Dr. Daryl McCarthy, President
When I was growing up, it was common to view all Christians in two categories: the elite—those in what we called “full-time Christian service”—pastors, evangelists, missionaries and another class comprised of everyone else who were not “called to the ministry.” Tragically, all these years later it is still common for Christians to view work as either sacred—“full- time Christian service” or secular—all other kinds of work. Many churches go so far as to make those not in “full-time Christian service,” feel guilty, second class, disobedient.
The problem is we inherited this unbiblical sacred-secular split from the medieval Catholic Church which made a sharp distinction between clergy and laity. But this difference is not taught in the New Testament. The Bible unequivocally and repeatedly declares everyone who follows Jesus to be a minister according to 1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 4:11-12 and other passages.
We’re all called to the ministry
This means there are no laypersons in the church. We are all ministers! We are all called to be in Christian service full-time. Whatever our job is, wherever we are, we are called to serve Jesus and minister to others full-time. So in a very real sense, we’re all in “full-time Christian service.”
Once we affirm that we are all called to the ministry whatever our skills or job is, the next question is location— where does God want me to serve Him with my degrees, my job, my skills? So the question for academicians is not “Am I called to minister and serve God in the academy?” Of course, as a follower of Jesus who has surrendered to His Lordship, you are called to serve Him through your vocation. For the person who loves God and worships him, no job is secular, separate from God, less holy than what we call “ministry.” The key question is “Where?” It doesn’t require a Damascus road experience or a “liver quiver” while you’re sitting in church.
Someone asked Mother Theresa, “When were you called to serve the poor and the dying in the streets of Calcutta?” She shrugged and quietly replied, “I wasn’t. I was merely following Jesus and this is where he led me.”
What does obedience mean in your life? For some academics it will mean continuing to serve God in the classroom in North America. But for others obedience will mean teaching in a distant classroom, serving in another country.
Aren’t IICS Professors more spiritual?
This is why it is not intrinsically more spiritual to teach overseas unless that is what obedience means for you— as it does for the 54 professors now serving in overseas universities with IICS. The spiritual thing is to understand that your job is your place of ministry—whether in North America or abroad.
I just finished reading a good book that Lana our daughter gave us entitled Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Chan says, “Most of us use ‘I’m waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life’ as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the television yesterday? Or to go on your last vacation? Or exercise this morning? Probably not, but you still did it. The point isn’t that vacations or exercise are wrong, but that we are quick to rationalize ￼￼“Yes, as a follower of Jesus I am to serve Him full-time. I am called to use my gifts and talents and degrees for the glory of God.” our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God.”
IICS professors represent a broad range of disciplines and life experiences. But one thing they all have in common is that they individually have affirmed, “Yes, as a follower of Jesus I am to serve Him full-time. I am called to use my gifts and talents and degrees for the glory of God.” None of them would testify to being knocked down by a lightning bolt, hearing a deep bass voice booming from the sky, “Go teach with IICS.” Rather, most of them describe gradually coming to an awareness that teaching at a university overseas was what obedience meant for them. It wasn’t even the first choice for many of them. But they had surrendered their will and wishes to their Master. And they find joy and fulfillment in obedience, in serving.
Not called? Think again. You are called. It’s just a matter of understanding where.