Friday, August 19, 2005

No Higher Calling

Some thoughts came to mind when I had the opportunity to give honor to one God's behind-the-scenes laborers today.

I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from that there is "no higher calling" than being a pastor/evangelist/missionary. Although I am undescribably grateful for the people God enables for these vocational ministries, I don't think the term "calling" is a wise choice of vocabulary, but that's another post.

What is more deeply concerning is the common suggestion from the pulpit that some form of preaching ministry is more important or elevated or significant than the work that a godly layperson can accomplish for the Lord in a life of non-vocational ministry. (Maybe it is our way of salving our consciences for paying many vocational ministers a pittance.) As the son of godly laypeople and a co-worker during the past ten years to dozens of such godly servants who will never participate in preaching ministries, I find these suggestions . . . well . . . not very wise or biblical. Other terms might be more accurate and descriptive of my unspoken opinions, but maybe discretion is getting the better of me today.

5 comments:

Tony K. said...

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1Pe 4:10 - 11 (ESV)

If God calls and supplies and empowers the preacher, it is all of grace. Thanks for the post.

Ben said...

Exactly.

And perhaps I should clarify. If one accepts the term "calling," it is technically true that there is no "higher" calling.

But there is just as certainly no "lower" calling.

GeneMBridges said...

I have this theory...more an imaginative construct I know...that, on the Last Day, the first in the kingdom will be a layperson from some obscure place that nobody has ever heard of in the modern age who said or did something very small but used his or her spiritual gifts consistently and unselfishly, and it is largely because of this person's love for the Lord and the doing of these relatively insignificant things that we all know the Lord today.

Anonymous said...

What about this verse: "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." -1Timothy 5:17 (ESV)

Does this refer only to the fact that preaching/teaching elders should be paid, or does it also elevate their calling? Isn't attentive listening to the Word of God being preached the highest form of worship? Just curious...

Ben said...

Gene,

I don't think your imagination is inconsistent with what Jesus says about who is greatest in the kingdom in Matthew 18.

Anon,

I do believe that the passage is primarily referring to pay. I'm not prepared to argue that "honor" in our modern view of it is incompatible with Paul's meaning. I do believe that the honor distinction in this passage is among those who hold the office of elder, not between elders and laypeople. Of course there is healthy discussion about what kind of distinction among elders that Paul is talking about, but that's another conversation.

In any case, Paul's statement seems to me to be a response to effective and diligent shepherds, not an inherent elevation of the office.