This blog was originally an e-mail send to 1500+ pastors and ministry folks who want to gain marketable skills to supplement their income. You can subscribe here.
Let's talk about calling, what that means and mistakes pastors like you and me make around it.
I'll just reveal my hand first.
I came to age in a conservative, Evangelical world of altar calls, emotional filled youth conferences and I may have said, "with every head bowed and every eye closed" more than once.
Even though I didn't become a follower of Jesus until I was 16, by the time I was 18, I was fully convinced I was "called by God" to be in full time, vocational ministry.
And in my brain, ministry = being a pastor full time in a church.
I knew it would mean forsaking many worldly pleasures but I was ready and after I graduated high school, I packed up my VW golf and drove down to Lynchburg, Virginia to study Youth Ministry at Liberty University. Go Flames!
Much of my education (or at least my interpretation of it) supported my narrative.
Pastors and people in ministry were special folks chosen by God to fulfill his purpose as their vocation and I was one. We had a building dedicated just for religion majors, chapel services designed just for ministry folks and my personal favorite, were the first picks to be spiritual leaders on the dorms by our campus pastors where we received more special classes and training.
The only way I can compare it is this, as Christians, we're all in the military but I as a ministry major, am a Navy Seal.
I am the elite.
What a fool I was.
What shortsighted thinking I had and a small view of God and his plan for my life.
One memory that sticks out to me was visiting another Youth Ministry major in his hometown during one of our college breaks and visiting his church. He introduced me to his former youth pastor who still worshiped in the church, though no longer on staff.
I asked my friend when was got back in the car why he wasn't on staff anymore and my friend plainly said, "Oh he and his wife had their first kid and he couldn't afford to live off a pastor's salary so now he sells insurance or something. Totally forsook God's call on his life."
I didn't think much of it but that was one of many stories that I heard in a similar vein.
Ministry = being a pastor full time in a church.
So then what ends up happening to pastors like you and me is we mature a bit, life gets more complicated and we realize, oh, maybe I can't stay in ministry full time or I don't want to stay in ministry full time and that equates to I am forsaking God's call on my life.
And I hope this e-mail shares with you, that it doesn't.
No longer being in full time ministry does not equal forsaking God's call on my life.
I spent lots of time in therapy processing this thought pattern so let me share some reflection questions that helped me, and I hope they help you if you are navigating a change.
Read at your own risk.
1. The global and historical church is full of examples of part time and bivo pastors, by the logic that ministry is only in full time in a church, what does that say for those heroes of the faith?
2. The vast majority of Christians will never receive compensation from a church or ministry, by the logic that ministry is only full time in a church, what does that say about those faithful believers?
3. Who are some of the people or influences that told you ministry is only full time in a church, and where did they get that information? Could you call them to process your thoughts?
4. If leaving full time ministry is forsaking God's call on my life, how has ministry distorted your identity as a Christian?
5. What are the lies, and half-truths you believe about God that would make you think you are somehow letting Him down if you change / adjust your career?
6. (My favorite, because it hurts) In what ways do you benefit from being in full time ministry that you are unwilling to give up? Ouch!
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