Ministry, Money and the Call of God
Before I entered full-time “paid” vocational ministry I worked in the financial industry. My job was challenging, and presented problem solving opportunities each week. Our division was situated in the fixed income department of a large NY company, and my responsibilities centered around originating loans on commercial real estate assets that we later packaged as securities with other loans to sell in the secondary market. Most of the time the work was intellectually stimulating and full of potential for both success and failure. Travel was regular and it was always first class. As in Ritz, Four Seasons, and hot chocolate chip cookies sitting in a posh reclined leather seat gently reaching a nice cruising altitude.
Notwithstanding the industry’s ups and downs, most Decembers welcomed a year-end bonus. Those checks were like cold lemonade on a scorching hot summer day.
I remember the first year that my bonus cleared. Life was going to be different. School loans were going to be paid off. We purchased our first house, and began setting aside for a rainy day. We were getting ahead. Many years of school, toil in studies, and labor in establishing relationships were starting to pay off. It was like oil liberally placed on the gears of grinding steel.
That was my life for almost 3 years. The next three years were quite different.
About half-way into year 3 the economy heaved from the shock of the subprime resi-backed securities. It was around 2009. Our industry jolted and we felt the tremors throughout the company.
I’ll never forget the first round of layoffs…I can see them like they were yesterday. One box (phone) after another rang. It was the walk-of-shame to the division head’s office to receive the pink slip and a cardboard box. One-by-one those poor souls were escorted out of the office with their personal belongings in their freshly creased cardboard boxes. Heads held low. Some angry. Some sad. Some confused. Some scornful.
It was my first experience with this industry, but it wouldn’t be my last. More rounds came, shuffling employees within the company then ensued, and finally the dust settled.
A new routine took shape, and I settled in. Year 5 had passed, and the time for year-end salary discussions was coming up. I was called back to the division head’s office to discuss my pay structure for the upcoming year. It was a disappointment. Fortunately, I had my job, but the meeting this year was different. The money was still good, my future seemed bright within the company, but my heart had grown cold to not only my profession but the trajectory my life was taking.
There was a stirring in my soul that I could no longer suppress.
One thing led to another, and I took a different turn than normal at the fork in the road. I applied to seminary, began classes, and yoked myself with Denton Bible. It was Tommy Nelson’s heralding of God’s Word that moored me to this church.
Now, over 9 years later working full-time at Denton Bible Church, there are many things I’ve learned. Here are a few:
- While money greases the wheels of life, it doesn’t give you a mission for life…
- Most people will never (and should never) do what I did by leaving their careers and pursuing a full-time paid church position. However, according to Barna most Christian’s (as in 72%) do not see their workplace as their mission for advancing God’s kingdom.
- Thus, many Christian’s don’t have purpose in their workplaces, become disgruntle, and find myriad coping mechanisms to survive the onslaught of life.
- The Bible has a better word, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24
- The Church is full of sinners both inside and outside the camp, and I am the chief among them…
- There two main camps of people who look at the Church. The first group does so with rose-colored glasses. The second group does so out of their rear-view mirror. Both are wrong. Both are naive. Both are preparing Christian’s for a sad day in the future.
- Thus, many Christian’s leave the Church over hurt experienced within, and many Christian’s never get too close to the Church (i.e. pew sitters), and thus think the pastor, the leaders, and janitor hung the moon.
- The Bible has a better word, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is the source not your pleasures that wage war in your body’s parts?“ James 4:1
- Every Christian will give an account of their life, and it’s never too late to yoke with God’s kingdom agenda…
- While we give a head-nod to the reality of death we often live as though it will never come. Think about the eating habits, distracted habits, and driving habits of most people. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that many Christians aren’t opening their Bible’s everyday.
- Thus, people pursue the world. They pursue happiness now. They neglect the more daunting faith-requiring aspects of the Christian life and end up like the child CS Lewis references in The Weight of Glory, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.“
- The Bible has a better word, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…” Hebrews 5:12-6:1
God help us.
“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.”
2 Corinthians 5:9-10