I bet the title got your attention…. if it did then I did my job!
Let me say, neither of them…. read on and you will understand.
I was recently speaking with a friend who like myself is trying to find a place to serve in full-time vocational ministry. He has been a youth pastor in the past but through no-fault of his own, found himself back in the secular workforce. He recently attended a conference and got together with some other student pastors. He relayed the experiences to me that he felt like he didn’t belong because he was not a full-time vocational student pastor. Hearing his story made me remember my own experiences in this area. I remember graduating from college in 1992 and watching others go off into full-time ministry. It would be another 7 years before I had my opportunity. The opportunity that I had was in a para-church organization. I will summarize my experience by saying, it was not all bad, but a lot of it was not good either. I left to go to seminary after 3 1/2 years of serving in that area. Now I am experiencing the same things all over again, graduated from seminary in 2008 and 2010 with two degrees and I can’t get any interviews. So I really could identify with what my friend was telling me that day.
I reminded him (and myself) that we did not do anything wrong. In his case, he was forced out by a pastor who refused to pay him a livable wage and who eventually wanted someone else as the youth pastor. I reminded him that neither of us have done anything to disqualify ourselves from being in ministry, that we did not have leprosy (even though people treat us like there is something wrong when they hear our stories) and that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). In spite of this, I know of men who have disqualified themselves from ministry due to their own moral failures, but yet have received better treatment than we have in our pursuit of full-time vocational ministry.
Churches and pastors, please do not treat people like they are second-class citizens, if they are called to ministry, but do not find themselves in a full-time position. If anything, do what you can to affirm the gifts of that individual who may find themselves in your church after their education is complete. When you are at a conference, do not look down or disdain an individual who you may meet but is not in full-time ministry, but you recognize that they have a desire to be there. Remember, there is nothing wrong with the desire (1 Timothy 3:1). Instead of passing judgment on us because of our current circumstances, why not come along side of us and offer to help. Invite these men into preach in your church, take them to lunch and listen to them. Be a friend to them. Nothing stings worse then being treated like a outcast from people within the profession that you are desiring to be in.
In another post, I am going to write about the role of the local church in sending men out into ministry. But for now, I wanted to speak to the story that grieved me when I heard it a few weeks ago.