I believe there are many people who are called to “Full-time ministry,” who haven’t yet taken the step of faith to fulfil their destiny. There is a stigma about being a Pastor that people think it’s only for the special chosen ones, or the ones with that “higher calling” that is so high that not many will ever reach that height.
Let me clear up some misconceptions first. I do believe every Christian is called to “Full-time ministry.” Wherever we are in life all Christians are called to minister to people. In our marriages, our homes, our workplace, in the sports arena, on holidays, etc. Wherever we are we should be ambassadors for Christ.
I believe everyone in churches should be serving & using their spiritual gifts to build up the church. It is wrong thinking to assume that the ones with ministry titles should be the ones doing ministry, while everyone else is a spectator. We are all called to participate & serve wherever we are planted.
However, I’ve felt the need to write this article because I believe there is a crisis in the Body of Christ. I believe many are called to leave their secular jobs and be trained and equipped to serve full-time working for a church or a parachurch ministry. But many people haven’t, or won’t step out in ministry because of fear, or they are following a shadow mission, or they just haven’t been asked…
I remember at the age of 17, chatting with my Youth Pastor. I told him I wanted to go to Bible College, and go straight into ministry after completion. He suggested that I should get a job in the secular marketplace for a season first. It was great advice! I did go to Bible College, but then I spent a number of years selling advertising at radio stations, building relationships with business people, learning the ropes of the way the corporate world worked. It was a great training ground! But then I felt a calling to lay it down & step into youth ministry. I was earning good money in my career! I remember the scripture that came to me, “Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” Matthew 10:38-39. Think about the disciples and the price they had to pay. They had to give up their fishing businesses, their Tax-collecting business, regardless of their professions, eleven of the disciples immediately left behind everything to follow Jesus.
There is a price to pay. Financially, it doesn’t look like a smart decision in the world’s eyes. But do we truly trust in the Lord to provide our every need? The truth is, one day we will all stand before God and be judged for the works we have done on this earth. As Christians, we know we are saved by faith, not by works. But we are saved to do something. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Some are called to work in the secular marketplace and to shine a light in that arena. Colossians 3:22 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” But if you are called to quit your job & serve in Church ministry, then I challenge you to make your move! I have spoken to many people over the years, and I’ve thought, “That person would make a great pastor!” Sometimes I’ve challenged the person, sometimes I’ve kept it to myself. But I feel I need to speak out and throw out this challenge to anyone reading this.
Some people have this cookie-cutter view of a pastor. Thinking they have to fit into a certain mold. Some people look at mega church pastors and think they have to measure up to that image. Mega churches make up less that 1 percent of Christians around the world. God Bless them! They do a great work! But research shows that in smaller churches, more people use their spiritual gifts more, whereas many attendees at mega churches just attend, and don’t use their gifts. At Bible College I remember reading, “Church Planting for a greater harvest,” by C Peter Wagner. It outlined that church planting is the most effective way to evangelise & change the spiritual atmosphere of a community. We need more Church Planters & more churches & more pastors to reach the world for a great last days harvest!
Now the term “Pastor,” is the main title we use in evangelical churches. It’s a cultural thing, and people put all sorts of religious expectations on Pastors. The truth is, every person called to ministry has unique gifts & callings. We should never compare one pastor to another. Some are more gifted at teaching, or evangelism, or healing or the prophetic. After many years of Pastoring I Iearnt to be comfortable in my own skin, and be myself, and to function in my stronger gifts and to be content with who I’m called to be. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We must avoid the trap of trying to be someone else!
I was inspired to hear that after Billy Graham preached in Australia in 1959, that the next few years, the Bible colleges were filled with people training for the ministry. I know many pastors who are in ministry now because of his ministry. I know a number of Pastors who were inspired to be in ministry because of Clark Taylor, Trevor Chandler, Phil Pringle, Brian Houston & others. Another friend of mine once told me he knows of 28 people who are now pastors because he had challenged them and raised them up in ministry. I remember Trevor Chandler once saying, “Leadership isn’t just what you achieve, but what you set in motion.” We need to raise up the next generation of leaders. I feel the need to focus my life on raising up more leaders, the same way that great leaders have believed in me & given me a chance.
At this stage in life I’m in, I want to keep doing the work of the ministry, but I also see the crucial importance of raising up other leaders. And not just young people! Some churches write people off if they are over a certain age. Now I do believe we need to raise up young leaders, but as C.S. Lewis said,
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Smith Wigglesworth was in his late 40’s when he launched into ministry. I think one of the beautiful things about the Body of Christ is that young & old, black or white, male or female, we are all called to work together in unity, shoulder to shoulder. 1 Corinthians 3:6-19 says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
I worked as a youth Pastor for 10 years, & was Bi-vocational. I always had a number of jobs on the side to bring in an income. Then when I was 30, Carol & I had been married a few years, I was working in Christian Radio Sales, earning good money! I felt the Lord call me to do “an evangelistic work in the city.” That was the call. It wasn’t any more details. Some people are waiting for a vision from heaven with a name, a place, a date & a cosy income with the exact amount of money needed to cover your bases! So Carol & I prayed together, and through a series of “God-incidences,” we joined New Hope Brisbane. It was 30 minutes drive from where we were living. We were very happy at Pine Rivers Vineyard church, Carol had been there for 15 years, and I’d been there for 3 years. We were both serving in ministry. I was Treasurer of the board, preaching occasionally, and Carol was helping run Alpha & Creche. When we told our Pastors that we felt called to New Hope, they gracefully blessed us. They even announced it at church and laid hands on us & prayed for us for our new step of faith. I’ve seen many people leave churches for the wrong reasons. We were very reluctant & hesitant to leave our church, but we received many confirmations and we made sure it was of God before we left. Little did we know what was to come…
After joining New Hope & adjusting to life with our newborn boy Joshy, we started to get more involved at New Hope. I was invited to preach on the first Sunday in January, I was given the text of the Parable of the sower. And I remember the Lord stirring my heart that we all need to sow the word of God like a seed. But then I got a revelation from the final verse in that parable, “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown,” Matthew 13:23. We are all called to produce a crop. I knew God had planted me in this church to produce a crop.
Soon after I was invited to a “Doing Church as a Team,” conference at New Hope Hawaii. It changed my life! I was so inspired by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, his teaching about doing daily devotions, about having a servant heart, and that the whole church is a team that works towards to souls being saved was so refreshing! On the first night of the conference, Pastor Phil McCallum, Founding Pastor of New Hope Brisbane, took me out for coffee. He shared with me that God was calling him back to Hawaii to work with Pastor Wayne, and he asked me to pray about becoming Senior Pastor of New Hope Brisbane. I was so shocked! It was a moment when my life flashed before my eyes, and I felt that everything in my life was preparation for this moment. I remember Phil said something like, “The local church is the hope of the world. There is nothing more important than to serve in the local church.”
I remember thinking that it was nice to be asked, but that it would never really work. I was too young, too inexperienced, not trained enough. I was a divorcee that was re-married. I was a Coffs Harbour boy, living in the big city, I was better off staying in radio & playing it safe. That it just what the devil wanted me to think! Play it safe! Don’t step out of your comfort zone, don’t rock the boat! What will your family say? What if everyone leaves the church? Who wants to listen to me preach, I haven’t got anything to say?
The truth is I was unqualified. I was too young. I wasn’t the prefect person for the job… But God. God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called! I remembered the verse from 1 Timothy 4:12-14, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” What a powerful verse. DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR GIFT! We will be held accountable one day for the gifts that have been given to us. Luke 12:48 says, “To Whom much is given much is required.”
I called Carol from Hawaii & told her I’d been offered the role. She said, “Come home! You’ve got conference fever! We’ve just had a baby, come back and help me change nappies!” She wasn’t really into the idea at first. But then she prayed about it. And we spoke to her mum when I was back. She wisely said, “You’d better know that God has called you. Without God’s calling you won’t succeed.” So we pressed in to God to seek him about our calling. Carol heard a sermon from Brian Houston that inspired her. He said, imagine being at a footy game and not barracking for either team. It would pretty boring! You gotta pick a team, & then be all in! The same with our Christian faith. We’ve got to be passionately, all in for Jesus! This really spoke to Carol & helped her make up her mind to follow this calling.
I remember hearing 2 songs that inspired me at the time. One was from Caedmons Call, it said, “I am thankful, that I’m incapable, of doing any good on my own.” This reminded me that it was only in God’s strength that I could live a life worthy of the calling.
And the other song was “Voice of Truth,” from Casting Crowns,
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”
There are many voices telling us we can’t do it. But God’s voice is the only one that matters.
I really want to honour my wife Carol. When we married, she knew I loved the Lord, but she didn’t know I’d become a Pastor. It was a massive change for her to become a Pastors wife, while raising little children. She made many sacrifices and had to put up with so much rubbish over the years. But we believe in “One-flesh” ministry. When one is called the other is also. And she has been a rock alongside me through thick & thin, in sickness & in health! She is now a very confident preacher, she’s run the children’s ministry for many years, she’s looked after the church administration team & she’s held the fort down while I’ve been away. She’s had her heart broken many times when people close to us have moved on. And she’s stood firm with the call of God on her life, no matter what storms have come our way.
Many people from her past were surprised when they found out she and her husband had become pastors. But just like me, I believe all the events of her life had prepared her for the role God has called her to. No-one knows the amount of hard work and the hours she’s poured into people’s lives over the years. She will be richly rewarded for the sacrifices she’s made. She’s only paid 2 days a week, but works about 8 days a week for the kingdom! Often I’m the one that get’s the pat on the back for doing what we do. But she is the unsung hero who I know will have so many jewels in her crown in heaven for her faithfulness.
This is what it comes down to: faithfulness. Will you be found faithful with what God has called you to do? Another song that has spurred me on is from David Ruis,
“The way of mercy
Takes me to the least
Down the road of suffering
To the wedding feast
For I know that You are faithful
As we walk these fields of white
To the weary and the hurting
Your Kingdom comes…”
Are you willing to die to your own agenda and plans & fully surrender yourself to the Lord? I often wonder if the model Jesus used should be the way we should do ministry in 2019. Find 12 men, and teach them everything you know, and commission them to ministry.
Some people mightn’t be sure of their calling. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Norman Vincent Peale said, ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’ Just like the Aussie saying, “Have a go ya mug!” Step out in faith, if it’s God’s will it will bear fruit, if not, then I’m sure another door will open. What have you got to lose? If you do step out in ministry, then potentially, souls will be saved from a Christless eternity, marriages will be strengthened, lives will be transformed, the poor will be cared for, who knows what can be accomplished? If you don’t step out in ministry, you will keep getting the fruit you are seeing in your life.
I remember a preacher once saying whatever is your holy discontent is probably what your called to. If you can’t stand people going to hell, you’re an evangelist, if you can’t stand seeing people with no Bible knowledge, you’re called to the teaching ministry. Romans 12:6-8 says, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” Find your gifting & calling and step out!
1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I used to be frustrated when I had to work for secular companies and do ministry on the side. I just wanted to preach and minister full-time. I know it was an important season for me, but then the Lord opened doors for me. Is the Lord opening doors for you? Will you be obedient and walk through them?
Serving in full-time in ministry doesn’t have to be in a church. In can be in a Parachurch organisation, in Christian Media, as a chaplain, as a missionary, at a Rehab, you could start a new ministry! They say that many of the jobs that will be available in the workforce in the future, haven’t even been invented yet! Think about how Social media, Uber, Air BnB many of these companies didn’t exist years ago, and now millions are employed worldwide. Don’t put ministry in a box. God may have something in store for you that you’ve never heard of before! So I encourage you to get trained, get equipped, be available. God isn’t looking for ability, he’s looking for availability.
I took one of our young guys from New Hope on an 8 day mission trip last year. We preached 14 times, and saw over 150 people come to Christ. Along the way, we prayed, we worshipped, we spoke about the things of God. I was able to speak into his life. I felt the Lord challenge me that I need to raise up many more people in ministry, and that this is a great model. He then got inspired & organised a trip back to India to his hometown to preach. He preached several times & saw about 150 people get saved! This is the way the kingdom works. Spiritual mothers & Fathers, raising up spiritual sons & daughters, and kicking them out of the nest! It’s the principle of multiplication!
I heard Francis Chan make the statement recently, “A disciple isn’t really a disciple until they are discipling someone else.” It’s the best way to grow in our faith! When we have to minister to other people, we have to feed ourselves so we have something to feed others!
Just like Paul would take Timothy on trips, and then Paul would send Timothy on trips. Just like Jesus had John, James & Peter and the 12, the 72, he would send them out. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” We are called to equip HIS people for works of service.
John Wesley said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” This is what’s burning in my heart. If you are reading this, and you want to get involved more in ministry, please let me know. I believe part of my calling is to help people move towards their calling. Like an air traffic controller, who directs which plane lands and refuels, and which plane needs to take off. I feel called to help people get ready for their ministry, and then make sure they’re fuelled up with God’s word and equipped to take off wherever God is calling them.
Here are some videos and links to some media coverage of Matt’s recently appearance on Q&A:
Rudd Launches Passionate Gay Marriage Defence
Pastor Matt discusses Kevin Rudd video
ABC news story, Matt Prater, Kevin Rudd and the Christian vote
Some other Interviews
Matt Prater’s interview with Kevin Rudd on History Makers back on the 9th January:
Ben Fordham’s interview with Matt Prater on 2GB:
Ian Skippen and Mary Collier’s interview with Matt on 4BC:
Slavery and the Bible. Noel Debien hosts a discussion on ABC with Matt Prater, Sandy Grant and Andrew McGowen:
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