Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ministry

While attending Bethany I was appalled by the stats on how many (few?) grads remained in ministry 5 or 10 years after graduation. I thought, honestly, that there must have been something wrong. Maybe they didn't understand their calls. Maybe there was some sort of moral failing. Maybe they just had the wrong attitude, something.

And now, I am a Bethany grad who is no longer in ministry. Heck I'm not even a member of a church right now (tho I am still a regular attender).

I was in ministry. I was passionate about what I did. I had plans, I had a vision, I had dreams. I prayed and wept and worked and was kept up at night by a burning passion.

And now I'm not sure if I'll ever do full time church ministry again.

It puts me in an awkward position. I know my call - to serve God and draw others towards Him. I know my gifts. I know my passions, my strengths and weaknesses. And I can't see any of those things fitting together in a church.

Ministry is a hard vocation. It's hard to measure success. We talk about deep spiritual things, about bringing people one step closer to God, about the importance of authentic community. And still at the end there is a need for numbers, for measurable growth, for something tangible beyond receipts from a coffee house.

In the time since going to Bethany I've seen the harm that the church can cause in a person's life. I've heard stories and witnessed things that made me not want to identify myself as a Christian so that I would not be grouped with the people who had caused such unnecessary pain. The problem with being Christ's hands is that we are seen as such more when we hit than when we heal.

The last year or so has lead me down an interesting path. Not a crisis of faith really, my faith in God, my dependence on Him, my security through Christ has never been clearer in my mind. It's more a crisis of church, of belonging. I feel I don't fit anywhere.

Still, at the same time, in this past year I feel I have done more, learned more, and reached more than I have in years. There has been no agenda, no reports, no requirements, nothing to prove to anyone. There was no time wasted avoiding the judgment of people who know better instead of serving people who don't. There was an understanding, a surprising realization that no one really expects my perfection. That in my weakness He truly is strong.

So I'm one of "those" - the ones who for some reason just didn't cut it, didn't make it in ministry. But that doesn't mean that I am not doing the work of the Kindgom, or that I have failed in the task that God has given me.

4 comments:

Mommy Rader said...

Oh, Steph I can completely (well maybe not completely but pretty darn close) identify with your heart. While I know our situations are a bit different it seems as though the ways people are hurt remain the same. Being a pastor's wife has brought some interesting challenges and surprises AND opened my eyes. It's hard to put into words but you've done a pretty good job!!

Weavers said...

I admire your courage, and Im proud of you.

Elizabeth said...

Steph, I've loved our talks on this subject and also admire your courage and passion.

glo said...

and I also find my self here, or on my way to being on of those people