Should You Leave the Business World for Ministry?
- Monday, July 09, 2007
If you’re working in the secular business world but dream of working for a church or ministry instead, does that mean you should quit your current job and cross over? Not necessarily. God may be calling you to change careers, but first, you need to investigate the possibility.
Here’s how you can discern and respond to God’s call for your career:
Rely on God to lead you to the best job at the best time. Know that God will take your unique mix of interests, talents, skills, and experiences into account as He leads your career. Trust Him to equip you and use you well. Pray thoroughly about your career decisions, and listen for God’s guidance instead of just following your own feelings.
Be specific. Rather than just harboring a vague desire to go into ministry of some kind, think carefully about the various options and identify a particular type of job that best suits you. Also consider the type of organization for which you’d like to work – a church, charity, missions group, or even a consulting company that works with churches?
Bloom where you’re planted for now. Be faithful in the job you have now before you move on to any other job in the future. Practice ministering to people you know in your current environment. Honestly consider whether or not the call you sense to ministry might be a call not to switch jobs, but simply to become more active in reaching out to people you meet through your current job. Realize that your work in the secular marketplace is just as sacred as traditional ministry if you do your best and work for God’s glory. Ask yourself questions like these: “Who are the people around you at work right now who need to hear the Gospel?”, “If you leave your secular career, what opportunities will you squander that God meant only for you?” and “Does God want you to walk away from the ministry He is developing for you on the job?” Make the transition only if you can’t imagine serving God in any other way except full-time ministry.
Test the ministry waters. Try out some ministry work part-time or on a volunteer basis while still working in your secular job. See if you can be an apprentice to someone who is already working in the type of ministry job you think you may like to have yourself someday. Don’t rush into any changes; take all the time you need to see whether or not that job is a good fit for you (and if not, explore your options by trying out different ministry work while still keeping your secular job for now).
Seek guidance from prayer and the Bible. Pursue the knowledge of God’s will through these two main channels of communication He has opened for you.
Develop personal mission and vision statements. Think and pray about a simple statement that summarizes God’s mission for your life and that’s based on Scripture and oriented on the Gospel. For example, consider how Luke 19:10 summarizes Jesus’ mission: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Then create a vision statement that fleshes out your mission statement into specific goals that define how you plan to accomplish your mission.
Seek wise counsel. Ask people you trust and who know you well – like some close friends or family members – to broaden your perspective as you discern God’s calling on your career. Invite them to bring you back to reality when they think you’re heading off track, and to encourage you to take risks when they think you’re moving in the right direction.
Take your family’s concerns seriously. Talk openly and honestly with your spouse and children about your dreams for your career. Listen carefully to the concerns they express. If your family doesn’t support your potential move to full-time ministry, don’t rush into it. Instead, pass a magnifying glass over your life and deal with the issues you see there.
Consider the opportunities and the costs. Scout out the opportunities before you if you choose to enter full-time ministry, and compare them to the sacrifices you’ll likely have to make. Be thoroughly aware of what you’re getting into, and plan well, while trusting that God will help you every step of the way if He is truly calling you.
Scrutinize your educational qualifications. Realize that you may need more education to be effective in a full-time ministry job. Consider going to seminary, taking online courses, and getting any other type of training that will help you serve with excellence. Learn all you can about the Bible so you’ll have a strong Scriptural foundation from which to work.
Make an informed decision. Keep your vision in mind when making your decision, don’t make it in a vacuum, and make sure that it is realistic, timely, public, and for the long haul.
Trust God and look for confirmation. Wait for God to move in His timing after you make your decision, and rely on Him to arrange all the right circumstances for you to change jobs.
Don’t look back. Once you’ve been released to pursue your new career, don’t let anything hold you back from moving ahead wholeheartedly.
Plan a financial strategy for making the change well. Understand that planning your finances is an act of faith and obedience that demonstrates to God that you’re taking His call seriously. Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to plan well. Trust God to meet all of your needs. Expect that you will likely encounter financial challenges as you move into full-time ministry, and prepare for them. Create a budget. Don’t use any funds from your retirement account to help make a career transition; instead, plan to keep saving money to build your retirement account even when you have less income. Plan on keeping some kind of job while you make the transition. Consider reducing your mortgage by moving to a smaller home. Seek outside financial support for your educational expenses, through your church, personal contacts, seminary scholarships, etc. Carefully plan every step of your transition out of your secular job and into your full-time ministry position.
Figure out how to use your existing skills well in your new job. Refine the secular marketplace skills you already possess so you can apply them to your ministry work. Make excellence your goal in everything you do; remember that anything less dishonors God. Ask God to help you maximize your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.
Confront loneliness. Expect to feel lonely sometimes after you begin working in full-time ministry, due to a lack of privacy and heavy demands that limit your time for close friendships. Ask God to make you aware of His constant presence with you, develop an inner circle of staff or lay leaders, keep your work in the proper perspective as just one part of your overall life. Set boundaries to keep your work from harming other aspects of your life. Observe a weekly Sabbath day. Guard your personal devotional time, as well as time with your spouse and children. Maintain your existing friendships, remembering that your old friends know you better than your new friends do.
Overcome fear. Remember that, with God on your side, you have nothing to fear. Choose to praise God no matter what, even when you’re going through scary circumstances. Pray about each of your fears and surrender them to God, trusting Him to release you from their power over you. Wait for God to answer your prayers in powerful ways. Run away from any sin that’s causing fear in your life and focus on peacefully doing the work God has for you to do.
Deal with opposition. When someone close to you like a family member or key church member opposes your ministry or calling, rely on God’s strength to get you through the crisis and know that He’ll use the experience to strengthen your character and grow your maturity. Remember that people are imperfect everywhere; don’t be surprised when you encounter difficult people and hurtful attitudes and behaviors in the church. Understand issues that commonly cause opposition: change, control and authority, conflict and confrontation, and a lack of commitment to excellence. If you’re sure of God’s calling to ministry, persevere in your obedience to it, no matter what.
Adapted from Career Crossover: Leaving the Marketplace for Ministry, copyright 2007 by Tom R. Harper. Published by B & H Books, a division of B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tn., http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/.
Tom R. Harper is founding publisher of ATMmarketplace.com, president of NetWorld Alliance, and cofounder of Church Central Associates, focusing on church consultant training and church health resources. He lives with his wife and two children in Louisville, Kentucky.
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