The Myth of Full-Time Ministry

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I’m just going to come right out and say it.  Full-time ministry is a myth.

I learned that on the hot dusty back roads of the world’s newest nation where, if ministry were simply a job description, I would have never lasted 7 minutes let alone 7 years.

You see, if there are full-time ministers that implies there are also part-time ministers.  And then there are other folks who are the “ministered to” who leave the ministry stuff up to the professionals.  You know the ones who have a degree and an office.

A few years back I was speaking at a regional meeting in Florida and I said to the packed conference room as I took the mic, “I’m just curious, how many of you are in fill-time ministry?”  A very tentative few hands went up at the front of the room, mostly from the organizers of the event.

So I asked again, “So how many of you are in full-time ministry?”  A few more hands raised at half-mast.  You know the level you can quickly scratch your ear if you want to retract your disclosure.  Finally I asked again, “Let me rephrase that question.  How many of you love Jesus?” Every hand in the place shot up.  Point made.

I’m feeling particularly bold about this today so here’s the deal.  There is no such thing as part-time or full-time ministry. This is a paradigm that is subversive to the Gospel itself.  And it isn’t just in the West.  It is prevalent in missions too.

Some of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered on the missions field came from mostly well-meaning missionaries who had a full-time ministry mentality.  In other words, when they were done for the day. They were usually done. The problem with that was they were still on the mission field and everyone around them still saw them as a missionary.

When I speak at churches about missions, many people tend to think of missions as their volunteer time, a trip they take, an event they plan, or for a few special saints {ahem}… a career path.

I am going to be blunt. We are never going to reach the nations, let alone our own, with that point of view.  There is a fundamental paradigm shift that has to happen.  Missions is not merely a job description or a program or an annual trip. 

Missions is a lifestyle and the calling of every believer.  Period.

Yes, some people are called to be vocational missionaries or ministers.  Meaning, being a missionary is their occupation and the church supports them to do that financially.  But that doesn’t mean that missions is relegated to something we read about in their monthly updates.

Beloved, if you love Jesus, you (yes, YOU) are a missionary.  If you love Jesus, you are in ministry.  The question isn’t if you are in ministry, it is where you are in ministry.

Jesus and I have been having some extra heart-to-hearts this week as I have been in bed sick for much of it.  In the middle of the retreat I was leading Saturday, I got hit with acute colitis and wound up in the hospital by Saturday night.  Allergic reactions to meds, a secondary infection, and a cold soon followed.  The enemy needs to learn attacking my health is a bad idea.  I just pray more.

Missions is not an invasion mentality, it is an incarnational reality.  It is where we carry the very life of Jesus out with us wherever we go.

So go knowing, YOU dear reader ARE a missionary.  If anyone asks, “Sooooo how many full-time ministers do we have in the house tonight?”  Hold your hand high.

Because you are not just in full-time ministry, you are in 24/7/365 (24 hours day, seven days a week, 365 days a year) ministry.  Because missions isn’t just a job description, it is a lifestyle.


Monday I have a super special announcement coming.  Be on the lookout.  😉