People have frequently asked me, â€œWhen did you enter the ministry?â€ I think they usually mean something like, â€œWhen did you start pastoring churches for a living?â€ In my mind these are two entirely different questions.
When I read the bible I see that when I came to faith in Jesus I was joined to the Body by the Holy Spirit. As part of the Body, I was joined not only to a group of people, but to the mission God has given that group of people. So from day 1 as a Christian, I was in ministry. Doubtless I didnâ€™t understand it at the time. Most of the sermons & lessons I remember from those days (later high school) were about being a nice person. I was a good student and a Boy Scout, so I had that down. No need to listen any farther. Soon, however, I sensed that God had a bigger purpose for my life.
From one angle, I was called â€“ as a Christian, not some extraordinary kind of creature â€“ to influence others toward Jesus. This entailed the negative consequence of refraining from doing things that would cause people to say, â€œThat fellow claims to believe in Jesus. If heâ€™s what a Christian looks like I sure donâ€™t want to be one.â€ It also entailed the positive consequence of inkling people to say, upon seeing my life and hearing my words, â€œJesus sure is attractive. I want to follow him too!â€
From another angle â€“ though simply another side of the same thing â€“ I was called to obey God. Amazingly simple, isnâ€™t it? All I had to do was put myself at Godâ€™s disposal, and then when he gave me a word say something like, â€œYes, Lord!â€ When I started doing these two things â€“ however feebly I did them as a teenager â€“ I was in ministry. I was in ministry my senior year of high school, throughout college, and in seminary. Never once did I pastor a church. You could count the number of times I preached without taking off your shoes. I didnâ€™t start pastoring a church until January 1987. But all the time leading up to that I was in ministry.
Consider yourself. How long have you been in ministry? â€œWhat a silly question!â€ you say. â€œIâ€™m a teacher, doctor, sales person, etc. Iâ€™m not in the ministry.â€ Are you a Christian? Are you a follower of Jesus? Have you put yourself at his disposal so he can use you as he sees fit? If so, youâ€™re in ministry. If not, what are you waiting for?