on the hook: making disciples in non-vocational ministry

I met a woman today while I was running errands for work. We fell into small talk and she asked if I had anything “fun” planned today. I took the road most traveled with my bland reply, “Just work, I guess.”

I thought of all the stories I could weave about my complicated life and my unpredictable schedule… and then I heard her ask, “Where do you work?” I kept up with the North American charade and chose the job where I have an office, “I work at the E Free Church here in town.”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh! The one on 24th street?”

Our conversation turned a corner and I arrived again at a crossroads. Though technically I’m employed by a church right now as an administrative assistant, I am growing into a stronger conviction about the power of non-vocational ministry. When Jesus spoke the commission over the disciples in Matthew 28, his directive was to make disciples – baptizing them in the name of the Father and teaching them to obey all His commands.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

What he did NOT say was this, “Go into all the world and find leaders that you can pay to be disciples and hopefully people will follow them.”

We are settling for a powerless Christianity when we rely on paid ministry workers to carry all the weight of the Body of Christ. We have an amateur complex – an idea that we aren’t qualified or capable of reading and understanding the Word of God unless it is unpacked by an “expert” of the faith. We have elevated individuals in the church because of their knowledge or charisma or firm Sunday handshake and, in the process, given ourselves a ready excuse in the face of spiritual failure. “Well, I know I messed up again… but I’m no Pastor John. I wonder if there’s, like, a program where someone would help me with my addiction.” We make excuses (and we accept others’ excuses) for skipping devotions, church responsibilities, and Bible studies because we’re not “in the ministry” and there’s a lot more than Bible going on in our lives.


Again, when God gave the direction to go and make disciples he was talking about regular people living like Jesus and inviting other regular people to do the same.

Do you know that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52)? He grew into more knowledge of the Lord just like he grew into size 28 jeans (or robe). Every day he found out more about His Father and every day He obeyed with more joy and every day Jesus found more favor with God and man. This was his vocation. He was expert at loving the Lord, growing in knowledge of Him, and serving others.

No one is off the hook. Not a pastor? You’re qualified if you are born again. Don’t have a degree in women’s ministry? You are adequate in Christ. Not confident in your less-than-perfect Christian journey? Jesus wants you, too.

Here’s the catch (wink): you WANT to be on the hook. For all the squirming and protesting Christians do to get out of ministry and outreach and loving neighbors, they don’t realize that a worm on a hook is how you catch a fish. Jesus has qualified us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God is making His appeal through us to the world so that they might come to know the saving work of Christ.


No one is off the hook, but no true Christian should want to be anywhere else.

God has called, redeemed, and equipped regular people to take His message of redemption to the world in our everyday, regular encounters with regular people. So, why is it so much easier for people in vocational ministry to have conversations about the Lord?

We are all in ministry.
We are all on “staff.”
We are all called to make disciples.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the importance of being productive

It’s no secret: I’m poor at math. I don’t get very jazzed about number crunching. If I can be suckered into an equation, it’s nearly always a story problem (such as this one). So, when I take on the topic of productivity, allow me to sketch abstractly what could be made a very reliable algorithm (by someone else).

As I process (again) all the questions my high school counselor asked me as a senior – about career and vocation and calling – it seems like I might have moved little from my simplistic 18-year-old goals. In response to the question, “Where will you be in 10 years?” I wrote a paper as a junior. I imagined myself in the middle of Africa, married to a doctor named Mr. Bergenfeld, and answering to “Auntie” from the 405 children at the local orphanage. Yes, I’m sure I wrote 405 – I was ornery like that.

I spent my college years throwing my willingness at wonderful things and learning like my face pressed to fire hydrants. Even as I met with several mentors, it seemed that “my heart” was pointing me in the direction of missions and jungles and poverty and the simple life.   This kind of calling seemed exciting, noble even. Me and everyone else on my campus dreamed of making big things happen and being in the thick of it when they do. I wanted dirt on my elbows and a cardboard box to call home. I didn’t want to be stuck in an office talking about change and waiting on red tape and bureaucracies. I wanted in.
All in.

That’s what we all said in college. Maybe a few people sheepishly said how most really felt, “I don’t want anything to do with cardboard or 405 orphans. I’ll support whoever does, but give me the office and the red tape. It’ll all work out fine.”

Everyone has their own values that make up their vocational pursuits, but for me, I envisioned myself serving others – doing something in the trenches, rubbing shoulders with folks who have real messes that I could help mend. I envisioned my passionate pursuit of Christ leading me into a simple lifestyle and most likely missionary work overseas. I envisioned purpose coming from 405 orphan children who called me, “Auntie.” I envisioned living in a remote area and tackling daily needs like washing laundry in the river.

Well, here I am almost 10 years out of high school and I’m taking stock on some of those simplistic 18-year-old goals. And here’s a bit of what I found (this is where the mathematician can offer to co-write a book with me on this).

The question of calling and vocation is not as simple as what you’re most passionate about or even what you do best. The question of calling is understanding who God is and then figuring out how you can be most productive in giving Him glory.

We are called – each of us – to know God and to be most productive in giving Him glory.

And this is where I got really confused. I was figuring out my “calling equation” based on the lives of some of my heroes + what I thought was the ultimate act of service + my willingness to spill out joy wherever I went. I thought it could look a lot of ways, but it certainly looked like me being willing to do anything – even hard things outside my gifts and passions.

The problem was that, as I grew to know God better, I started to feel like I wasn’t the most productive. I was doing everything required and meeting the expectations at my jobs, but I always had this itch to read books and talk philosophy and wrestle with the lyrics of songs and dialogue about the cultural implications of our increasingly secular secondary institutions. I wasn’t really ever with dirt on my elbows in the trenches, though I got as close as I could wherever I went. I did always end up creating newsletters and forming committees and counseling colleagues and developing countless proposals for new programs.

There was a knot forming in my gut and I’ve only now just named it: I’m not using my gifts.

Can I survive anywhere? Yes.
Will God allow me the joy that overflows in any situation/vocation/career? Yes.
Do I bring the same amount of glory to God, regardless of vocation? No.

We cannot be “above” or “below” a vocation – we can only be more or less productive. I know of many God-fearing executives or administrators who are not most productive for God’s glory in their position. They were “promoted” to that status because of their work ethic as employee or teacher – because that’s where they were most productive. I also know of high-powered executives who think they can easily translate their business sense into the trenches kind of work, but they become less productive in the process.

At the end of the day, I can give you a physical number to prove my productivity. I can give you students registered, emails sent, orders completed, papers folded, printer crises averted, and invoices sent. I’m strictly talking tangibles (I hope I will always be productive with the conversations and the laughter and the little ways to shine light in dark places).

But, the question is not, “Am I productive with whatever is before me – with energy and joy and a servant heart?” The question is, “As I know God better, am I being most productive in giving Him glory?”

Maybe the reason we keep getting tripped up on this productivity thing is that we don’t hold our vocations to a higher standard. We think we’re off the hook if we’re not “called” into a position at a church.

But, we are all called. Luther said,

“Monastic vows rest on the false assumption that there is a special calling, a vocation, to which superior Christians are invited to observe the counsels of perfection while ordinary Christians fulfil only the commands; but there simply is no special religious vocation since the call of God comes to each at the common tasks.”

We are all called to know God, find out what pleases Him, and delight to please Him together with the Body of Christ. This is not ministry, it’s life. As we walk out our calling, we’ll find that what pleases Him is excellence. Some of us will be excellent at Excel documents and some of us will be excellent at growing bananas and some of us will be excellent at conversation.

I think (mathematician, will you check my work on this?), that if the Body of Christ resolves to know God, find out what please Him and delights to please Him together, we will end up divinely appointed in every vocation, with a productivity that would shock the most lucrative corporation.

This is the importance of being productive.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

serious about sin | serious about joy

I’ve been accused of being too serious.

Does that surprise you, friends of the blog-o-sphere, with all my stories of falling down and loving laughter and chasing raindrops? Does it surprise you that people think I’m too serious?

I’ve learned that not everyone likes to read books stuffed full of long syllabled words and very few people want to ask if those long syllabled words would ever change my plans for the day. And I get it. Sometimes, I forget that “taking a genuine interest in the welfare of others” means doing things that matter little to me because they matter much to someone else. Sometimes, I act like the child who once told me, “Please stop doing anything that you like.” Sometimes, I find myself in a self-righteous wrestling match because I think, “Shouldn’t we all be serious about the things of God (even if it means strings of long syllables)?”

And then I think about the children who came to Jesus. They probably had a hard time pronouncing their Rs and words that started with C. Their understanding of love and grace and kindness didn’t come from a study of thick textbooks.

I imagine they did have a certain seriousness about them, but not the self-righteous and learned kind.

I’ve seen this seriousness play across children’s faces in the most solemn moments, when the line between right and wrong is being drawn on their hearts and in their heads for the first time. I can hear the nervous claims coming out from wide eyes,

“She took it from me and I yelled at her.”
“But Mommy said to never go in there…”
“Why doesn’t the man have food?”
“I hit my brother.”
“Laney took a cookie.”

You can hear them, can’t you? The confessions and questions come out slowly and with those little eyebrows arching high to scrunch the forehead.

There is a seriousness about children when it comes to sin that I think wears off as we age. We get comfortable with the idea that we fail and we get tired of the wide-eyed confessions.

But there is something very sad about being cavalier with our sin, an emptiness apathy and disregard can’t replace. Have you ever stuck around after a child does mini-battle with the questions/confessions above? Do you see what happens?


When they recognize how serious it is to sin, they are freed to be truly joyful. There is nothing hidden. Their (or human) failure is exposed and there is nothing left to rationalize – just space to revel in the gratitude that they are forgiven, accepted, invited, loved.

I’m currently reading both Leviticus and Galatians and the contrast is captivating.

We serve a serious God. Sin is not a Sunday School lesson. The hoops the Israelites had to jump through on account of their sin were certainly not neatly wrapped up in a 20 minute moral lesson. The rules and regulations set up a healthy fear of the Lord and a distaste for anything that divided their relationship with Him. Sin is serious. I cannot imagine living in that time. I mean, I’ve tried imagining it and I nearly always end up pleading with the Lord to be a little more understanding. But, the Lord keeps reminding my heart, “Sin is serious.”

Then, I flip to Galatians and just want to dance. If I have the right (serious) view of sin, my salvation is like dancing with the cast of Fiddler on the Roof as they sing, “To Life, to life, l’chaim!”

I am free. Free!

How is it that children get this – that we got this as kids – and adults don’t?

If sin is serious, then so is JOY.

We were brought OUT of serious darkness and INTO serious light.
Why is it so hard to understand that a frivolous position on the former means a frivolous position on the latter?

It’s true, I can be too serious sometimes and I’m rightly called out when I’m trying to puff myself up. But, brothers and sisters, can we agree to build up the Body of Christ by being serious about sin so we can be serious about joy?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy