About five months before I graduated, I had a sobering realization. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. Naturally, I freaked out. I had spent time, effort, and money to study business because I thought that’d be a solid and useful degree to have. The problem was, I had nothing lined up. Now what?
Once the anxiety settled, I decided to go to the beach to spend some time seeking answers from God. I remember hearing very clearly, “Robin, I have called you to leadership and ministry.” I wish I could say that going to God with questions always resulted in an answer, but for me, this was unique and it was exciting.
Over the course of the next few months, I received multiple affirmations and clarifications of this time with God through continued prayer and conversations with leaders from my community. This snowball continued to roll down the hill as I ended up being accepted into a pastoral leadership internship for the summer, and was offered a full ride scholarship for seminary starting in the fall. Before I knew it, I had chosen to embark on a journey that I had not previously anticipated.
Now, I share all of this not to boast, but rather to bring you up to speed. This is precisely where God began to deconstruct my perception of ministry and build a new passion for seeing people step into their own ministry narrative.
You see, as I told people my story, I felt pretty exceptional. I thought that this story had major implications about how great I was and how special my calling was. I also thought that it meant that I was being called to some higher role than most people, as if mere opportunity could be counted as success. It fostered a sense of elitism in me.
As I went through seminary, though, and as I served as the junior high youth pastor at my church, I could not help but see God reveal a different narrative. I heard stories from my classmates, my students’ parents, and from people at my church about how God was using them in their workplaces. I saw a single mom working as a real estate agent pray with her clients when they faced hardship amidst finding a home, a classmate tending to people’s souls as a counselor, and a church member working as a motivational speaker to educate youth and leaders about drug and alcohol prevention. I became very encouraged thinking about how God’s love was permeating places I did not have reach.
As any Wesleyan seminarian would be, I was very concerned about making the lessons we taught our students practical. I would emphasize what an impact they could make in their schools, with their friends, and even in their homes. As I watched God minister through them, I was forced to drop the idea that ministry was only what certain “called” individuals did.
Thus, the myth of going into ministry was debunked. I’ve come to find that pastoral leadership is an expression of ministry, just as working at a department store or as an engineer is. I was not great because I had certain opportunities fall into place or because I was training for a specific vocation. I was and am great because Jesus considers me worth dying for.
In actuality, the phrase “going into ministry” is best used when talking about the choice to give one’s life to Jesus. So, in a sense, it is what called individuals do. It’s just that all are called to follow Jesus, and choosing to follow Jesus means choosing to go into ministry!
Through this clarified understanding of ministry, God really began to build my passion to see all members of the Body of Christ to live out their unique and necessary expressions of ministry. Imagine what a city would look like if every member of every congregation saw their workplaces and homes as ministry!
As church leaders and pastors, we have the exciting opportunity to facilitate the ministry of each member of the Body of Christ. I propose we ask more questions, questions such as, “In what kind of work do you find the most joy? Which of the world’s problems compel you to find solutions? What people group do you have compassion for?” and follow their response with, “ I’d love to disciple you in bringing your passion and love to that area of our community.”
Careful, though, the answers to those questions may shake things up. If they do, it would not be the first time poignant questions transformed a community!