For every single one of us, life has not turned out exactly how we planned or thought or maybe even hoped. Even if you are happy with how things have turned out, or even if you are doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to do, the journey to this point has undoubtedly been different than you expected. And so it is for me.
In less than two weeks I will be leaving my current job at Verizon and will begin a journey to plant a church. Ever since I was 19, I felt lead to do not just pastoral ministry in general, but specifically plant a church. But the path to this point has certainly been different that what I had expected and even wanted.
It started off well and what I would consider “on-track.” As soon as I graduated from UNC-Wilmington I started on my Master’s degree in religion through Liberty University. My wife and I were also involved in planting a church where we both were able to gain a ton of invaluable experience doing the very thing we felt lead to do in the future.
For the first year of the church plant I volunteered all my time, and the second year I was paid as a part time staff member. This coupled with my seminary studies was great; everything was going how it should.
And then I started looking for my “next step” in ministry. Preferably a full-time ministry job hopefully at a more established church so I could see what things were like in the beginning with a church plant, and see what things were like once a church becomes more established.
This is where my journey to church planting shifted from how I thought it was supposed to go.
Long story short, there were a couple potential landing spots, but none of them ended up coming together, and with my part-time internship ending I need to find a full-time job. Any job.
But nothing was working out. After two and a half months of looking I couldn’t get a job anywhere (que so many twenty-something’s saying amen!).
Though I (and Christina) grew up in the Raleigh area, neither one of us had any desire to move back here. But that began to change, and I was able to interview for and get the first job in Raleigh I applied for (Verizon).
Now I was very grateful for the job, but also disappointed that I wasn’t doing what I felt I was supposed to do: vocational ministry.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
What I thought was a roadblock in getting to where I was trying to go ended up being the best thing for me. Now what I am about to say applies directly to me, God leads and uses all of our paths and experiences, but for me to be most effective I needed a “normal” job.
The traditional path to pastoral ministry is college – seminary – ministry, in that direct order. While people are not any more sinful than people 50 years ago (for example), American morality on what is openly accepted has certainly shifted. And what I think many people miss today on the traditional ministry path is being able to be around “normal” people.
By normal I mean a non-Christian bubble. For most Christians, the majority of their friends (close friend at least) are likely to be Christians. When you work at a church, for example, that means you work with Christians and spend your free time with Christians. It’s just really easy to disconnect from the “real world” and miss out on what many non-Christians think about things, how they think about things, and what they struggle with most. Especially when you go from a largely Christian friend group in college, to a largely Christian environment in seminary, to a Christian workplace in many ministry positions.
Had my journey to church planting and my soon-to-begin church planting residency not included my time in the real world, around real people, at a secular job, I would have missed out on so many lessons that will be crucial in the ministry years to come.
I can now relate to those who are in jobs that don’t necessarily like, or are in the middle of trying to figure out how God can use them in this particular season or situation in their life. To be honest, if things had gone how I thought they should, I would be so much less equipped for ministry.
Plus, I am really thankful for the relationships I’ve been able to build and the friendships I now have because of my time at Verizon, even though I am happy to be moving on.
I share my story to say that in the end, when (not if) things are going differently than you hoped, it’s important to remember we have a God can use any situation for our good and his glory, even the most difficult ones.
Proverbs 21:31 says “The horse is made ready for battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” This is saying that we can do any and everything we can to try and be successful in anything, but it’s God who ultimately brings or withholds that success.
For me, I was trying to do all I could to prepare myself for ministry. Yet if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have even prepared my horse right! I needed God to steer me into Verizon, and whatever victories may come as a result of that in the future belong to him, not me.
It’s our job to ready the horse, but it’s God who turns it into a victory.