Life’s Too Short – Called to Ministry

After feeling a “call” to the ministry, I left my home church to work and serve at a church in Alvin, Texas (a town made famous as the home of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan). At the age of nineteen, I found myself with the title of “Pastor to Youth”. Here I was, a kid leading kids.

This experience was the equivalent of being thrown in a pool to learn how to swim. I was fortunate to have interned at my home church for about two years (after graduating high school) and to have had constant interaction with my Youth Pastor. I would call him weekly, sometimes daily, basically borrowing all of my ideas and plans and making them mine.

I remember my first parents meeting. Parents were asking me questions, grilling me, challenging me… man, was I out of my league. I had never been so scared in all of my life. Looking back on it, I realize that it might have just been my immaturity that made that experience seem so daunting, but nonetheless, I pretty much wanted to quit every Monday.

After leaving Alvin, I became youth pastor at a church on the west side of Houston. It was perfect because it was closer to the University and it paid me enough that I could live on my own. I was now 21 and it was at this time I truly began to find my stride and somewhat come into my own.

At First Baptist, I also encountered a healthy dose of church politics. During this time (circa 1986), the debate was raging among Southern Baptists regarding the “inerrancy issue”. Was the Bible the inerrant, infallible word of God? My pastor held to a very strict view of this on the side of “inerrancy” and clashed with some members of our congregation over it.

There was quite a battle. Several long (some lasting several hours) deacons meetings, church meetings and staff meetings ensued. Petitions were passed and signed to remove our pastor from office. The pastor used his pulpit to reinforce his viewpoints and defend himself. The schism grew wider and wider as the church staff, the people, families and ultimately our church divided over the issue.

On one Sunday morning, our entire staff (sans one) stood and resigned together. We left and started another church and had our first meeting that very night. It was very sad. It was a divorce. No one wins. Everyone loses.

What I found is that most of the people really didn’t care about the inerrancy issue. I didn’t. They cared about “being right” or being on the “winning side”. The entire thing was driven by a handful of people on both sides of the issue. Church splits are caused by Stupid Church People. They are caused by ego-driven people trying to get their own needs met. These are the epitome of SCP moments.

Although painful, this set in motion my desire to truly discover what church was meant to be. I began reading books (even non-Southern Baptist books – oh my) about church structure and dynamics. This event resulted in me eventually leaving the church to go back to school full-time to earn my degree. Good things did evolve from those painful experiences. I went to different churches, watched and met with other church leaders, listened more and spoke less. It was a time of growth and personal development.

But the “call” to ministry in my life remained strong. I am not sure entirely what being “called” means. My “home church” pastor told me before ordaining me that if I could do anything else other than be a pastor I should do it. He said I would know I wasn’t “called” if I felt it was “just a job”. He also told me to never quit on Mondays.

The “call” is hard to explain, but I hear others use it outside of ministry. It is being passionate about something, having to do that “calling” above all else. I wanted to be a pastor, but I didn’t want to waste my life fighting in church meetings, running from petition signers and battling deacon boards. There had to be a better way, a different way…and there was (well sort of).

16 thoughts on “Life’s Too Short – Called to Ministry”

  1. Don’t read anything into this, but if pagan Joseph Campbell backed into the true meaning of calling, then what does it mean to be “called” to Christian ministry?

  2. I agree that all people are “called” to a certain ministry, the question becomes whether it is vocational or not. And a job in vocational ministry is different than other jobs because you can offer all your time and energy directly into people’s lives. This is what makes vocational ministry appealing.

  3. “I wanted to be a pastor, but I didn’t want to waste my life fighting in church meetings, running from petition signers and battling deacon boards. There had to be a better way, a different way…”Man, that’s EXactly how I feel/felt.

  4. At the risk of responding to this blog when its already dead and done here goes..Most people say to find your calling you need to find what you love. Too bad they dont know what the hell theyre talking about. The real way to determine your calling is find out what makes you angry. For some its people going to hell, for some its social injustice, for Jesus it was the religious people so he ended their shit. For Moses it was slavery.. you could go on about the prophets.Just another idea. But another idea moving past the “just find what you love” nonsense.hugs and kisses,DSW

  5. I like the comments your pastor said to you… “if you can do something else, do it”, and “never quit on Mondays”. I think this is great advice. It is actually something I share with others considering working in churches. Working in a church is difficult because we are in the “business” of helping people understand what it means to live like Jesus, but because we are all in the process of figuring that out, we all tend to do things from time to time that leave a bad taste in our mouths. I could do other things, but the truth is that I like working in a church. A lot about it can be frustrating but ultimately, that doesn’t make me like this job less.

  6. <>What I found is that most of the people really didn’t care about the inerrancy issue. I didn’t. They cared about “being right” or being on the “winning side”. The entire thing was driven by a handful of people on both sides of the issue. Church splits are caused by Stupid Church People. They are caused by ego-driven people trying to get their own needs met. These are the epitome of SCP moments.”<>Personally, I don’t think anything you’ve ever written captures the essence of StupidChurchness like this paragraph.

  7. The call to ministry I see which will be the end of me(which is ok)is proclaiming to people that they do not have to sit and listen to these people that use the Bible as a weapon to beat them down, oppress others and support their insane views. If the message is not authentic, real, life-giving then it’s wrong. We must be honest that we don’t have all the answers and we are in the dark on many things.

  8. That was a little unfair. Let me ask it another way: do you think that the God of the Bible has a blissful path of calling for all people, regardless of belief? Could this be an aspect of grace extended to all humanity?In other words, could God have called Joseph Campbell follow his bliss to write and teach on mythology–when Campbell includes the Bible in the category of myth?

  9. Your story is encourging. The conversation has given me a lot to think about. I think agustine said something about the church being a whore and “my” mother. So take heart, SCP have been around a long time.

  10. To clarify… I think all believers are “called” to service (i.e. ministry). However, here when I use “called” I am referring to full-time service where one gets paid or compensated. For me, the “call” felt crystal clear at the time, yet I am wondering how much of it was due to the sub-culture I was immersed in at the time. Still not sure how it all works, but this is my journey… maybe I will find out in the end. Maybe not.

  11. Your statement: “The ‘call’ is hard to explain, but I hear others use it outside of ministry. It is being passionate about something, having to do that ‘calling’ above all else.”…reminds me of this…“If you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” [Joseph Campbell]This is living out a passion… a call… in “ministry” or outside of it…

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