Work for God: Called Out of the Ministry
"I think God may be calling me to something different," I said warily to my senior pastor.
"Do you mean something else within the church, or do you think God is calling you out of the church?" he answered.
Later that day, I told my wife about the conversation. "You did what?" she exclaimed. "What if he asks you to leave?"
"I don't think he'll do that." I wasn't certain, but it turned out I was right. Eighteen months later, I stepped out of that "dream" position to follow the call I had been hearing from the Lord.
A short time later, I saw the job opening and knew it. This was the job—a grant-funded position at a local high school, helping students prepare for college. I had no experience and no certification, but God flung the door wide open. That job lasted four years.
When the grant for that position ended, I didn't feel called out. I felt forced out. I searched reluctantly and found a position as an advisor at a local community college.
“Lord, what are you doing?” became a daily question.
With this most-recent change, I struggled with discouragement and even some depression. It hasn't been easy. Here are a few things that God has been teaching me:
Identity is not tied to calling.
God cares infinitely more about my character than my career choices. This seems to be a recurring life lesson for me. It’s hard to learn, especially when you’ve felt called to “The Ministry,” grew up in church, and had a pretty good idea of what that was supposed to mean.
This has been a very challenging season. Even though I understand that my identity is in Christ alone, if I truly believed that in the depths of my spirit, the days where I question what God is doing would be fewer and the days where I actively live by his power would be vastly increased.
Ministry is more than church work.
The call of ministry extends beyond the walls of the church. In his book Organic Church, Neil Cole suggests that the great commission can be translated, “As you go, make disciples … ” It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Making disciples is not just for church workers or pastors. It’s a job for all of us. As we go about our day, our task is to move people closer to God.
We need doctors, engineers, nurses, and even politicians to actively believe and engage in the ministry of their work. There has been this separation between “secular” and “sacred” work for far too long. The Lord sees no such division (except for teachers of the Word—there is a special responsibility there). We are all called to listen and obey the Lord, extending his grace and love to those we encounter daily.
God doesn’t call us to understand; he calls us to obey.
I said this very phrase to others when I was a pastor. It’s easy to say when you’re in a comfortable, secure position. When you wonder what in the world God is doing in your life, it’s a difficult statement to live out. God has used this time to strip everything away from me, even good things, things that could be labelled as “ministry work.”
As God frees me from some deeply entrenched ideas, I’m left with only my relationship with Christ. He is teaching me to walk away from everything that would prevent me from resting in my true identity ... in him.
Work for God
Whatever work you do, it matters to God. And you can glorify God through your work. God doesn't give more points or ascribe more value to pastoral or missionary or nonprofit work. God looks at you and the work you do in your cubicle or classroom or kitchen or conference call, and all of it matters to him. It's not just ministers who work for God. No matter what type of work we do, let's do it to the glory of God. This series, Work for God, reminds us to do all of our work as if we were working for God, because we are.