Full Time Christian Service?
By Mary Van Nattan
Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Many Christians have the sense to realize it is presumptuous and proud for parents to determine that all of their children will be "doctors or lawyers". We consider this overbearing and unreasonable. This kind of parent does not really care what their child is qualified to do nor what interests them; and pity the kid who doesn't fulfill their dream. The parents may resign themselves, but they will never quite accept it. Of course, this can happen with any number of professions - farmers, mechanics, military, etc. Parents may assume their children will either enter some certain profession or follow their father. Sometimes it's simply a matter of, "All my kids have to go to college or university."
There are unsaved people who have the sense to realize this attitude is unfair to the child. In fact, many consider this an outdated attitude, or perhaps something that parents of high social status fall into because their goal in life is prestige. But how goes it among God's people? We would agree it is not right for parents to place unfair demands on their kids as far as occupation is concerned in the doctor/lawyer question (and others), and yet are not many Christian parents doing the exact same thing in their own context?
I have heard of the boast, "All our kids are in full time Christian service." I heard someone once say about a certain preacher, "All his kids are either missionaries, pastors, or pastor's wives." It was said as if that proved something about the man. I happen to know that particular pastor was very preoccupied with outward appearances to prove "faithfulness" so it didn't prove much that was positive to me. He had more than a little of the jackboot in him.
But what is it? How come it is wrong for parents to put unfair requirements on their kids in the secular world, but in the Lord's church it's accepted as "a great blessing" for parents to push their kids into "full time Christian service"? I remember one mother telling me in the presence of her small daughter, "I hope she will be a missionary to Papua New Guinea someday." How would that girl feel growing up with this "hope" of her mother's always being held in view and discussed even with strangers? I call that unfair pressure. Well, it's "the Lord's work, of course, so it isn't the same. We want our kids to serve the Lord." It isn't? Do you really?
Now, I'm sure a lot of well-meaning folks will get upset about this. They feel it's perfectly fine for them to train their kids up to be missionaries, pastors, and pastor's wives. After all the Bible says, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 So, it must be "right" to train them up to serve the Lord.
Ah, but that's where the rub comes. What is serving the Lord? Does one really have to be in "full time Christian service" to be serving the Lord? No, of course not. There are many ways to serve the Lord. What these folks really are admitting by their actions and declarations is, that it is more self-gratifying to have a child in "full time Christian service" than to have one who is a mechanic, or a builder's wife, or a computer tech, or a farmer, or a farmer's wife, etc. In others words, to put it bluntly: "full time Christian service" and "the ministry" = "doctors and lawyers." It's about prestige. It's about pride.
The kids are encouraged from early youth to admire pastors, preachers, missionaries, and evangelists above all others. They are taught to admire the people, and there are some who have done admirable things; but even more, they are taught to admire the position. They are taught that it is "wonderful" to be "called to preach," "called to mission field," or "called to be a pastor's wife." But, these positions are elevated to be "above the people" or above common Christians - Nicolaity - above the laity, or above the people. Jesus said he hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans, Rev. 2:6! Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Frankly, I'm afraid too many parents are motivated more by pride than a sincere desire that their children should edify the saints and ...serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: Hebrews 12:28 It makes the parents look good when they can tell people all their kids are pastors or missionaries. People then repeat it to impress others with the godliness of the parents. The assumption is that since all their kids are "serving the Lord" in these roles, the parents must have "done something right".
It would seem then, that it's safe to conclude there is a real element of pride here. It breeds elitism. It is also unwise because it is, in essence, comparing Christians and making those parents who have kids "in the ministry" seem to be better than those who don't - even if those parents who don't have kids "in the ministry" still have children who are faithfully following the Lord. 2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
What do you desire for you children? Do you desire some position of prominence in the Lord's church? Do you hope that you will be able to someday say, "My son is a preacher" (or something similar)? Will that gratify you? What if your child was just an "ordinary Christian" (and I use that expression advisedly)? Would you be disappointed? Would you feel like you didn't have much to boast of? Hm. What should your boast be anyway? Psalms 34:2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. [By the way, when we boast in the Lord instead of ourselves or our family, we are a blessing to the humble(!) instead of making them feel unaccomplished because they don't have the same "blessings" we do.]
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
Would you praise God for children who simply lived their lives each day to the glory of God without ever "making something of themselves"? Someone will say, "I want God to make them this or that. I don't want them to make something of themselves." Well, what if it pleases God to make your son a faithful husband and father who makes a living shoving washers in car transmissions, and who glorifies God and is faithful in the little things? What if it pleases God for your daughter to be a faithful servant of the church who never marries but serves others and supports herself by doing paper work from home or assisting the elderly in their homes? Would you accept that? More importantly, are you willing to raise them with the freedom to be what God wants them to be? Can you get out of the way and just train them to be faithful and follow Christ on a daily basis? God does not require "full time Christian service." He requires faithfulness, mercy, just deeds, and a humble walk with God.
1Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Jeremiah 9:24 But let him that glorieth glory
( See: In A Small Place)
graphics and background by Mary Stephens