Who owns ministry?

by Fletcher Lowe

Recently I was in a meeting where a young man was sharing his Christian journey.  He outlined his childhood closely connected to a Church community, then college where he felt called to the “ministry,” which he pursued through graduate school in music, became a Minister of Music, moved on to Seminary to further pursue that call to “the ministry,” had a not-too-challenging time as an assistant minister before finding his ministry fit as a chaplain in a home for disabled adults.

The more I heard his story, the more I felt uncomfortable with the way he was using the word “ministry.”  It was as if the only real ministry was within the church community.

I had a similar conversation at a dinner party a week ago when I was introduced to another guest: “She is a Presbyterian minister,” my friend said.  I looked back at him and said, “Well you, too, are a Presbyterian minister – it’s just that she has been ordained, but we are all ministers by virtue of our Baptism.”  They both looked as if I was speaking a foreign language.

Part of the current missional revolution is challenging the Church to reclaim the sense of ministry, of calling, of vocation for all the Baptized, not just those who are ordained.  As Byron Rushing, the vice chair of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies remarked, reflecting on his calling in the Massachusetts Legislature, “Jesus is in the Legislature where I am called to serve. If he were not there, I should not be there either.”

Each of us is empowered by our baptism for ministry in our daily lives of home, work, and community.  We need to claim that calling – and not let the ordained alone “own it.”

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