Have you ever known a married couple who confessed they didn’t love each other? I have, and trust me, there is nothing more painful. As a husband, I can’t imagine waking up every morning beside a woman I didn’t love. I pity such a person.
On a couple of occasions, I’ve had such couples meet with me. Their stories tend to be similar. Life is rote. Their relationship is boring. They are married, but they feel more like individuals sharing a home and splitting the bills. For these people, romance left town long ago. They feel trapped because they understand divorce isn’t an option.
I can’t imagine the boredom, frustration, and disappointment that type of life must entail, especially for those who, like me, believe that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.
This is what one who enters the ministry without a love for the church will feel. In many ways, ministry is like marriage; you sacrifice for, love, and serve the body of Christ. You cannot do this—you will not do this—unless you serve out of a heart of love.
Perhaps you’ve seen pastors like this. They look for every opportunity to be away from their congregation. They erect barriers between themselves and their church. They view other activities, ministerial or otherwise, as more important and more satisfying than just serving God’s people. They seem to view God’s people as an interruption to their ministry, when the people are supposed to be their ministry.
Imagine giving your life to a task you do not love—or worse, to a people you don’t love. Ministry service is glorious, but it can also be uniquely taxing, and only those propelled by a love for Christ and His church survive the long haul.
THE NEW TESTAMENT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHURCH
It is impossible to read the New Testament without being struck by the centrality of the church. In the Gospels, Jesus dies for His church, charges Christians to expand His church, and promises to build His church. In the book of Acts, the church is birthed at Pentecost and explodes into unstoppable expansion and powerful ministry. The Epistles were all written to congregations or individuals about what the church should believe, how it should function, and how it should be led. When we come to the book of Revelation, we see Christ writing seven letters to seven churches and promising to one day return for His bride, the church.
This all speaks to the importance of the church—indeed, of Jesus’ love for it. In fact, Christ so identified Himself with the church that He famously challenged Saul on the Damascus Road, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:5, emphasis mine). Saul’s occupation was to persecute the church, but to Christ, that was tantamount to persecuting His very self.
So we must right off dispel the notion that you can serve Christ without serving the church, or that you can love Christ without loving the church. Such an argument is harmful, goes directly against the grain of the New Testament, undermines the local church and the call to ministry, and will shipwreck your pursuit of Christ and Christian service. You may not serve it directly as a pastor or minister, but you should plan on serving the church at least indirectly in a ministry supportive of, or supervised by, the church. That is fitting and right because the New Testament defines ministry in the context of the local church. In whatever capacity you minister, to serve faithfully is to serve from a heart of love.
*This article is an excerpt from Discerning Your Call to Ministry: How to Know For Sure and What to Do About It, by Jason K. Allen. If you are considering the ministry, there are two mistakes you must avoid. The first is taking up a calling that isn’t yours. The second is neglecting one that is.*
Available to purchase online at Amazon.com, Moody Publishers, and in LifeWay Christian Stores. Learn more at jasonkallen.com/calltoministrybook.topicsDiscerning Your Call to the Ministry, Pastoral Ministry