So you hear people always talking about "serving God," and "reaching the community," or maybe even being "called." But what if you are not a member of the clergy? What if you aren't a pastor, evangelist, preacher, prophet, etc.? In actual fact, ALL Christians are called into some kind of ministry, because there is no true version of following Jesus that doesn't involve service. There are lots of gifts besides pastoral ministry, and you just might have one of them!
Pastors do a lot of difficult and demanding work, and Christians usually admire them for it. Many Christians even think of their pastors as some kind of super-people, specially gifted to be able to do what “normal” Christians are not able to do.
But actually, this is a bit of a misconception. Yes, pastors do have a gift given to them by the Holy Spirit - the gift of pastoring - which should include having a compassionate hearts, good listening skills, wisdom to help give guidance and counsel, and other characteristics like that.
But that’s not the only kind of gift that the Holy Spirit gives to people. Many people who did important work in the early church were just regular, everyday citizens. The reality is that Christianity only grew as fast as is did because all believers had a role to play. Lydia sold purple fabrics. Dorcas made clothes. They worked normal jobs to make a living, and their ministries were embodied in their whole lives. Even Paul, who was gifted as a pastor and Apostle, adopted this approach at times, working as a tent-maker in various towns and using that as an opportunity to get to know people and have conversations about his belief in Jesus.
Their version of "mission" was living out normal, everyday lives in their communities, demonstrating the teachings and love of Jesus, and winning over people's hearts with the gospel message. They were not all pastors, but they all had roles to play in the life of the church. This happened because the Christian movement had a new concept: the Priesthood of All Believers.
Peter put it this way: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV) Christians are a royal priesthood because we are now the ones who help bring people into the presence of the King.
Here are some spiritual gifts listed in the Bible that are not the obvious or miraculous ones: [Romans 12] Mercy, Teaching [1 Corinthians 12:] Wisdom, Faith, Helping others, Administration [1 Peter 4] Speaking, and Serving.
Not everyone you meet at church is going to be an Apostle, but everyone who follows Jesus is a disciple. Take time to get acquainted with your own story of faith; what has God done for you? How have you experienced God? This will give you something to tell others, as well as affirm your own journey for yourself. Stand confidently in the light that God has already given you, and know that the path you have walked with God so far is preparing you for service, whether it look like the work of a pastor, or something else!
Everyone has a valuable part to play in the ongoing story of Jesus. What gift have you been given? What role might you have to play?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Romans 12:3-8, 1 Peter 4:10-11, and Ephesians 4:7-14. What are the spiritual gifts listed in these passages?
- Has anyone ever identified one of these as your spiritual gift? Or perhaps something that is not listed in these passages?
- What are the purposes of the spiritual gifts?
- What are some of the specific qualifications listed for pastors and/or elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7? Do you think this passage has something to say to believers who are not pastors?
- Read Titus 1:5-9, 2:1-2, 15 and then listen to the song "Sound" by Trip Lee from 116 Clique. Who does Paul intend these instructions for? Just pastors, or for others? Does the text give any indication?
- In the second verse of the song, what does Trip Lee say about the instructions Paul gives about elders?
- Sometimes it may seem like there are exceptionally gifted, influential people around us, or that there are others who simply have way more resources to give from. Sometimes it seems like others start with way more talent and means for serving God, and it can be intimidating.