For the first time in more than 25 years, I have a job that requires me to punch a time clock. I have been a salaried employee since I graduated seminary in 1991. It’s just the season of life that I am in, and in this short time it has been good for me to experience life outside the ivory tower of church life. So below are a few things related to ministry that I am learning during this season on life.
1. Spare time is precious. A lot of us who have been privileged to work fulltime in ministry for a living forget what it is like to punch a time clock. Trying to work a trip to the barbershop, the bank, the post office, and to the store to get something for Gina for Valentine’s Day became an adventure. Things I would normally do at lunch, or on my way home from work, had to be planned around a nine-hour workday. Then to get home and go back out for a meeting at church, or miss dinner with my family to go gives me a whole new appreciation for the volunteers in our churches who do this week-in and week-out.
2. Bi-vocational ministers are the bomb. In addition to working at Lowes, I am also serving as the part-time, interim education minister at Parkland Baptist Church in Louisville. I am enjoying this immensely, and I am getting the opportunity to get involved in areas of ministry that I haven’t had an opportunity to as an interim pastor. It has also given to me a renewed appreciation for men and women, like Chris Salyers at First Church, Myra, or Michelle Paschall at Memorial Church in Murray, who work fulltime and do ministry out of a sense of call that is not necessarily tied to a paycheck. Just trying to arrange my schedule to accommodate being off all day on Sundays, Wednesday nights and Monday afternoons for staff meetings took some doing, and a very understanding HR person.
3. Lost people do exist. Don’t get me wrong. I knew this, but working outside the walls of a church or denominational entity has put me working alongside non-believers. The opportunity to work closely with people who don’t share my beliefs, aren’t receptive to hearing the gospel, don’t pray before they eat, and don’t have any scripture memorized, has been a reminder that a whole world of people exist who I haven’t had regular contact with in years. There are a few key words and phrases used that I haven’t regularly heard in years. For some, there has never been a time in their life where a church, of any flavor, has been relevant in their lives, and they don’t see it ever being—no matter how many catchy sayings we come up with.
4. There are Christians living their faith in the workplace. It has been refreshing to see Christian workers talking about the faith to co-workers. They aren’t beating them over the head with the gospel, sharing the four spiritual laws or the FAITH outline, or condemning them with a bullhorn, but they are engaging them in conversations about life and church and God, attempting to be salt and light in the world. They are living a life worthy of their calling, and leaving room for the Spirit to work.
5. We need to do a better job or preparing our students. The need for discipleship is huge. But I wonder if we are preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist, because those of us that work in the ivory towers of churches don’t know the world that does exist. I remember thinking as a naive 20-something that a minister ought to every seven to 10 years have to go work a real job.
The world is definitely a different place than the church, and sometimes it is good to come out of the ivory tower and see what life is really like. Maybe we should even follow the lead of Jesus and eat with the sinners and tax collectors.