"Help! I did not expect ministry to look like this!"
When I was asked by the team to write this blog, that was my exact thought: “Help! I did not expect ministry to look like this!”
Disclaimer: I don’t profess to know the whole works, and experiences definitely vary between individuals. I find it terribly challenging to pen these thoughts down as I still consider myself fairly young in ministry, compared to the many who have given their lives to serving God (who are way more qualified to write this), but I hope what I’m about to share from what I’ve learnt during my time in full-time ministry would bless some of you who are praying about or are in it.
Full-time ministry was not something I considered going into while growing up. Having known family and friends in ministry, it never looked easy (or fun!). Audio was a growing passion and fast becoming something I could see myself doing for many many years. I’m not sure when it happened that I started desiring to use the things I’ve learnt to serve full-time in a church or ministry, but when I ORD-ed (left the army), I sent out my resume to various churches. I was eventually ‘picked up’ by “Oops!Asia” and that was my entry into full-time ministry.
June this year would mark my 9th year in ministry. Were these 9 years as I expected when I first stepped in? Definitely not.
I’ve heard people ‘glamourise’ full-time ministry:
“Wow! You get to serve God full-time! It must be fun.”
Great, and mostly true, but they only paint the side of the picture the public sees. The common reality is usually one that involves wearing multiple hats and handling multiple responsibilities, and no, not all of it is “glamorous”.
Not every organisation or church is able to hire extensively and fill every role and need. For example, here at Awaken Generation, all full-time staff do dual roles - one on the ministry front, and one on the organisational front. I handle all things Sound related, including teaching and running a stream, and I also manage the facility and logistics (making sure there is an adequate supply of drinking water and toilet paper).
“Wow! You get to do music full-time! Such a good life.”
Other ‘realities’ and challenges I faced are with time and finances. There are busy periods and then there are waves-crashing-on-all-sides-thunder-lightning-hurricanes-perfect-storm seasons.
A friend once joked that in ministry, there is no full-time or part-time, only over-time. And we (have to) learn to ride the waves and the seasons.
Finances are challenging for me as well. This would almost always be challenging especially for those starting out, but it is also a journey of recognising God as the Provider. Is this the best-paying job? No, but it definitely is worth it. Our “yes” to God should not be laden with conditions and ideal situations. If He calls, He will enable.
“It must be easy working in a church, everyone’s a Christian.”
And yes, while everyone is (probably) a Christian, everyone is also a human being with flaws and weaknesses, on their own journeys, learning to manage their own struggles, occasionally celebrating victories, sometimes losing the plot a little, still having bad days amidst other good ones, and overall basically, still human. I hope you get my point?
The Reward is Better than the Sacrifice
A group of leaders visited Bethel Church in Redding and got to spend some time with the Bethel leadership team. During a Q&A session with Ps Bill Johnson, he was asked how they did it - travelling for long periods of time, long hours, late nights, and all while having kids and thriving families. Bill Johnson’s answer was that they would tell their children all the time that the reward is better than the sacrifice.
That statement stuck with me. Every one of us needs to remind ourselves that the reward is better than the sacrifice. And the reward can mean many things and come in many forms.
The reward of souls saved.
The reward of lives transformed.
The reward that awaits us in eternity.
And I believe very much as well, in the reward of God’s Presence and Hand on our lives. My pastor shared recently that the Levites (full-time temple workers) were not allocated a plot of land as their inheritance. Instead, God would be their inheritance; God Himself was their portion.
The Call of God
My last point is this, what is God’s call for you? Full-time ministry today doesn’t just mean working in a church or a Christian organisation, it doesn’t mean getting paid to do ‘Christian work’. I strongly believe that full-time ministry can and must look like each of us picking up the mantle to ‘go and make disciples’ wherever we are called to.
What is the posture of our hearts?
"Help, I did not expect ministry to look like this!"
‘Ministry’ here can refer to a whole array of activities, people groups, job scopes, and so on. When we say ‘yes’, let’s not enter each season with an expectation of the experience and outcome, but rather be expectant that wherever the Lord calls us to, there He will be, and where He is, He is enough.
June this year would mark my 9th year in ministry. Were these 9 years as expected when I first stepped in? Definitely not - they superseded any expectations I thought I had.