You know I started ministry in January 2002? I know, I know, I look way too young! But that means:
I just finished 16 years in ministry! The crazy thing is that, like most of life I think, they just flew by! You imagine that 16 years would seem like a long time, but it feels like only yesterday that I was sitting at my very first desk in the back room of a downstairs storage area, with the cactus that my girlfriend had given me (she’s now my wife), and trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing.
I have worked in 4 different churches over the last 16 years, and the jobs that I have done have been wide ranging and fun, but also challenging. I have learned a TON about what it means to serve in the local church, and to ‘be’ in ministry, in an official, vocational capacity. Note: All of us are called to *a ministry, but there are those of us who are called to particularly vocational or employed ministry.
What I thought I would do is to have a series of posts that reflect on 4 different things that I learned each week, so after 4 weeks we would end up covering one thing from each year that I have been in ministry.
I’m going to follow these up with some video posts, just revisiting each of the different lessons that I learned in a little more detail, focusing on one point in particular, or drawing out a specific theme that I feel is important. So make sure that you join me on this journey over the next month.
You made it this far! So here is a bonus thing that I have learnt over the last 16 years that has kept me sane when things have not been easy (if you want a bonus-bonus, there it is, things will NOT always be easy in ministry). This one is not on the list and so it is a true bonus thing:
You Are Called Into Ministry
This may sound like a ridiculously obvious thing to put down, but, in my own personal experience, it is amazing how many people want to get into paid, vocational ministry simply because it is the ‘cool thing to do’. People see the pastor up on stage, he has the pulpit, he has the power, he has the respect, everyone likes him, he’s cool, he has a great relationship with God, he’s got life together, and that’s who they want to be like. Or they look at the worship pastor, or the youth pastor, and see the same stuff, a coolness, a desire to be in the spotlight, to feel like they matter, and so they decide to go into ministry.
They don’t think about all of the crap work that goes on before the Sunday service. All of the things that they perceive about the minister, or anyone who works in a church, are not as amazing as they think just from observing them for 2 hours on a Sunday. The pastor is up on stage, BUT he doesn’t have power, not like we think about power these days, he doesn’t necessarily have the respect of everyone, certainly everyone doesn’t like him, he’s probably not cool by some external, arbitrary standard, and his relationship with God may not be perfect, and he certainly doesn’t have life all together or figured out!
Ministry is hard work, and it’s not just about what you can see at a Sunday service, it is about far more than that. I have seen so many people who thought that working for a church was a great thing, and they lasted months before they got bored, or didn’t get the opportunity to be up front like they wanted, or didn’t get validated because they were held to a standard of quality that they could reach the first time (who can!?), and so they quit.
In those moments, if you KNOW deep in your being that Jesus has called you into ministry, then there is nothing that can make you quit just because it gets too hard. Jesus is the solid rock, the foundation upon which your participation in the ministry is founded, and so if you don’t have that assurance that God has called you, then make sure you do, because you will need to go back to it many times over the years to reassure yourself that you are in the right place.
Question: If you are thinking of going into ministry, how might you take the time to discern if God has called you there? Who might you talk to for confirmation?