I heard somewhere, I think from Andy Stanley, that there are two reasons for deciding whether you stay or go in a ministry position. Stay if it is easer to go, or go if it is easier to stay. It has to do with where your faith is. In ministry and life, if you are too comfortable and therefore complacent, it could develop into apathy. Christian apathy is a problem.
The reason is because you are not fulfilling the calling God has given you to be the church, make disciples and loving God and others with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Apathy is not caring, so acting without caring is hypocrisy. We should step out in faith, into the unknown (que song), to rid ourselves of this kind of poison.
I recently went through this personally, then with my family. I was complacent in my job and so I prayed, “God change me or move me.” He ended up moving me, or he opened up a door and I walked through it in faith.
I was scared, and I second guessed my choice because the next step I thought I was taking fell through. I haven’t landed at the position that I am supposed to be at long term. However, what God has provided me is the time I need to focus on my family.
There have been a few times in my life where I have realized I cannot both do the ministry I was asked to do, and focus on my family well. That is another reason I ask myself the “stay or go” question. My job was easy to stay in, but it came at the expense of my family. However, leaving brought uncertainty, unknown, and fear. With that, I found God had positioned me in an unknown spot so that I could take care of my family.
I definitely do not always do this with the best attitude, I do not respond with joy as I should. I find myself kicking and screaming, wondering why things are not clear anymore. What I do see are small signs along the way. I may not be in the same job with a clear sense of purpose, but I am going the path of faith which is sometimes blind.
God is providing for us financially, education for my children, recovery for my soul, and unity with my wife and kids. My family’s sense of purpose is what has changed. We are all headed somewhere together. My success is not found in my own personal calling because my calling is in the wellbeing of my family.
Paul said to Timothy that an overseer, a church leader, must first manage their household well (1 Timothy 3:4). Paul tells Titus that an elder’s children must be believers as well (Titus 1:6). Meaning a church leader must lead his family in such a way that his children respect him and want to follow the God he does. His wife respects him because he has loved her well.
Leading Your Home
My time in full-time ministry will come again, but God in his infinite wisdom is having me prepare my family for that time to come. Not that I was not pursuing this before, I just know it can be done better. I want to model it for those I lead and for that to happen I need the time to mature as a husband and a father before God brings me to where I will lead others well.
For now, I will learn to love my family in the way that they need me to, not just in the way I can in the moment. I want to give them the best of me, not just what is left over. I want to serve God because I am called, not just because I need a job and a paycheck.
I think God has positioned me to have a side career, pay the bills, and be able to do ministry without the strings of money attached. Paul was a tent maker by trade, and at times would rely on that instead of taking money from the church. I think what I am pushing against is the business side of church. The idea that you have to do what you are told because we are paying you.
Maybe I need to start a ministry that helps pastors transition out better. Help them find their next job after having served for a time with the church they are at. I think a lot of stress comes from not feeling like we can provide for our family and we end up making poor life and ministry decisions.
Getting paid to do ministry for a living, full-time vocational ministry, is difficult. If you go to Bible college, and straight into ministry with no other experience then you end up taking jobs simply to provide for your family and not because of a calling.
Maybe we need to teach young pastors an additional trade, something they can do if they need to take a sabbatical. Maybe the idea of a sabbatical is not a time of doing nothing, but a time of doing something else for work. Then when it is time to return to church ministry, they have not only been able to relate to the people they are leading but they do not feel like they some how owe the church something.
Everyone that becomes a Christian is in charge of the church body, not just the pastors. Everyone becomes a leader, not just the paid ones. I think we also need to create more opportunities for people to lead others. Allowing mature Christians to mentor new ones would be an amazing program. Different then a home group, men/women’s ministry, or Sunday school. Anyone can walk a new believer to maturity and growth.
How can everyone carry the burdens of each other, not just expect the pastors do all the work. We are all called to leadership, and all of us need to find someone to invest into.
If you haven’t done this lately, hug a student ministry pastor. They are usually in, or just out of college. They are single or newly married. They may have one little one, or a few. They need to be supported and shown how to balance their calling in ministry and their young family.
Often, they probably need to be given freedom to take time off, especially after the summer camp season. Offer them a meal, babysit for a date night, or befriend the spouse of the one staying home with the kids. Support a pastor’s wife and the pastor will feel at ease knowing the love of his life is being looked after by the church.
Our pastors sacrifice a lot, help them be better for their family. In turn, they will be better for the church. May we see ourselves as the Church, and be the church.
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J. Diaz