I have often received the question, “What does it take to be in full-time ministry?” This question comes my way about once a month, or sometimes more frequently if I am traveling and ministering in churches or Bible schools.
Please allow me to me share what I used to think.
In 1999, I was nearing the completion of my two-year Bible program at Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX. I recall talking to Anna, who was my fiancée at the time, about our future. We sat in my car in front of her apartment, and the conversation centered around being called to the nations for ministry. During the conversation I stated, “I don’t know exactly how, but I know God will make a way for us to minister in the nations.” This statement was one of faith, but also one of ignorance. Little did I know that there was a high price to be paid for a life of ministry. Today, I am grateful for that ignorance! Had I known the price ministry required, I likely would have chosen a different path for my life.
Fast forward 23 years… I am grateful to say that we have been faithful to the call of God and have not deviated one bit!
What was the price?
I cannot tell you simply one thing that would equate to “a price” for giving our lives for ministry. That list would go on for pages… For the sake of brevity, I will only share a few things:
1. Constant spiritual warfare 2. Sleepless nights 3. Being misunderstood by most church folks 4. Your children not having the same experiences as friends and classmates 5. The expectation that you should always be working and that you must never take a break or vacation 6. People assuming that you should live in poverty, or at least a low/middle-class level 7. Lack of friends who understand and connect with you at a personal level 8. Finances… and I will leave it at that!
Of course, I could go on much longer, but that would seem like a rant, which is definitely not the intent or purpose of this blog!
What else does “the price” require? What does it take to persevere in ministry??
1. Faith stretched beyond anything you can handle 2. Fortitude to withstand the enemy and the world 3. A solid foundation in Scripture and a relationship with Holy Spirit 4. Prayer that is constant and unwavering 5. Compassion and empathy, especially when you have nothing left to offer 6. Emotional intelligence to navigate through the storms that will come 7. Discipline to keep all things healthy and in order 8. Boundaries for your personal sanity, as well as for the health of your family 9. The ability to say “no” when needed 10. Priorities of God, Family, and then Ministry. Priorities in any other order will only bring failure.
The price of ministry is high. The ultimate price is laying down your own pride and selfish ambition. It is absolute and complete submission to God – no matter the situation or the cost. Ultimately, this means that you must lay down your life for the Lord. For many believers and ministers, they pay this price with their mortal life. I have friends who have literally given their lives for Jesus and now live with Him in eternity.
For those who are truly interested in serving the Lord in full-time ministry, my encouragement would be to first count the cost prayerfully before doing anything else. Second, you must be confident that God has indeed asked you to give your life to Him in ministry. Without a call of God, your pursuit of ministry will be filled with additional challenges and heartache. Third, prepare yourself. Many men and women are trying to hack their way through ministry without any preparation, education, training, mentoring, etc. This is recipe for failure. Don’t use the excuse that Jesus chose a few unruly fishermen to turn the world upside down as your reason for trying to cut corners. These men walked with God! I don’t care how much time you think you have spent with God, you have not walked with Him like they did. Therefore, find the training and mentoring necessary to become equipped. Lastly, allow God to refine your character and integrity to a place that is unshakeable. You are not going to be perfect. But if you have weak character and a lack of integrity, the devil will eat your lunch and you will become another headline failure and mockery.
I would offer one last thought to those who want to know about the price that must be paid. Are you willing to have your pride obliterated and your life humbled to new lows? If you are not willing or ready, then “buckle up, buttercup!” Your world is about to get hammered! I can make a strong and compelling case that all sin finds its roots in pride.
Galatians 5:24-26 says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
To follow Christ is to crucify the flesh and all our fleshly desires. The price is high and cannot be understated. If you are willing to pay the price, the Lord is looking for more laborers in His harvest.
Finally, in Luke 10:2 Jesus said, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”