Ministry: Calling or Career?

I know where I stand on this issue, but I would like to throw some thoughts out there for everyone else who wanders by here to read from time to time and get some feedback.  The impetous for this post comes from a story on FoxNews online: Harsh Job Market Has Students Flocking to Religious Education Graduate Programs.  I saw the headline and it troubled me a little bit, but reading the story proved to be more disturbing yet:

The explanation resonates strongly with Stephen Blackmer, who will begin studying for a master of divinity at YDS this fall. Blackmer, 53, had worked in conservation and sustainable development for nearly 30 years before answering a call to join the ministry.


This sounds good so far, but then he explains his “calling” and I started to wonder:

Blackmer said his experience has taught him that the main obstacle to slowing climate change is not technological or economic, but spiritual.

“Climate change is in effect a spiritual problem, because we’ve developed the technologies to protect the world from climate change, but not the wisdom to use them,” he said.

Blackmer, who said he hopes to join an “environmental ministry” after graduating, said the slumping economy made his decision to attend divinity school easier.

“If things were going gangbusters and there were opportunities all over the place, I might not have looked to the ministry at this time,” Blackmer said.

What in the world is an “environmental ministry” anyway?  Have we gotten so off the tracks here in America that we are ministering to things instead of people?  Even more bothersome is the direct admission that this guy is going to school for “ministry” because he couldn’t find anything else to do.  Somehow, I don’t think that is exactly what was meant by the quote, “if you can’t do anything else, preach.”  The drumbeat continues however:

But for other students, the impact of the economy has been more direct. Smoot Carter, 23, will enroll at YDS right out of college after rejections from business schools stymied his career plans. He hopes that after his two-year program, he’ll be able to pursue a career in public service.

“The reason I applied to divinity school was because the market wasn’t providing the opportunities to enter into the business field, while at the same time the business schools were pursuing students with more experience,” Carter said. “I was kind of stuck in the middle.”

Like Blackmer, Carter said the economy ripened a desire he had to pursue a religious education, which had been an interest of his for some time but had not been considered a serious option.


If this is the attitude of even a quarter of seminary students who are heading into ministry in a local church or a mission field somewhere, the body of Christ is in serious jeopardy of losing its heart and soul for real Great Commission work.  I understand that the economy may cause more people to look for answers, but I didn’t expect that it would get people to try “being a minister” to see if it might be a good career fit for them.

Listen.  I am a minister of the Gospel and not by my own choosing.  God chose me for this and has made me what I am.  Honestly, I would do what I do with or without a paycheck and I have proved that time and time again.  I am privileged to be able to minister full time to a small church and community here in the northland of the country and support my family at the same time.  I didn’t go into ministry because of the “job opportunities”; I was drawn into ministry by the one who saved me and gave me life.  Frankly, this cavalier attitude toward ministry as a career path makes me sick.  Paul cautioned against it in his writings and I can understand why.  What do you think?

Categories: Christianity, church, Culture, Discipleship, False Teachers, ministry, Signs of the Times | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Ministry: Calling or Career?

  1. I agree with you 100% !

    I would hope and pray that the Word might grab a hold of some of those looking for a career, and make it their calling.

    Good thoughts, Jeff!

  2. Jeff,

    I’m with you on this one. What it sounds like to me is just confirmation that we are continuing on the downward spiral of worshiping the creation and not the Creator. Indeed, you can see the agenda of this global warming nonsense (thank you, Al Gore). It getting so viral that human beings’ very existence is the problem! Recent movies like “The Happening” point to this line of thinking.

    For at least a year and a half, I’ve been earnestly struggling and wrestling with God and myself to get out of a career path that I wandered into and start using the gifts, talents and abilities God has blessed me with. It’s so difficult, but I believe I’m on the right path. Why? Because Satan opposes me at every step of the way! Liar! Says I. May He Increase is the fruit of this struggle and I’m relying on God’s strength and wisdom to show me what the path is that He has for me and for me to get the heck out of the way!

    “Environmental Ministry.” Unbelievable. How does one intelligently define that? We are twisting the very definition of ministry now (we’ve already done the same for “truth”).

  3. Steve,
    That is a good perspective to have. I too pray that the Word breaks through their great ideas and grabs hold of their lives instead.

    I hate to even contemplate what “environmental ministry” means. I think your comment about worshiping the creation instead of the creator is right on target and makes me wonder how people can so casually refer to the Bible as an old, outdated book. Some days I read Romans 1 and wonder if Paul wasn’t looking right at our world of today.

  4. George Musgrave

    Jeff, there are only three kinds of people who are preachers. Those who are called by God, (of which we need to have more) those who are called by their mothers and those who are called by money. Of the last two, we don’t need any, but there sure are a lot of them. I am happy to say that I know you are of the first variety and are doing a great job, with the help from Him

  5. We’ll probably disagree in every area on this subject, but thats okay, right?

    As someone of my beliefs, I suppose I would have to call ministry a career, but I recognize the fact that people go into it out of the notion of a “calling”.

    On the hand, I am certain of this: Not everyone can be a minister. It takes a special person. Well, it takes a special person to do their “job” good. Yes, it’s a job…but that doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it.

    It’s like any other career, you either hold that skill or you dont. And sometimes the wrong types of people choose the wrong types of careers. And part of this is the reason why a lot of ministers have to live by a bad reputation because of the “job” another minister had done before.

    I’ve met a lot of crappy pastors. I can count the good ones I’ve met on one hand. But its those men that have impacted me the most in my life and I will never forget them.

    Take that for what it’s worth. But that’s how I feel about it.

  6. Hope,
    I don’t know that we disagree so much about it and I appreciate your thoughts. I would dare to say that the “crappy” pastors you have known are those that look at ministry as a career more than they do a calling and the ones that have been used by God in your life are those who have responded to His call to ministry.

    If ministry was a job for me, I would go find something else to do, because it can be a very difficult thing and there are easier ways to earn a living that pay far better on this side of eternity (I have done some of them before I went into ministry full-time).

  7. Well, I understand where you’re coming from. But as an outsider, I really do look at it as a career, which is where we would disagree.

    But I recognize that it does take a passion and desire to do your job. You have to really love it, love god, and love people.

    But as I keep saying…on the outside, it truly is just a career.

  8. Joshua

    They’re gonna end up disappointed. The most open pulpits are in small rural churches (Which I’ll end up in some day myself, God willing), and those aren’t gonna turn you into cash cows. I read the other day that in a lot of churches there are actually twice as many pastors looking for churches as there are churches looking for pastors. Just that no one wants a smaller church that can’t pay you much, and I’m sure these Business Rejects are no exception. they’ll end up competing with other pastors for the big churches, and it’ll be just as stiff of a competition as the business world they’re leaving behind.

  9. Joshua,
    I agree with you that many of them are going to be disappointed, but I suspect it is going to be disappointment over a “career” that isn’t what they bargained for in the first place. Ministry is a life not a vocation. I am always reminded of this when I see all of these “retired” ministers who are still preaching at churches as interim pastors and church planters and so forth. Pastors who are called and have their heart in ministry can never really stop doing what they do. Guys who enter the ministry as a “career path” will not survive at all in the long run.

  10. As one who took the Jonah route to get here, i can sign on to the “calling”, and in fact if He wants you you arte gonna go!
    Being laid off now i would like to combine calling and profession, but i am called to be a tentmaker and i know it.

    That George Musgrave comment hit a nail square on the head.

  11. Pingback: Money, Ministry and Motivations « Jeofurry’s Jesus Journey

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