As I wrote last week, God called me to the ministry of the Word of God, and I love my calling. My job, on the other hand, that’s a different story.
What a calling looks like is not static, but often shifts over time. For 13 years my calling found expression as a youth pastor. God did not call me to be a youth pastor; he called me to the ministry of the Word of God. The exercise of the call was as a youth pastor. For the last 19 years God’s call on me has been as a senior, lead, or solo pastor. You’ve seen this, right? You probably know people who served in a local church and now serve in a missions context overseas or who served in a parachurch ministry and now serve in a local church. The calling remains constant, but the expression often changes. The same is true for your calling. It is not fixed. There is movement in the expression.
And that leads me to this thought: while I love my calling, I don’t always love the tasks of the expressions of my calling. Here I want to be careful but also helpful. I don’t want to come off as complaining. I fear that I might. Instead, I want to offer help and hope when the expression of your calling is difficult for you.
- I don’t like begging church members to participate in church life or to come to stuff that’s good for them. For years I’ve instructed younger ministry guys that they will spend much more energy getting church people to participate in church life than they will in the planning and execution of the ministry or the event. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Sometimes I think to myself, “What’s the use?”
- I don’t like the pressure of church finances. When I was a youth pastor, church finances were a blip on my radar. I didn’t concern myself with the accounting of church money nor with the income needs of the church. In my current role, I must engage for the oversight of the church. The problem is I feel woefully unqualified to do it. The reality is I feel unqualified to fulfill more than a few tasks that go with my job.
- I don’t like confronting sisters and brothers-in-Christ about unwise choices that apart from God’s grace will lead to heartache and consequences. Sure, I confronted teens when I was a youth pastor, but often the parents were glad I did! Many times it was parents asking me to talk to their kids. It’s not that way in my current job. In fact, when I ask to get together with someone, regularly they fear the time together, like I’m the mean principal or something. I want people to like me. I think I’m a pretty nice guy. When I’ve confronted people, too often I’ve lost a friend and the church has lost members. It hurts bad.
It’s not easy for me to overcome the challenges of my job. I want to ignore, deflect, or delay each of the tasks. Sometimes I have, and it didn’t work out well for me or for the church. But God gives grace to fulfill my calling in the current expression of it. And he will do the same for you in your calling. For example, if you have kids, God has called you to be a parent. You love being a mom or dad, but some parts about being a mom or dad at the present ages of your kids leave you, as I wrote above, exhausted, feeling unqualified, or deeply hurt. Like me, you love your calling but not necessarily your job. So, how can we respond?
Mental and physical fatigue in my job pushes me to find strength outside of myself. I don’t have any more to give. I am not omnipotent nor do I possess the patience to endure when met with obstacles. I need help to do what I cannot do on my own. What I need is Jesus to provide for me what I cannot provide for myself. I am learning to find in Jesus what I need to fulfill my tasks. I’m learning more about prayer to the Lord and reliance upon the Lord. It’s a slow process, but I think I’m gaining. I hope you can too.
I’m not Jesus and neither are you. I am not fully equipped to execute everything my current job requires me to do. I am not knowledgeable about every matter. I don’t possess the wisdom to make the correct decision on every difficulty or the foresight to anticipate every possible outcome. I cannot fix every problem nor right every wrong. These qualities belong only to Jesus. The recognition of my limitations compared to his boundless person has pulled my worship to a place I had not been before. I hope your limitations in your job cause you to embrace the limitlessness of Jesus.
Jesus loves me. When I experience deep hurt in the responses from people I am trying to help, I am growing in my belief that I am loved by Jesus unconditionally. More to the point, when I sin against my Lord and he loves me still and bears my wound against him, I marvel at his love for me. If he loves me despite the depravity of my actions, can’t I love others when they hurt me?
God did not make a mistake when he called you and me. He has uniquely equipped us for our callings, but that does not mean the jobs that come from our callings will be unicorns and rainbows. They likely will be full of challenges, obstacles, and unsolvable scenarios. When this occurs, we do not abandon the calling because of the job; instead, we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2)”