For the first time in over 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 currently in, and in this short time it has be good for me to experience life outside the ivory tower of church life. So below is a few things related to ministry I am learning during this season on life.
- Spare time is precious. I think a lot of us that have been privileged to work full time 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 stuff for Gina for Valentine’s Day became an adventure. Things I would normally due at lunch, or on my way home from work had to be planned around a 9 hour work day. Then to get home and go back out for a meeting at church, or miss dinner with my family to go to a meeting at church gives me a whole new appreciation for the volunteers in our churches that do this everyday week in a week out.
- Bi-vocational ministers are the bomb. In addition to working at Lowe’s, I am also serving as the part time interim Education Minister at Parkland Baptist Church here 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 the opportunity to as an interim pastor. It has also given me a renewed appreciation for men and women like Chris Salyers, at FBC Myra or Michelle Paschall at Memorial Baptist in Murray, who work full time and do ministry out of a sense of call that is not necessarily tied to a paycheck. Just trying to arrange my schedule at work 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.
- Lost people do exist. Don’t get me wrong, I knew this ahead of time, 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 that 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 and years. For some there has never been a time in their life where a church, of any flavor, has been relevant in their life and they don’t see it ever being, no matter how many catchy sayings we come up with.
- 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 4 spiritual laws or the FAITH outline, or condemning them with a bullhorn, but they are engaging them in conversations about live 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 in the hearts of the co-workers.
- 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 twenty-something that a minster ought to every seven to ten years have to go work a real job. It will help remind those of us in ministry what the people in the pews go through day in and day out.
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 even follow the lead of Jesus and eat with the sinners and tax collectors.