When I was twelve years old I felt a pulling on the inside of me, a drawling toward faith and service to God, a Calling. Since that time, the Calling has pulled and pushed me in one direction – ministry. I went to Bible College straight out of high school – over 400 miles away from home. I met my wife at Bible College, although we did not date until after graduation. After I graduated Bible College (a two year school), I stayed at the local church associated with the school as a volunteer drama minister leading a team of 20-30 young adults and youth. One of the youth on my team was the daughter of the man that gave me my first job working with computers.
After several years working a ‘secular’ job while volunteering as a minister, I began to feel disconnected with my church – the leadership had changed several times, my college friends had all moved on to jobs out of state (in ministry). At the same time, I had excelled in the IT field, advancing my career to Senior Engineer with several accreditations. I even earned two separate pay increases of over $10,000. My wife was able to become stay-at-home and I owned a condo on the west side (rented out), as well as a home on the east side. Ministry was becoming a bust while my secular career was taking off.
I felt empty. There was a round of lay-offs at my job that included my boss, the man that got me the job so many years before. I wasn’t in fear of my job, in fact quite the opposite; I felt more secure than ever. But, I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. Stephanie and I were beginning to feel isolated. We were hundreds of miles from either her family or mine. I started to pray “God, if I can’t be in a job that matters, at least get me near people that do.” Don’t get me wrong, we had a few friends. In fact, I was closer with Jason than ever before.
But with Zander, we needed to be near family. So I continued to pray, “God, if I can’t be in a job that matters, at least get me near people that do.” Then I got a phone call from my Dad here in AZ. His church was looking for a youth pastor and they paid salaries that would allow me to keep Stephanie at home. It seemed like an answer to my pray in spades. I was going to be able to move near family, while also being in a job that mattered. I applied for the position. I spoke with the pastor and I really believed I would be packing soon.
One year later still in Columbus, I began to look for ‘secular’ employment in Arizona. Even though I didn’t get the job at my Dad’s church (an internal reorganization eliminated the position), I had been able to meet with the Pastor and I really felt like I clicked with him. I wanted to be near family, and I needed to get out of those cold Ohio winters, but what really drove me were the few minutes I spent with that pastor.
I mentioned a new church that was being planted in Phoenix during our meeting. He didn’t look concerned about what type of church it was, or how close it would be to his, reactions I have seen many pastors have when faced with a new church in town. His reply – “Awesome, we need more churches in the valley.”
For those who don’t know me, I’ve always felt my Calling to be particular in its location – East of the Mississippi, South of the Mason-Dixon Line, North of Florida (I’ll save explanations for another post). Phoenix is not east of the Mississippi. I have never felt drawn to the valley for any ministry related reasons, until the moment this pastor said “Awesome”. The Pastor went on to tell me that the valley was growing, doubling even in the next five years from five million to ten million people. I, still living in Ohio at the time, went home and began praying for the valley. I wanted, even felt I needed to serve this Pastor as I had faithfully served my pastor in Columbus.
I interviewed for a few positions here in the valley and was offered a position as a contractor where I work now. Again I excelled at my secular position, while attending my new church. Stephanie and I got involved with the leadership class offered at the church (required before you can volunteer). At the same time, my job offered me a full time spot on the team as an employee, which I took. And now we get to the point…
Which road? Which path? I’ve often heard it said “If you can live and do anything else, stay out of the ministry!” I have known I was called to ministry since I was twelve years old. I told my mother when I came home from youth camp and she was excited about it, until I told her I felt called to pastor. I’ll never forget her grave reply, “Dale, it takes a special person to pastor.” I often teased her that I thought was she saying I wasn’t special, but in reality I knew what she meant and why she felt it important to warn me.
I went on to Bible College because of the Call. I met my wife because of the Call. I even got my start in IT because of the Call. And now, I’m in AZ because of the Call. A Calling that I don’t know what to do with. Which road? Do I pursue my Calling or my Career? Do I continue to push myself at work, or begin to pull myself toward God? I know there are those who would say, “why not do both” – but those who ask that don’t understand the Calling. At least not the way I feel it. It either-or, a zero sum game, one side wins, the other loses. I will do one or the other. Attempts at both cause my failure in both. When I excelled at my job, I dropped the ball in my position at the church. When I focused on my position at the church, my job began to mean less and less to me and I started to drop the ball there.
The Calling has guided my life, but my career has driven it. Which Road? Which Path?