Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ministry as Hobby?

In my last post, I commented at length on how many different activities currently fill my life, and the similar situation many of my fellow young music educators have. All of the activities, be they career-related, ministry-related, or just a hobby, focus on music. On the whole, the common focus is not surprising – I hold a bachelor’s degree in music, for one thing. But the common focus can blur the lines a bit between those three areas (career, ministry, and hobbies). Let us briefly analyze each possible pairing of the three areas.*

First, career and ministry: there are, quite obviously, countless examples of situations where these two areas are almost indistinguishable. Missionaries and the personnel of churches and parachurch and faith-based institutions and organizations all fall into this category. Though I subscribe to the doctrine of the equal merit of all vocations, I still have immense respect for men and women who devote their careers to full-time, explicitly Christian work.

For me, I have certainly on occasion had my professional skills as a musician put to use for ministry. Church gigs, as we call them, are the most common ways that Christian musicians see career and ministry combined.

Second, career and hobby: How many family-owned restaurants began as family dinners? Indeed, probably most businesses began as someone’s hobby. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg used to tinker with computers and programming and the like, and their combined wealth is probably equal to a small first-world nation.

In this area, I, like most professional musicians, began as a hobby musician. It was the “extra thing” I did in middle school and high school. In fact, I would argue that most people’s career choices are in some way influenced by childhood hobbies.

The final possible pairing is ministry and hobby. Here I think not so much of hobbies that became ministries, but of ministries that volunteers consider hobbies. My guess is that it would be fairly common for the laity to place ministry involvement in the answer to the question of what one does with spare time.

I do not necessarily believe that service in a local church should be the most important part of a layperson’s life. The Lord gifts and calls each of us to different activities in our lives, and for the vast majority of us, it involves some career that is not faith-based, though of course we Christians should bring our faith-based perspective and attitude to those careers (Colossians 3:23-24 comes to mind here).

However, service in a local church should have a certain level of priority. Much as we should give a portion of our financial resources to the local church, and not just “whatever is left over,” we should give a portion of our time and talent. Our day jobs, by which we support ourselves and our families, are important and should take the best hours of our days, but in my opinion, service to the church should definitely take priority over the rest of general leisure time. Such ministry activity deserves conscious effort, thoughtful preparation, and faithful execution. In other words, it is another form of sacrificial giving.

There is nothing at all wrong with finding it relaxing or refreshing to spend a Saturday helping weed the church garden or a weeknight playing basketball with the youth at the church gym. To consider these activities mere hobbies, however, would be to diminish, at least in our own eyes and hearts, their kingdom significance. The context is the key: these activities are significant because they are a service to the body of Christ.

Serving at my local church has been one of the highlights of my first year out of college. I eagerly look forward to heading to the church campus for young adult worship gatherings on Tuesday evenings, or choir rehearsals on Wednesday evenings, or any of the myriad of other occasions I’ve had to get involved.

And it is a different kind of looking forward than that I experience with my hobbies. I was very eager to get writing when I had the idea for this article, for example, and come dinnertime I know I will be looking forward to whatever meal I might cook. But the eagerness I feel for ministry activity is less about enjoyment and more about pure joy. It is the joy of seeing the kingdom (as in Matthew 13) in my own heart and in the lives of the people I serve through various ministries.

Shall we covenant to consciously and sacrificially invest our time and talent in our local churches, for the glory of God and the proclamation of Christ’s kingdom?

This is Rubio, over and out.

*There is a fourth area of life: family. Since I do not have a family of my own (and by that, in this context, I mean an immediate family, separate from my parents and other relatives), I shall exclude that area from the discussion, though of course I encourage readers who do have their own families to consider that area as they ponder this issue.

No comments: