Voice From Grass-root Pastor: Loving God Doesn’t Means Full-time Service

By CCD Contributor: John LiFebruary 21st, 2017

China's house churches have boomed in the recent years. However, we still lack preachers. A large number of young people have seen the needs of the church. They bravely devoted themselves to the church. Eventually, they found that full-time service was not what they wanted so they abandoned ministry.

What is full-time service? Most people only paid attention to the time. They have ignored the commitment and investment in the full-time service. 

Many people have heard such words in the Chinese rural church. "If you love God, you will serve God full time." Many young pastors were forced to choose full-time service. An elder in my church once kindly reminded me that choosing another job would make me homeless and dead. At that time I was not so willing to take serving God as a full-time job. Her words really scared me. Wang Mingdao, another elder in the church, holds a different view. He thinks that loving God doesn't equal with full-time service. There are a lot of ways to love God.

1. The understanding of a job in the Bible

Jesus only called for a tiny number of people to discard everything and follow him. For most of people, they follow Jesus by means of sacrificing themselves and carrying the cross. We don't have to give up the job at our hand. If we work hard with the love of God, we are definitely qualified followers of Jesus. 

Many people think that to love God is to serve God in full time. In fact, this misunderstanding is caused by absolute separation between the holy world and the secular world. The separation will result in the superiority of some full-time servants and discrimination against those part-time fellow workers. Believers only pay attention to the inside of the church and ignore the outside world. What's worse, Christians will have no interest or enthusiasm of taking part in a normal job in the society.

Martin Luther broke the wrong separation between the secular world and the holy world. He strongly argued that believers are all pastors. The separation between the secular world and the holy world was also criticized by Russell. He said that the church attributed the holy name to a monk with no contribution in the desert instead of a man who made a great breakthrough in human science. So he thought that Christianity hindered the progress of humankind. His opinion was a little extreme but reminded us of the church's positioning.

In many rural churches, the separation between the secular and the holy vulgar was still very serious. Many church elders blindly encourage young people to serve full-time. They haven't thought about young people's personal factors, interests and family.

It was also scary many years ago when people were called to leave their families and serve in the church. Martin Luther's view of jobs is very important. He said that pastor's job was not necessarily more elegant than a shoemaker or a blacksmith. Anyone can love God in their positions. Not only those who are engaged in full-time ministry in the church truly love God. If the believer works diligently in his own post and regards his work as a gift given by God, his job in the secular world will also be holy.

2. There are different ways to love God

Early Christians held a negative attitude towards the job outside of the church. Eusebius in Cesarea was a good example. He thought to serve God full time was the only perfect Christian life. Christians who choose to work and feed their families were second-class Christians.

So the abbot cut from the outside world was prosperous. This concept changed slowly during Martin Luther's reformation. People started to find that Christians could also love and glorify God in their own positions of the secular world.

There are plural ways to love God. Everybody can convey his love of God and follow God's calling in his own job. Lawrence worked hard for the monastery. No one can deny the fact that he loves God. His understanding of walking with God is more profound than anyone else. There are also many ministers who only serve part time in the Bible. We cannot say that they do not love God.

Many believers are not very clear about the concept of full-time service. They think a full-time servant should have no avocation. However, we cannot deny Paul's great workload. If Paul cannot be called a full-time servant, others can only gaze at the ocean and sigh.

Paul had some subsidiary business apart from serving God. He wove tents to support evangelism. It can be seen that the so-called full-time service is to put all the energy into preaching the gospel and building the church. We should not only consider job inside the church. We should also make efforts outside of the church to support its development.

We don't have to be full-time servants. As long as our jobs are in accordance with the morality in the Bible, they can be a way to love God.

God did not order Centurion, the repentant Italian centurion to leave his position. God did not call David to be a prophet or a eulogist. God didn't ask him to give up the king's identity. We shall never forget that Adam was actually made by God to repair Eden. Therefore, the ways of loving God are more than being a full-time servant.

Keller mentioned in his book The Meaning of Work that the gospel gives us a new and rich view of the job. We work with God in his love and caring for the world. As Luther said, we work in order to meet the basic needs of our neighbors. Our job is the way to show others how God takes care of the world.

3. Not only to serve God, but also to stay loyal to God.

I also participate in the teaching ministry of many seminaries, but I do not encourage all students to participate in full-time service. I suggest them staying loyal to their calling. "Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and elders do their job in the church and build up the body of Christianity." (Ephesians 4:11)

The idea that loving God doesn't equal with full-time service will not reduce the number of people who serve God. The idea will only make more people stand in a more appropriate position. The full-time service must be based on the calling of God. The full-time servant himself needs a complete theological thinking. A person who is called to serve God full time also has a special gift given by God.

In my church some young pastors hesitated to be a full-time servant. On one hand, they did not have a clear calling given by God or the gift recognized by the church. However, no matter how hard it was, they didn't dare to leave the post. Ultimately both the church and these young pastors couldn't achieve full development.

All in all, a full-time servant must love God. However, loving God doesn't equal with full-time service. When I see many young Christians persuaded to participate in full-time service, I hoped that they are drawn from a clear calling of God instead of enthusiasm.

I pray that all of us can serve in the heart of God and do our best in our own position. I would like to quote the words of Tao Shu: "The biggest obstacle blocking the inner peace of Christians is that we are accustomed to dividing our life into the sacred part and the secular part. We should judge whether a believer is holy or secular by looking at his motivation instead of his job. " 

Translated by Emma Ma


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