

So I've had to minister several times when it seemed hopeless and useless but my theology [my belief system about God and life] would not permit me to see anything except God as real and glorified in that moment.

Third, Faithfulness IS the basis of hearing "well done" not anything else. So you and I will share a longing for, prayer for, even passion for people to be real in the Lord but....ULTIMATELY, we're responsibile for our faithfulness whatever the context of our living. I know you join me in believing that.

I'm aware that not a single one of you commenting thus far would disagree with what's been said in my comment here. I'm just reminding myself of the truth of it again because I, along with Rodney, long for this generation to see God is real in matter what.

Bob Cleveland said...


I struggled with this 40 years ago myself, wondering if I should be a missionary. Then I read 1 Corinthians 7:35 .. KJV at the time .. and saw Paul telling those folks they should "attend upon the Lord without distraction". It occurred to me that, unless he was writing to exclusively pastors, missionaries, etc, then it MUST be possible to "attend upon the Lord.." while about your job outside "professional ministry". That mandated, to me, that I was called to the job I already had.

That changed my life.

Paul Burleson said...


I believe that. I've seen it happen to people throughout the years as they saw it.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Fundamentally, I agree with your comments. But, I feel the need to clarify some things. First of all I am not as discouraged as my post sounds (I went back and re-read it). I just sense a paragigm shift in my concept of full-time ministry. It seems to be developing along these lines:

If I am to model "life on the go" as a believer seeking to be a Christ follower. Maybe, one of the best things I can do (as a shepherd) is go do something else to bring in a paycheck and to intentionally live out my faith in the marketplace. In doing so I can model/coach the people I serve on the endless possibilities for integration of life/faith.

There is ample evidence to suggest that this may be one of the best ways to reach the culture and release the laity to do the work of the ministry....

just some thoughts I find myself thinking about.

Paul Burleson said...


I think your thinking is worth thinking about. :)

Seriously, I just had breakfast a few days ago with Jon Zens one of the best thinkers of our day about the need of the Church today. His new book is "A Church building every 1/2 mile." The foreword was written by Frank Viola. It is a must read I believe. You'll connect with him at Check him out

By the way, I had no doubt you were just writing your deeper longings and did not associate it with discouragement as much as I did with perhaps some new focus need. It looks like you may be doing that already. Blessings on you.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

You know it is rather humorous to comtemplate my "life calling"

I experienced a very clear calling into "full-time" ministry. The first stirrings of it were when I was 12. It was a world missions conference for our area. I remember walking to the front to talk to our then, DOM. Even at 12, I considered Dr. Quattlebalm a friend and I told him that I did not know what God had in store for be but whatever it was I was willing. He promised to pray for me as I sought to discover whatever "it" was. He did up until he died.

Six years later as a freshman in college. My "call" was very real and very powerful but not very specific.

Even then, I thought of my calling in terms of "destination" and "vocation". However, God never seemed willing to reveal to me what that "destination" and "vocation" was.

My awareness of God's unique design for my life has always occurred incrementally. More times than not, I would stumble into opportunities (growth and vocational). It continues to amaze me at how God uses my failures (and sometimes even sin and rebellion)to move me along life's path.

My mom often comments that she is amazed at how God continues to have his hand on me even as I fumble through life. I used to be defensive about that and bristle against such an observation. But, as usual, she is right.

Sometimes we get to do what we are uniquely designed and passionate about and make a living at it.

Other times we "make a living" so that we can have the resources to do what we are uniquely designed and passionate about.

Either way, it is a holy adventure that is not always easy but man... always a ride!

Paul Burleson said...


I have to say, this..."Sometimes we get to do what we are uniquely designed and passionate about and make a living at it.

Other times we "make a living" so that we can have the resources to do what we are uniquely designed and passionate about.

Either way, it is a holy adventure that is not always easy but man... always a ride!" one of the more astute, sensible, and in my opinion scripturally based statements that has appeared on this blog.

I'm posting it on Facebook immediately with credit. Everyone needs to read it IMO.

Sherry Chester said...

Understood, enjoyed, and could relate to this completely. Whether being left handed or out in left field, I join the growing crowd in a corner of the ballpark. Great job Paul on bringing Christian principles into everyday examples for Godly living. Grateful for you.

Bryan Riley said...

Good post. A couple of thoughts.

I think when people struggle with whether they are called to be a missionary it is because they see a missionary in certain ways, when I think the bible simply calls a missionary someone who is sent. As followers of Jesus we are all sent on mission. We are all called to make disciples, all called to be ministers of reconciliation, and all called to love others.

There are people who are called to a people group in a different culture (and I think there are likely more called to do this than actually go), but regardless of whether this is true of any individual, as followers of Jesus we are to go wherever He leads us and be on mission with Him.