I started my theological studies thinking about being a youth pastor. It might have been my involvement in youth ministry and my youth’s pastor’s influence on me that propelled me in that direction. But soon, the academic bug bit me, and my interests in thinking about ministry in a pastoral dimension waned to thinking about pursuing a vocation in theological education, being a lecturer someday. But people keep telling me that to be a good teacher I needed to plunge into ministry, by that they mean pastoral ministry. This is the qualification that is required here I think. But when I tell them, “What if the lecturer gets involved in the church and has meaningful conversations with people of different walks of life to somehow give them a broader view of life and something potent for ministry?”, I get a good “No” response.
But there seems to be something strange going on here. It seems that ministry that some people call real ministry is only in the pastoral dimension. Anything other than that is not ministry. That thus narrows the scope to just church related things. Even the understanding of calling is scoped in just church oriented things. It seems rather boxed. Looking at this situation, the chasm that clergy and laity related issues are still alive and well. What happened to the understanding that we are all “a priesthood of believers?” (1 Pet.2:5)
I’ve been toying for some time now of the possibility of not going through the normal route of where my theological degree might point me towards, that is “ministry.” I’m thinking of pursuing a vocation as a writer, maybe not on a theological perspective, but focusing on economics and political issues. Well that’s something that I’ve not really studied but I think these are important issues that should be addressed as well. But even taking this route, I’ve never thought about abandoning the Kingdom of God vision. That has never crossed my mind.
Now why am I saying all this? I believe that there is a place for ministry in a church context, but we should not stifle that ministry can be something that carries a much broader meaning. We desperately need Christians to be involved in all sorts of dimensions of working life in the world. Now this takes on the mantra that the missional movement makes, where Christians are getting their hands dirty in the world, meeting the needy where they are and not just in the four walls that protect the community of believers. I read some good things written by David Fitch, writing to seminarians on being bi-vocational (you can read the article here).
But I guess, not many will agree with me on this. But what are your thoughts? Do you think this is a good route that seminarians would consider pursuing?
Jonathan Paran Aran is a seminarian from Malaysia. He is the first online friend that Kurt met when he first began blogging and in Kurt’s opinion is one of the best bloggers that you may not know about! Follow his blog and twitter!