The Journey Home. 1

I like the story of Joseph.  He was like the believers version of the Terminator.  He just kept coming back- no matter what.  I’m sure this was a huge frustration for the devil.  However, when I get to Heaven I want to let Joseph I’ve got him beat.  At least in one area.  He was in prison for two years.  Try seven.

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As strange as it sounds I’m glad the elders of Memorial Drive fired me.  I needed to be fired.  Sunday I told Terry I’m ready to stop talking about what happened seven years ago.  He knows what I mean is I don’t need to talk about what happened seven years ago.  By God’s mercy I truly feel healed.  It’s a great feeling.

Being fired was good for me in that it closed the road ahead.  I needed to go in another direction, but didn’t  know that.  Basically from the time I graduated from high school until the day I was let go the only thing I had ever done for a living was ministry.  For me this was not a good thing.  I say for me because I know many good men who have done the same thing and they do just fine.  Great even.  It’s not my right to impose my life’s journey as a standard for my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Anyway, the path of ministry I lived nurtured some harmful habits and attitudes.  It erected a wall between myself and the very ones I wanted to help.  I just wasn’t able to deal with reality as many of our people in pews deal with reality because I had never lived their reality.  I don’t think that’s a good thing.  For example, all kidding aside, I’ve been part of conversations where we express exasperation with those who sit in the back pews.  Really that’s our way of saying a person is not very involved.  Which means they are not involved in the programs we invented to get them more involved.  It never dawned on me they might be sitting on the back pew because they were so lacking in energy after a draining week the back pew was as far as they could get.  So to speak.

Jesus worked a job for years before His ministry truly began.  Maybe He had that partly in mind when He said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden.”  Living and providing for a family can be exhausting.

I’m glad I was fired because working outside of ministry taught me the skill of submitting.  Ministry is a strange beast in some ways.  A minister is a spiritual leader, but a minister is also an employee.    Ministers aren’t often supervised on a daily basis the way most of the people sitting in their pews are.  Those people have very little control over their schedule (unless they quit).  Employees have to be at a specific place doing a specific task by a specific time day after day for years.  Employees have also surrendered their autonomy in other ways.  Quite simply if an employee wants to keep their job then they have to do what they are told to do no matter how they feel about the assignment.

A good employee is one who does what they are told.  I learned that at McDonalds.  As an employee of churches I became cocky – I felt the higher call (as if providing for a family was lesser. it’s not) of ministry set me apart from the mundane reality faced by billions of people every day –  I became resistant to supervision – I resented anyone who would try to interfere with my schedule – I justified spending lots of time at home or doing my own thing elsewhere because I was up late the night before with someone or had a class to prepare – If I was late getting to the office no big deal.  I was a minister not an employee.

Most of you know- no one likes co-workers who treat their jobs that way and no one could keep their job for long with this sorry attitude.

Think about elders.  They carry many of the same burdens ministers do.  Like ministers they sometimes keep late hours for Kingdom purposes.  Like ministers they are present at most church activities.  Like ministers they counsel members.  Like ministers they teach.  Like ministers they have to listen to the complaining (sometimes about the minister.)  Like ministers they are often entrusted with burdensome information concerning the sheep.  Unlike ministers they are directly responsible to the Chief Shepherd for the well-being of His sheep.  Unlike ministers they are not paid for any of these services or duties.  They accomplish everything they do in their ministry AND work full-time jobs.  Not to mention the energy and devotion needed for their roles as husbands and fathers.  Even more astonishing, unless they were secretly given time altering devices by the Holy Spirit, elders have the same amount of hours per week as do ministers.

Before I was fired my attitude to supervision was to dig in and resist.  I had to be fired in order to learn the proper response is, “Yes, sir.”

I offer an opinion so take it for what it’s worth.  I’ve been to preaching school and graduated from college with a Bible degree.  In all the hours I spent in school never not once did we discuss the employee to employer relationship between ministers and churches.  I don’t think that’s good.  Someone needs to design a course to address this issue.  It could save a lot of heartache and confusion.  Or maybe every minister should be required to work at McDonalds for a semester before a degree is granted.

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3 Comments

  1. Wow Craig. That’s a lot of courageous confession on your part, and it hits me where I live. I too have learned to be grateful for my experience (I resigned before they could lower the hammer, but trust me, it was coming). Stepping into the “real world” has been a painful, challenging, stretching, and ultimately rewarding experience for me. Unlike you, I still struggle with nursing some old resentments. I did nothing but ministry from the age of 20 until I was 29, and sometimes I feel like it was all for nothing ~ I wonder if I had any long-term effect in anyone’s life and I certainly didn’t have anything to show for it in my own life. At least that is the way it looks sometimes. I guess that I need to give it over to God, not just one time but every day. Thank you for being an example to me and so many others. For what it is worth, your intact faith and grace inspires me.

    You have been equally courageous here in admitting your struggles. Bravo! Mostly, I want to tell you the years you spent in ministry were not in vain. It’s just that sometimes we can’t see the results as clearly as someone who builds walls for a living. The Holy Spirit isn’t stupid or powerless. Be assured He was up to something in your ministry- something real good. If anything maybe He was using your ministry to minister to you for purposes yet to be revealed. That’s kind of exciting- sort of like living in an excellent mystery book. I will pray for you to be able to quit nursing those old resentments. I will be your friend. I will rejoice with you when the day arrives on which your heart feels the way your head is telling it to feel. Meanwhile, I will love you “as is.” As does Jesus. Thank you for loving me the same way.

  2. I think you are right about living in the real world…but I don’t think it is exclusive to ministers, even though you all do live in a little more sheltered environment. I think every college graduate should be required to work at McDonald’s or Burger King (my job) for at least 6 months. I learned more there than I ever did in a class room. And I think I am a better worker because of it.

    I appreciate your honesty and your “realness”. I know God will use it to his glory.

  3. Well said Craig. I too have been in both places as a full-time minister and as someone who worked in the secular world. During those times away from ministry I missed it terribly! I too sometimes bristle at being supervised when it’s needed! Thanks for reminding me of the need for humility and the need to remember that other people work just as hard if not harder and still “do ministry” in their own way.


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