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Sat Mar 08, 2014
It’s Not a Job When It’s Ministry
When I first left the business world to work for the church in 2006, people thought I was crazy.
At the time, I was president of a successful company that was a piece of cake to manage. My life was quiet, comfortable, and easy. I wasn’t looking for a change. Why give up CEO status to be an executive pastor at a church?
For me, the answer was simple (if not easy): God called me out of a job and into ministry.
The difference between job and ministry represents the dividing line between hirelings and shepherds: those who work because they get paid by the church, and those who work because they love the church. A job is a paycheck. Ministry is a calling.
8 Signs It’s Just a Job
The nature and reality of our calling should be sobering for those of us working for the church. So are you treating it as a job or as ministry? The following scenarios are meant to help us evaluate our motives on an ongoing basis in order to remain faithful to Jesus and our church.
- If your primary motivation is to pay your bills and provide for your family, it’s a job. If your primary motivation is to serve Jesus and be used by him as he builds his church, it’s ministry.
- If you want praise and recognition for your work, it’s a job. If no one else besides Jesus needs to commend what you’re doing, it’s ministry.
- If you want to quit because your spouse or kids have a difficult time with you working for the church, it’s a job. If your family understands that serving in a local church is difficult and costly for everyone, and if they count the cost and invest in it with you, it’s ministry.
- If you envision yourself in another job or position outside the church, it’s a job. If there’s no other place you would rather be, it’s ministry.
- If you do the job as long as it does not cut into other things (hobbies, family activities, etc.), it’s a job. If you are willing to give up recreation in order to serve, it’s ministry.
- If you compare yourself with others outside of church staff who have more free time, more money, and more possessions, it’s a job. If you pray for people outside of church staff and want Jesus to bless them, it’s a ministry.
- If it bothers you when the phone rings on evenings and weekends, it’s a job. If you see random calls at odd hours as opportunities to help with gladness, it’s ministry.
- If you want to quit because the work is too hard, or the pressure is too great, or your performance is criticized, it’s a job. If you stick it out, no matter what happens, until Jesus clearly tells you that it’s time to go, it’s ministry.
At the end of the day, if what matters most to you is that people meet Jesus, get saved, and transformed to be more like him, then your work is ministry and we praise Jesus for you and your service to him and his church.
Uh-oh. Now What?
Some people on church staff will read the list above and realize they’re treating ministry like a job. If that’s you, here’s what I suggest:
- Pray. Ask Jesus what he has for you, and then spend many days just listening.
- Talk with your pastor. If you’re treating ministry like a job, work together to come up with a transition plan.
- Know that it’s not a sin to not be called to full-time ministry. But if you’re not called, you’re taking up resources and staffing space for someone Jesus is actually calling.
- Church staff is not for everyone. If you’re not called to full-time ministry, then don’t take the job. The work is too hard, the pay is too little, the hours are too many, and the family sacrifice is too great. There is no reason to bring on the pain unless you are called.
- Consider other ways you can vocationally help the church. Start a company or a nonprofit to do what you want to do in such a way that helps the church and glorifies God. Many organizations serve and provide very helpful services to the church that are not full-time ministry. This can be a win-win, but be careful not to use the church to line your pockets.
- Find a secular job. Look for something that pays well and gives you the flexibility to do your thing on their time.
I’m In! Now What?
After all of this, if you still believe Jesus is calling you to ministry, ask him if he’s also calling you to serve on a church staff. If that’s the case, here’s what’s next:
- Pray some more. Ask Jesus to clearly direct you in what to do next.
- Prepare or consecrate yourself. Begin immediately a season on preparation or “consecration” (Josh. 3:5). Include your spouse and allow Jesus to strengthen your marriage and prepare you both through prayer, fasting, and meditating on Scripture. As you do, repent: the Holy Spirit will reveal sin and idols along the way. The goal is to pull close to Jesus, focus on Jesus, and listen to Jesus.
- Meet with your pastor. Ask for material for reading, study, and mediation. Ask him, “Where do you see weaknesses in me and in my marriage? Where do I need to grow?”
- Discuss the calling with your family, especially your kids. Pray together and ask for their commitment to wait and hear from Jesus.
- Actively serve as a volunteer in your local church. Don’t wait to get hired. Start serving today! Look for areas of need rather than ways to further your own agenda or build up your spiritual resume. Let Jesus direct things.
- Learn. Apply for an intern or a program like Re:Train. Take advantage of the wealth of Christian education resources online.
- Wait for Jesus. If it’s a calling, Jesus will give you clear directions.
- Seek confirmation from people who know and love both you and Jesus. Talk to pastors, deacons, leaders in your church, etc. Confirmation can come from anywhere, so be open and receptive, but always “test the spirits.”
Finally, if you are called, be encouraged that Jesus Christ has called you to serve him in the local church.