Ministry myThoughts

A Choice Between to Paths

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?

4 replies on “A Choice Between to Paths”

I really and truly wish I had the wisdom to give you the advice you need. I have and am facing the same decision. I love my job but I don’t feel like I am complete unless I am sharing the gospel. I will continue to pray for you but you should probably talk to someone wiser than the blogosphere.

Cousin, about ten years ago I went to a job interview at the request of a friend. When he asked that I take the interview I told him that I was happy where I was and that I was interviewing only as a courtesy to him. He said fine.
I took the job, with no increase in salary, for the sole reason that the people I saw in the hallways on interview day appeared happier than the people I had been working with. I became happier too.
As time passed I realized that that company was doing something that mattered, opening the door for millions of people to a new way of communicating and connecting. We were actually making it easier for other people to do what mattered to them. The company, the people we served, my coworkers and myself had quite a few good years and made quite a difference in our world. I felt that part of my task in all of this was to reinforce for my coworkers the significance of what we were accomplishing as a group.
My hope is that part of my success in that task derived from my conviction that we were all human beings — those who worked with me and those we served. Perhaps that made a difference. When someone in the billing operations area (my department) needed put in a little extra time, maybe, just maybe, she was able to think for a moment about being a significant part of the whole combine that allowed a new mother to share pictures of an infant with a shut-in grandmother. Maybe we made our product a little easier to use so that a father with a lot on his mind would be able to do some work quicker and get to catch his daughter’s soccer game. Maybe by being civil amongst ourselves we were able to help a customer service rep have the attitude that soothed a frazzled customer and helped her do what she felt was important.
To some this will seem like a bunch of secular humanist hooey. Okay, I can live with that. As I can live with the fact that through our service Focus on the Family (an organization with which I share few ideas) made connection with many people it might not have touched otherwise.
But what does this have to do with your present dilemma?
In 1972 Rev. Stewart Wes said to me, “If you can do anything else, do it” in response to my question to him about life as a minister. Familiar, eh? As you know I found other things to do. But I still got to do most of what I thought at that time made up the life of a minister.
I have touched people and been touched by them. Some burdens I have shared, some I have lightened. At times I have carried light to those in darkness. Occassionally I have administered a nudge, or more rarely a rebuke. I have asked friends, coworkers, and sometimes strangers to keep their eyes on the big picture, to behave as though they were on missions. And to love their neighbors as they do themselves.
Still, how does this illuminate your dilemma?
It really doesn’t. Your dilemma is yours, not mine. There is only one thing that matters at this point: no matter where you find yourself, find a way to love your neighbors – fellow humans near and far.
I wish you well, Dale, and have every confidence that you can make a difference, for Christ if that is what matters to you, wherever on this planet you find yourself.
God Bless, and a Merry Christmas to you, Stephanie and Zander.

P.S.- Nice Christmas tree!

On a completely different topic: How can I make a paragraph break in this editor? I am so jealous of all of your nice paragraphing!

When I write the blogs – it does it for me. But in the comments you may need to use html tags to get the paragraphs.

I would think that a less than sign followed by a p then a greater than sign should do the trick to open a paragraph and a less than sign followed by a backslash followed by a p then a greater than sign to close the paragraph.

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