On the transition from part-time to full-time ministry

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On the transition from part-time to full-time ministry

Post by steve » Mon Jun 20, 2016 10:07 pm

I thought I would share this correspondence with someone who wrote to me today:

Hi Steve

I feel strongly called to minister more than just in my free time. I’ve been doing it this way for several years and now feel led, compelled even, to begin doing more of it. I desire to lead a tent-making lifestyle and am waiting on the Father to show me how He wants to provide so I can minister more often and to more people. But I’m also wondering if He may want me to be open to allowing others to give to me/the ministry so I can do so. Will you please give me some insight into New Covenant ministers, and what it can or should look like for them to minister in a larger capacity than “in their free time”.
I look forward to your reply,


Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing. I don't have any formulas about transitioning from part-time to full-time ministry. I made the transition, in 1983, from twelve years of part-time ministry to a full-time ministry—though I would gladly have done so earlier, had the Lord made that possible.

I did not determine when it was the proper time to move into full-time ministry on the basis of the finances being available. When I was in part-time ministry, it was only because the opportunities and demands of my ministry were only part-time opportunities and demands. I did not think it reasonable for me to expect the Lord to supply a full-time, living wage without my putting in the labor of full-time ministry. As long as I did not have full-time ministry opportunities, I used the time I was not ministering to work for a living. I went full-time into the ministry, without any prospect of increased provisions, only because a full-time (unpaid) ministry opportunity presented itself and I judged it to be the will of God. As the ministry crowded out the opportunities to earn money in a conventional manner, I had to trust that God would supply the lack created by my forfeited earning power—which He has done, now, for more than three decades. I must add that this works best if we are willing to adopt the attitude of Paul, who told Timothy, "Having food and clothing, we will with these be content."

I did not follow a plan or a method in moving into full-time ministry. I have always simply taken the next step of obedience, without considering financial consequences. This is what I understand Matthew 6:33 to be instructing us to do. I generally discovered the next thing God wanted by the providential opening of certain “doors.” I never pursued any major change in ministry. I began teaching, as a teenager in high school, because some of my Christian friends asked if I would teach them the Bible. I began traveling internationally because I was invited to preach in Germany, when I was 19. I started a discipleship school, at age 22—and the Great Commission School, at age 30—because, in each case, a campus was offered to me without charge, when I wasn't even considering it. I began teaching for YWAM, at age 29, because I got an unexpected phone call inviting me to go to Australia. When I was 44, I started "The Narrow Path" radio program at the urging of another broadcaster, who made all the technical and business arrangements for me, allowing me simply to show up at the microphone. etc., etc. I suppose the only aspect of my ministry that I initiated myself was the writing of my book on Revelation and offering it to Thomas Nelson Publishers—but they approached me about my writing subsequent books (two of which I declined). As what I consider parts of my ministry, I sometimes participate in debates arranged by other people, am a guest on other people's radio shows, at their churches and conferences, and write articles for their magazines, only because they contact me and ask me to do so. This is why I am in full-time ministry. I didn't deliberately choose it. It became unavoidable.

It is the Lord who assigns ministries and who promotes and supports them—sometimes entirely by unsolicited gifts, and sometimes by the minister’s laboring in a “real job.” Often the latter comes first and, sometimes, the former follows. If provision does not come at all to support a work, it is not of God.

Though Paul was in full-time ministry from his first missionary journey onward, and though he had the right to expect financial support from those to whom he ministered (1 Cor.7:6-18), he gave several reasons for choosing to support his own ministry by conventional labor, including his not wishing to burden the churches (2 Cor.12:14; 1 Thess.2:9; 2 Thes.3:8), his determination not to give his critics grounds for accusing his motives  (2 Cor.11:12), and also his desire to support others financially (Acts 20:34-35). Additionally, he had no wife or family responsibilities (1 Cor.7:32-33)—allowing him to work a day shift and a night shift (1 Thess.2:9; 2 Thess.3:8)—one in ministry and one in tent-making. At times when Paul could not work (e.g., when in prison), the Lord sent sufficient for his needs though generous donors (Phil.4:10-18).

If God has provided opportunities for you to minister fruitfully with so much of your time that you cannot also hold a regular job—either part or full-time—then I suggest you take that step into full-time service, and trust God for your provision. If those opportunities do not yet exist—patiently wait for them, and earn a living in traditional employment until that day comes.

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Re: On the transition from part-time to full-time ministry

Post by morbo3000 » Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:58 pm


That was so helpful. Thank you for sharing with us.

Since my teens, I've had a calling for ministry, that has never felt fulfilled unless I was a full-time pastor, providing for my family. Though in the positions I was in, I honestly don't feel like I was prepared for the work. Either functionally, nor my character.

More recently, I've simply said yes to ministry opportunities in my church, and started some on my own. The more I do that, the more eventually open up. And I'm learning leadership skills I really hadn't picked up previously, while I was actually in full-time ministry. It seems this season is one of training and character development to mold me into the leader God wants me to be. Your story, and advice, to be faithful with what is in front of you, saying yes where you feel called, and if the ministry outstrips your ability to perform it while working in another field, step into full-time. I think that's great, and will sit in my future plans.

~ Jeff
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

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