The term “full-time minister” has always sounded wrong to me. Only recently have I begun to embrace my challenge with it.
When a pastor or a missionary says they’ve been called into full-time ministry, I understand they decided to pursue a career working for a faith-based service organization such as a church or para-church organization. But careless use of the term suggests that anyone else must be a part-time ministers or a no-time minister. In reality, I’m a no-time employee of a church. I recently became an employee of a para-church organization. But even before that, when I worked for a for-profit business owned by individuals, I was still a full-time minister.
Webster’s defines “full-time” as an adjective. Online, they provide several different definitions basically either working the full number of hours considered normal or standard; or requiring all or a large amount of your time. Further, they define “minister” as someone employed by a church, an official who heads a government, or a person who represents his or her own government while living in a foreign country.
Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14 NIV
When looking at the Bible, the Greek words most often translated “minister” boil down to 3 versions of a Greek word meaning servant. Transliterated, the words are diakoneo, diakonia, and diakonos. The Greek word at the origin of these words is commonly spoken in English as “deacon.” The 3 Greek words together are used 100 times in 89 verses in the New American Standard Bible. The vast majority of the uses are translated some version of servant or minister. Only 3 times is the term “deacon” used to translate one of those Greek words.
By using the terms servant or minister interchangeably, those words describe the person or action rather than serving as a title. A minister is one who serves. A minister of Jesus serves out of obedience to Jesus. Their service makes Jesus visible. Therefore, ministers of Jesus live life as he did, as a servant, and their service makes Jesus visible in the world.
When we decide to follow Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit and we begin the process of bending our entire life to Jesus. He becomes our boss. Where we used to pursue our own pleasures and our own desires full-time, we now begin to try to spend more of our time in service to Jesus. The choice to follow Jesus, with our whole life, makes us full-time ministers.
We’re not perfect. Too much of my life is still lived on my own, apart from active service to Jesus. But I work with Jesus to become the person he wants me to be. And he uses me to make himself and his way of life visible.
When we trust Jesus, he calls each of us to be a full-time minister. He asks us to serve him all the time with our whole lives. The only variable is how much of my life I’m willing to live serving Jesus.