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Prank Calls

December 8, 2006

When it comes to The Call to full-time ministry, we get some seriously goofy ideas. Almost always, the silliness takes root in the notion that God calls through feelings. Slick evangelists aggressively recruit young people in Youth Conferences around the country, massaging the emotions until, bingo! The teen gets The Call. And we’re all amazed at how God works…

In my few years of Pastoral ministry, I have encountered more than a couple of young people, college-aged, who were obviously dedicated to work full-time in ministry from their youth. (for the sake of clarity, by full-time ministry, I mean a full-time job serving the church, perhaps as a school teacher, secretary, pastor, assistant, etc.) Not that these young people showed any kind of particular aptitude. Nope. They clearly didn’t show that. Nor that these particular young people were especially dedicated. Nope. They clearly weren’t that either. Nor that their local church considered them to be enormously dedicated either. Nope. Not at all, in fact. But they were dedicated, none the less.

Their parents dedicated them. From their earliest days, their parents reared them up to live off the church. These parents intended for the church to supply all the needs that their children would incur, and in exchange, these dedicated young people would offer their services in the classrooms, in the offices, in the ministries of the church. They were Called. They were Chosen. They were Committed. Or at least, they should have been.

I have been surprised on more than one occasion to chance upon young people who obviously had no aptitude for full-time Christian work, but were pursuing it, nevertheless. I interviewed (twice I think) one young man who had dedicated several years to pursuing a degree in Secondary Education, teaching PE. I looked at him. I looked him up and down. I looked again. Maybe it was his five foot ten inch frame encased by three hundred and twelve pounds of pure bulk that threw me. Maybe it was those super soft, callous-free hands – that handshake that reminded me of a very large sponge – that caused me such confusion. Or, maybe it was just me.

“So, what sports do you like to play?” I ask, innocently enough. He replies, “Football.” I nod my head approvingly. Seems right to me. “What position do you like to play?” I ask, guessing center if he can bend over that far. But I am wrong. So very wrong. “Oh no, I don’t play center. I play quarterback. Madden ’07. PlayStation 3. Top score in the house.” Well…

Real FootballHe wants to teach PE. In a Christian school. This should be good. His thumbs do seem to be, shall we say, toned… And I betcha he’ll get in your face after he scores a touchdown too. “Do you do pushups?” “Yea, buddy! But not too often. Most of the time, I just stay near the table.” I move on.

“How did you do in your PE class?” I ask. “Well, that’s something I needed to talk to you about. See, I haven’t actually passed my classes yet. I’m hoping that this next year I’ll get it done. But I really love sports. And I love the Lord, and want to work in a Christian school.” And I’m sure he does. Just not in mine.

Music MinistryI interviewed another young person, a Music Major. I asked this one what instruments he played. He didn’t. I asked him if he liked to sing. He giggled. “When I’m by myself in my room.” I giggled too. “So you don’t sing in special music or anything?” He didn’t. I asked him if he enjoyed composing. Never tried it. Never really looked into it. Knew people did that (those numbers we sing have to come from somewhere, don’t they?), but never thought about it for himself. I asked him if he had studied any composers or compositions, styles of composing or histories of music. Strike four. He thought he might like to. Maybe.

“So, what do you intend to do with this degree of yours?” I asked (politely). (Yes, it was politely, okay! Quit whining about the tone already). He answered me, seriously. “I want to teach!” he said. “Teach what?” I asked. “Music!” he replied. I’ve put him on my list.

I hate to make too much sense here, but I hope you won’t mind if I point out that he wasted four years of college. He and the PE major both did, in fact. And some poor, misguided principle would waste a lot of good parent’s money hiring either one. These young men were dedicated. Someone, no doubt, dedicated them. I’m questioning their dedication, but apparently, their parents dedicated them none the less. God calls for the best of the flock, but one man’s treasure is another man’s trash.

You see, we’ve recently raised a generation of young people whose only hope is that they will get hired by a church. No one else would have them. They can’t imagine doing anything else. They don’t want to do anything else. In fact, they would rather do no work at all. But if they must work, they’ll work the church. Which is why they feel called to full-time ministry of some sort.

And we wonder why our Christian school graduates can be so very worthless.

Whoever God calls, He enables. That is clear. But does the enabling come before the call or after? Maybe we should say instead that whoever God enables, He calls.

Categories: Mallinak, The Ministry
  1. December 9, 2006 at 3:14 am

    “Maybe we should say instead that whoever God enables, He calls. ”

    Interesting point.

    Good post.

  2. December 9, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Totally agree. This is why a person saying they are “called” should not be sufficient. As stated, it needs to be accompanied by God’s enabling. I think a key and necessary assurance of one being truly called by God is that other preachers/leaders in the church recognize it as well. If you are the only one who recognizes the call, something is wrong. Others should be able to see it clearly.

  3. December 11, 2006 at 10:30 am

    This is an excellent post. There are far to many people who fit the description of the two men you described. Excellent post.

  4. December 11, 2006 at 10:57 am

    “They were committed. Or at least they should have been.”

    Ha, I just got that after reading the post several times. My brain must be in slow gear.

  5. December 11, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    Thank You Pastor Mallinak for such an excellant post. I see so many people waste their Christian education. They go four plus years of school to get a teaching degree or pastoral degree and they dont do anything with it. It is a big fat waste. I can’t imagine going to school and never using my degree.

    I will be the first to admit I would rather have my daughters go to a secular univesity then a Christian college. I think I drive staff nuts with that philosophy I have. I don’t want waste their time in a degree they never use, and being a Sunday School teacher does not require a degree from a Christian College.

  6. Andy Almanza
    December 11, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Due u knead a Inglish teecher at yore skool. I had gramatikal dialysis in colige.

  7. December 11, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    I like the title again. I do believe this is one of the dangers of the “Bible college movement.” When someone gets his sheepskin, he are ready. Kids in college often just learn the game of school and how to move their game pieces correctly. Not good.

  8. December 12, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Cute, Andy.

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