Monday, November 02, 2009

Called: Consider the Cost

What does it mean to be called to ministry?  How do you know?  Charles Spurgeon gave some help to his students regarding this very question.  Over the next four to six posts I will be going over some of the criteria for understanding calling.  Why should you read these?  There are two reasons, first, to evaluate yourself in light of these things, and second, to help you determine who in your ministry might be called into ministry.  Hear it goes.
                “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing, desire for the work.:
                When I was nine, I wanted to be a fighter pilot.  To be honest, I still wouldn’t mind that line of work.  I love to fly and I would love to get my pilots license, some day.  When I was thirteen I decided to become a youth pastor or missionary.  Over the past 15 or so years of ministry there have been a lot of days where I wanted to quit and do something else.  I bet Spurgeon had those days too.  I can even remember a couple of weeks where the only thing that kept me in ministry was the realization that I was not qualified to do anything else.  I would have to start over in whatever profession I switched to. 
                Those days seem to pass and most of the time I get reenergized and the passion for ministry returns.  As we read the book of Acts I can’t help but think of the passion that kept the apostles and Christians going.  The days when I feel like quitting are usually because I got a couple of bad phone calls from some parents, frustration with “church politics”, or maybe I just flat out got tired.  A bad day for Stephen got him stoned, Peter and John were thrown in prison, others were beaten, and still others were dragged before ruling councils and the like.  Still their passion burned.
                This passion, this all-absorbing desire is not a whim or some kind of passing thought.  These desires are well thought out considering the costs of ministry.  Those costs can be significant.  Ministry is not only hard on one person, but it is hard for families.  It’s earthly rewards are, generally speaking, not significant.  When asking yourself if you are called, begin by considering the cost.


                There are all kinds of transitions.  This isn’t necessarily about a new church, it could be moving into a new position in the church you are in, transitioning your programming, perhaps you have a new boss, or maybe you are in transition in your personal life.  Transitions are always difficult to navigate, but they can also have a huge impact on you and your ministry.  This is not something I like to talk about much, because I don’t think it is necessarily good, but I have served under 5 different Senior Pastors (a few of those times, they changed, not me) and had one stint in church planting.  I have been in my current position for only 14 months not only in a new ministry but a new state (CO).  We are also in the midst of making some very significant changes in our programming.  We are in the midst of all kinds of transitions.

                Some of the transitions I have been through have been painful, but most of them have been positive and good.  I’m not going to go into great detail here, but I wanted to share a few principals I’ve learned regarding making successful transitions.

  • Don’t take it slow, but don’t go too fast either!

Yeah, I know it sounds like I can’t decide.  In reality, I can’t, at least not for you!  I have heard a lot of guys suggest that you shouldn’t make any changes in the first year.  I’ve heard others say you should make changes early in your transition when you are on your honeymoon. 
                I’ve actually done it both ways.  Both ways have some merit to them and depending on your circumstances both methods could work.  So what is the overriding principal?  Know your culture and know what is expected.  In my current situation change was expected.  I needed a little time to get my feet under me and begin to understand the culture, but once I did changes started to come.

  • Big change, Little change

There are different kinds of change.  Some changes might be small, like starting to use countdowns before a program or setting up tables instead of chairs.  These kinds of changes are relatively small.  Then there are changes more like what we are doing right now.  We have cancelled Sunday morning programming for our Senior High and we are changing to what we call “House Groups”.  It is important to think through the impact of the kind of change taking place.  If you are transitioning into a new ministry make small, high impact changes early and save the big changes for later when you have a better understanding of the culture in which you are now ministering.

  • Vision is Everything

Whether you are transitioning into a new ministry or considering transitioning to some new programs make sure you understand the vision of your church and how either you or the new programs fit in.  Once you understand that vision and how your vision fits in, communicate your vision endlessly! 
          Transitions are huge in so many ways.  A good transition gives you credibility and a bad one will raise questions about your leadership ability.  I don’t think I have ever made a perfect transition, but I have learned that there are exceptions to almost all conventional wisdom.  Know what is expected and what is likely to be the response by all involved.  Listen to conventional wisdom, but make sure it will work in your context.