All cultures have measures of greatness. Some function by birthright, some are by personal achievement, some by financial success, appearance or happiness. And even within the Christian community there is a tendency to compare ourselves to one another, wondering where exactly we stack up. Many who are raised in the church are trained (or tempted) to think that the greatest form of Christian service is vocational ministry. The devout become pastors, and the super-devout become missionaries.
We do the same on a micro-level, too, in observing people in different lay roles within the Church. The “prayer ministry coordinator” of course is extremely spiritual and never struggles with prayer. But the Sunday School teacher (or small group leader), seems to know every verse written in the Bible. We often ask, “where is my place amidst all of these Spiritual giants?”
Paul made a statement that can help us define our understanding of the variety of expressions of faith within out congregations:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
– Rom 12.3-5
He uses the platform of our personal faith to discuss the fact that we are different parts that make up a whole. He goes on to talk about gifts and then instructions for how we are to all act in utilizing those gifts in a God-honoring way. But the foundation is that we are to have sound judgment in understanding both ourselves and one another, by understanding and evaluating the measure of faith each one has been allotted by God. God has given me a measure of faith and He has given you a measure of faith. They may not be the same. They also may not exemplify themselves in the same way.
We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10.17). We also know that faith is a gift from God (Eph 2.8-9), and that without it it is impossible to please God (Heb 11.6). Faith is understanding our sinfulness, the deserved punishment for that sinfulness, the offer of undeserved salvation through the work of Jesus Christ and the satisfaction in His presence and holiness here on Earth while looking forward to the future salvation of eternity by trusting His promises and not our own efforts.
So does the greatest exemplification of faith mean serving in ministry? Or moving overseas as a missionary? By no means! Or as Paul says, “May it never be!” Some of the most devout and faithful people I know are in American businesses, rocking their companies for the Lord through their testimonies and example, and using their income and gifts to lavishly serve the Kingdom.
Many extremely broken people go to seminary and enter the ministry because they are trying to find answers, they are trying to get emotionally fixed or they are trying to earn merit with God. Many healthy believers enter corporate, for-profit America and live faithful lives day in and day out in the marketplace.
There is, however, an honorable call to the ministry. It is to be approached carefully as we are promised that they will be judged with a more severe judgment at the end (James 3.1). It is a responsibility that will be weighed heavily. It is better to not teach than to teach poorly and lead some astray – in terms of the judgment we receive from God (Matt 18.6).
As believers we all have the same responsibility: To serve God by making disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20). We do that in our daily jobs and activities: if you are a stay at home mom, if you are in the business world, if you are a teacher, if you are a pastor or if you are a missionary. That is our goal. If your measure of faith is to serve God making disciples in the business world, then your responsibility to Him on the last day will be just that. If you consider your efforts less and try to do someone else’s role, you will fail and be held accountable. If your measure of faith is to serve God internationally as a missionary, then you will be held to that standard. He has given you a faith. He has given you gifts. And He has given you a calling. The most Spiritual are those who understand God and themselves and best utilize their skills, passions and abilities to make disciples wherever God has planted them.
I do not say this to minimize the call to ministry or missionary effort. The Church as a whole has been called to the world, and we are grossly failing the call. As America pushes on full-steam ahead to a post-Christian society, millions around the world have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. Not even once. If God has enabled you, you should go. For this is your measure of faith. And faith grows and increases as we blossom in maturity. Go. Out your front door. Down the block. To work. To Church. To a foreign land.
Let’s git er done.
But remember that it is by the faith granted to you, not for merit, not for honor and not because you are a Super-Christian. It is because you love God, you believe His Word, and you want to see His Kingdom come!