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Thinking about 'Ministry'

17 July, 2006 9:14 AM

A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with a guy that I'd not seen for a few years. Last time we saw each other I was working part time for a fairly large church as a youth pastor and was studying theology with the rest of my time.

As we chatted and caught up he mentioned that he'd heard that I had 'left the ministry'.

It was an interesting phrase - one that I'd not heard for some time and had not considered as applying to myself.

We chatted about what I was doing now and despite my best attempts to explain the processes I've been through in the last year or so he seemed to be disappointed with my decisions. I got the feeling that he saw my move from being a paid minister as being something of a failure or a loss (not his words - but his tone of voice and words indicated that it was disappointing).

I've been pondering this quick conversation (it ended prematurely as he had to go) ever since - not because it upset me in any way (it didn't) but because I'd not really considered anyone else had any real feelings about my journey and I found it ironic that others see my move from paid ministry as being a loss of some kind when I actually see the move as helping me to do more effective 'ministry' than I've ever done before.

Now I don't want to critique anyone who does 'paid ministry' - I've got nothing against it at all and think it's appropriate for many people. God's used people who work full time as pastors, missionaries, ministers etc for centuries and I'm not about to write that off. Ultimately discerning sorts of decisions and calls are between an individual and God (within the context of the wider Body).

However the last couple of years of my own journey has taken me off the path of paid ministry and into a territory that both has excited and (if I'm honest) has terrified me. Having spent 10 years of my life working for churches and studying theology I've entered the ranks of the self employed small business owner.

I don't want to sugar coat the last year or two - the transition has not been one without moments of doubt and disappointment. There have been moments when I've wondered why I studied theology for so long to end up in business, there have been moments when I've felt guilt about earning an income that is quite a bit more than my part time student minister salary and there have been moments where I've wondered whether blogging as a job is as worthwhile an activity as working in a church preparing sermons or visiting congregational members etc.

However amidst the moment of doubt are glimpses of purpose, meaning and confirmation that we're on a good path. As I ponder the experience I can't imagine life in any other way than it's unfolded so far.

I've alluded in this article (and elsewhere) to the idea that I feel like I'm doing more effective mission or ministry now than I ever used to do as a paid minister. I've had people ask for examples of this since last time I made the statement and have struggled a little as to whether it's appropriate for me to share them. My struggle is two-fold:

1. I've become increasingly uncomfortable over the past couple of years of telling the 'success stories' as people in ministry. I'm a little torn on it to be honest. On the one hand it's great to be able to share what God has been doing around us and how he's calling us to join him in that work. On the flip side I sometimes get the sense when I'm seeing people talk about such stories that they are presented in ways that are more about celebrating the work of the person telling the story than in celebrating God's work. I also worry a little that there is an element of telling war stories and not really honoring the fact that we're talking about real people who deserve respect and privacy. To be honest I'm not sure where I stand on sharing examples except to say that I'm not completely comfortable with it.

2. The second reason I've resisted sharing examples is that most of my interactions with people in my business are in the online medium. While there are increasing opportunities for face to face conversations and relationships - most of what I do happens via email, instant messaging and blogging with people who are very tech savvy. To share of what I see God doing in these interactions not only feels odd in terms of honoring their stories (point #1 above) - but it also feels a little bizarre as the examples I could give of what's been happening could well be ready by those I'd be writing about.

So I've resisted the calls for specific examples and stories and hope in doing so that I don't offend or frustrate anyone.

What I will say however is that I continue to find God working around me.

Here are a few general thoughts that come to mind in terms of some of the lessons I'm learning:

None of the above is rocket science. Most of it I've known 'in theory' for many years - but it's only been the last few months that I've begin to understand some of it. I'm still working it out and much of what I'm learning is solidifying in my mind - but the journey is fun so far.

Comments

Page:

Darren,

One way to look at our mission here could be described as "influencing people for Christ and the Kingdom." Personally I think by that definition you are likely doing quite well by the King.

You have a very wide audience and with that audience comes influence. It is a responsibility, no doubt. But God is the master equipper, and He has equipped you with wisdom and humility.

I am also glad that He brought you to where you are because I am learning tons from you. Both about blogging and about ministry. Thank you for following the passions that God wired in you and helping folks like me along the way.

Chris Cree » 17 July, 2006 12:10 PM

Thanks for this entry Darren. It really encouraged me in my journey.

I too have been thinking about ministry and how it is lived out. Previously I thought - right you go to Bible college and study theology and then you get a full time job in ministry.

These days it seems (for me anyway) that ministry is more about life and sharing your journey with others. Interacting with people and pointing them towards God and encouraging and helping each other along the way. As you said, "Preach the gospel - necessary use wods"!

God Bless,
Dave

Dave Quinn » 18 July, 2006 2:22 PM

Thanks for this entry Darren. It really encouraged me in my journey.

I too have been thinking about ministry and how it is lived out. Previously I thought - right you go to Bible college and study theology and then you get a full time job in ministry.

These days it seems (for me anyway) that ministry is more about life and sharing your journey with others. Interacting with people and pointing them towards God and encouraging and helping each other along the way.

God Bless,
Dave

Dave Quinn » 18 July, 2006 2:39 PM

Darren,
It's been a while since I stopped by the livingroom...glad to see you're still doing well. Thanks for this post...my wife and I are on a similar journey after having been in "full-time ministry" for almost ten years it seems that God is calling us to a different form of ministry/church/vocation/calling/etc. I've also been amazed at how this affects those that I know and love - I've got two brothers-in-law that are still in a paid position so it's a little weird when I talk about the new journey. Anyway, thanks for the view from down the road!

Peace

chris » 22 July, 2006 5:37 AM

Thanks for that. Encouraged me today. (Picked up up the link from Paul Fromont's blog)

Stephen » 26 July, 2006 9:36 AM

Hi. I was sent the following article in the Australian Prayer Network newsletter. It says a lot of the same stuff you are saying. It seems that God is whispering these things in people's ears in many places and denominations. How exciting to be part of a new journey of mission.
Linda
NEW WINESKINS FOR THE 21st CENTURY CHURCH
An article written by Terry Sommerville. http://www.totalchange.com/

Over the past year or so, I've been contacted by a number of friends, telling me they are no longer pastors of local churches. What's interesting is, their stories all have recurring themes.

1. Not one of them has fallen away from the faith. Some have various stages of "church burnout", but they are increasingly passionate for Jesus. Some noted a "divine discontent" about local church ministry that wasn't there ten years ago.

2. They were all growing steadily frustrated trying to fulfil the great commission in their local church. Even though they were the pastors, they kept hitting some sort of barrier to bringing about change.

3.They are all experiencing powerful moves of God in various "mini-movements" outside of the local church.

4. They grew increasingly convinced that the front line of Kingdom ministry was no longer inside the walls of their churches, but in the marketplace. (Not just businesses, but the sphere of influence Christians have in every aspect of the community)

5. Even though they encouraged their churches or denominations to embrace what God was doing, there came a point where faithfulness to God meant they had to leave the local church ministry to continue.

6. They don't know what to do right now, except some sort of work to pay the bills. But there is a great sense that something new is emerging and they don't want to miss out.

7. They continue as leaders and five fold ministers set in the body of Christ. Christians continue to seek them out for ministry!

A few years ago my wife, Karen, had a startling vision. She was standing at the edge of a great green land stretched out before her. In her arms was a bundle of rolled up maps. The Lord said to her "You might as well throw away the maps, you are going into a new land and no one has been here before."

According to revival researcher Alistair Petrie, this trend is a world wide phenomena. We are coming through an amazing transition into the last days church. There are no maps for this, only for our relationship to the Lord and each other. We are seeing some indicators of whats coming in the end times church. Let me share a few things I see developing.

1. Christianity is shifting from the head to the heart. Being "in love with Jesus" is replacing doctrinal statements as the distinctive trait of Christians in the end times church.

2. The Body Of Christ is becoming based on relationships rather than organization. Friendship is more important than membership.

3. True spiritual leadership will operate through honour rather than control.

4. God's love anointing (His presence and power in us) will replace the spiritual performance mentality (my ability in the spirit) as the source of Christian life and ministry.

5. The Great Commission is replacing the denominational "mission statement" as the believers goal. We are realizing God is not obligated to our mission statements, but always backs up His!

6. Christians are finding their individual ministries in spiritual "mini movements". These movements have become the front line for advancing the Kingdom of God. This is the beginning of the "nameless, faceless revival' prophesied so many times.

7. Local churches that facilitate mini-movements will be blessed and flourish. The vision will be "taking the Kingdom out" to change the world, rather than "bringing the people in" to grow the church.

8. The end times church will "use buildings and organizations and have events", but will never serve these idols again. Only Jesus Christ is Lord.

9. Christians again understand "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" and communicate it with relevance everywhere.

Source: Open Heaven.com

Linda » 3 August, 2006 8:43 PM

Darren,
I was having a coffee and read your article. Thanks for the honesty. I really appreciated what you had to say.
It comes to me at a time when I am also looking around at what to do and what ministry God is leading into.
I agree about the telling of "sucess" stories and have been uneasy about that for a long while.
Your points to ponder are great.
And the journey is one of the most important aspects of the way we relate to each other. Discovering the real person behind the facard I put up and allowing others to experinece the journey as I travel is a geat insight.

Thanks again and remembering you in the new task you have of being a father. That can be a great blessing and joy as well

Bruce

Bruce » 15 August, 2006 4:38 PM

Darren,

Thanks for this very heartfelt post. I enjoy hearing your thoughts on life's journey.

Jason Heath » 2 September, 2006 3:30 PM

Darren,

I understand what you are saying. Though you have experienced the aftermath a good deal longer than I have. I feel nervous looking into people's eys and explaining to them why, after such a great education, I am not candidating for a ministry position anymore.

Kevin

Kevin » 10 September, 2006 7:05 AM

How are you defining "Ministry", Darren? I see God's work in every word you write - your ministry is alive and well as it evolves with you as you grow.

I don't think for one moment you have walked away from anything. I guess a better question would be, what have you walked TOWARDS as you have made these career decisions that has actually brought you into more holiness? How have you expanded the definition of God's teachings by expanding who you are, and by expanding your global reach?

And finally, to address "there have been moments when I've felt guilt about earning an income that is quite a bit more than my part time student minister salary" - I get to type up one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela:

"We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world" :)

I didn't realize we had so much in common until I saw this side of you. You have my unconditional support and you can count on me if you ever need anything. Period.

Wendy Piersall » 16 September, 2006 3:40 PM

How are you defining "Ministry", Darren? I see God's work in every word you write - your ministry is alive and well as it evolves with you as you grow.

I don't think for one moment you have walked away from anything. I guess a better question would be, what have you walked TOWARDS as you have made these career decisions that has actually brought you into more holiness? How have you expanded the definition of God's teachings by expanding who you are, and by expanding your global reach?

And finally, to address "there have been moments when I've felt guilt about earning an income that is quite a bit more than my part time student minister salary" - I get to type up one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela:

"We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world" :)

I didn't realize we had so much in common until I saw this side of you. You have my unconditional support and you can count on me if you ever need anything. Period.

Wendy Piersall » 16 September, 2006 3:41 PM

How are you defining "Ministry", Darren? I see God's work in every word you write - your ministry is alive and well as it evolves with you as you grow.

I don't think for one moment you have walked away from anything. I guess a better question would be, what have you walked TOWARDS as you have made these career decisions that has actually brought you into more holiness? How have you expanded the definition of God's teachings by expanding who you are, and by expanding your global reach?

And finally, to address "there have been moments when I've felt guilt about earning an income that is quite a bit more than my part time student minister salary" - I get to type up one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela:

"We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world" :)

I didn't realize we had so much in common until I saw this side of you. You have my unconditional support and you can count on me if you ever need anything. Period.

Wendy Piersall » 16 September, 2006 4:31 PM

How are you defining "Ministry", Darren? I see God's work in every word you write - your ministry is alive and well as it evolves with you as you grow.

I don't think for one moment you have walked away from anything. I guess a better question would be, what have you walked TOWARDS as you have made these career decisions that has actually brought you into more holiness? How have you expanded the definition of God's teachings by expanding who you are, and by expanding your global reach?

And finally, to address "there have been moments when I've felt guilt about earning an income that is quite a bit more than my part time student minister salary" - I get to type up one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela:

"We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world" :)

I didn't realize we had so much in common until I saw this side of you. You have my unconditional support and you can count on me if you ever need anything. Period.

Wendy Piersall » 16 September, 2006 4:31 PM

Gawd sorry - I think you have a scripting error or something because I kept getting a message saying the comment didn't post.

!!!

Wendy Piersall » 16 September, 2006 4:33 PM

Darren,
I'm a regular reader of Problogger, but this is the first time that I've clicked over to this blog. I want to tell you that the impression I have of you from Problogger as a sincere, intelligent and generous person has been strengthened by reading your thoughtful post above.
p.s. I'm the annoying problogger reader who offered an unsolicited lesson on it's vs. its :)

Barbra Sundquist » 20 October, 2006 5:55 PM

thanks Barbra - nice to see you found this blog :-)

Darren » 20 October, 2006 7:08 PM

This is my first time here and I have to say that your post resonates with things I have been thinking about during the past months.

Interesting how close you can feel to someone in Australia... even if you live in Mexico! :-)

United in Christ,
David Taboada

David Taboada » 11 January, 2007 9:37 AM

Wow Darren. I can relate some (I don't say this to draw attention to myself). I, too, was a student minister, evaluating whether I was to be a pulpit minister at all in the United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA. Almost seven years ago, I decided against it, and now, after graduating from seminary in 2000, I teach biblical studies at a Christian, independent, college-prep school in Atlanta. My husband and I talk about what being a minister is all about. And really, ministry is service. Service is not always in the church. In fact, ministry in church is often preaching to the choir. There are lots of hurting people out there; people who the church is not reaching, and they're dying out there. I started my blog knowing that, even though I decided not to go the ordained route, what I'm doing is ministry. It's more behind the scenes. And it's okay. I'm enjoying it.

The other thing, though, is that the financial blessings you are receiving through your ministry are from God. In my mind, you are providing a great service to the blogosphere; I know you are providing a great service to me. And you do it with such incredible integrity and sincerity (it's even amazing people can discern this just reading your blogs). People can trust you immensely. People know that when they come to your sites, they will receive honest advice. We don't even get that from churches very often. And what you do is such hard work (I've only started my blog in late November and I work full-time - this is a lot of work, with only one blog, but I expect it - you prepared me for it actually in a few of your posts). You deserve to be financially rewarded. God is blessing you.

You are reaching many more people this way than you probably would doing pulpit or traditional ministry. As I tell my own students, doing God's will does not mean just preaching in a church or teaching bible study or engaging in mission work (which are all very important). God places you where you are, and you let God work through you where you are to impact people's lives. You are doing exactly that. Please keep on, and don't feel guilty at all!

KWiz » 19 January, 2007 7:58 AM

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