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Monday, April 03, 2006

Full Time

One of the most difficult things about this job, as any professional minister will tell you, is figuring out what the job is. Sure, lots of churches go to great lengths to define the roles of their staff members. And I answered a pretty well-written job request when I came to the field. But no matter how hard we try to make it look like one, my job will never be a real job. Even if I punch a clock, it won't ever begin at 8:30 am and end at 6:00 pm. Being a church planter defies planning. Preparation, of course, but there is no way to schedule the birth and growth of a spiritual family.

Busyness comes in waves. We'll have a hundred volunteers in one month, and that's when national friends come out of the woodwork to spend time with us. Then we'll go months without a call. We find ourselves pursuing anyone who will take our calls. So far, the only way we've found to guarantee that people call us is to schedule a vacation. As soon as we book our flights we're certain to get an invitation to a wedding or baptism or soccer game.

A lot of what we do seems like busywork. We fill out reports. We start projects, make contacts, and build websites. Sometimes, it's easy to get so caught up in the preparation for ministry that we don't have time to, you know, minister.

I'm still not sure if we all start out that way, or if it's being on the field that affects us, but missionaries are weird. We work really hard to learn language, which ends up making us really dumb in our own language. We talk about missing things like Wal-Mart and American Idol and customer service. We still wear the clothes we bought off the Gap sale rack while we were on our last stateside assignment. In 1997.

Our job depends on something only God can do. Only He can save someone. Only He knows the heart of the people we're here to love. Only He can start a movement of faith among these people. My job is "Church Planter," but only God can plant a church. Sometimes, I wish I was a mechanic or something. A job where you're done when the car is fixed or the clock strikes six, whichever comes first.


David said...

I have one of those 8 to 5 jobs...well, mostly. It's nothing to be wistful for. Chin up, bro..or maybe knees down. You are doing the best thing you can do, you are being submissive to the Lord. You are the hands and feet of the body of Christ, I would be more like the appendix if it were just my job being evaluated.

Thanks for being transparent!

bobinfrance said...

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing you're like me. I grew up with a dad who worked one of those jobs. A lot. He is a great dad who grew up farming then worked really hard to go to college, get a good job, buy a nice house and provide well for his family. Then there's me who's never held a job (or really even a "career" for that matter) for more than three or four years. The last career was preacher, where I thought it was so flexible, but ended up working fity hours a week.

Now, I'm a missionary with a schedule like yours. Some days, I read and read and read. Then I feel bad. Other days, I get out and pound the streets, reaching out believing that God will do amazing things in spite of me. Often I have about the same thing to show after both days. I never thought a few years ago that I would be exhausted after dinner with a national family, and call that work.

You're right. Missionaries are wierd people with job descriptions that go out of date before we ever get here (due to constant changes in leadership, strategy, whatever). We're supposed to do the job with training that doesn't fit because nobody knows how to do it here. The job we want to do is what only God can do. And when it gets done, only He can get any glory.

Oh yeah, in my last career (the preacher one) I used to tell everybody that that was the idea anyway.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Stepchild,

I was wrestling with this kind of thing a few years back. There was a point where I felt that God was telling me, "You may be yourself. You may minister according to your giftedness, in the opportunities I send your way." or something like that. It was very liberating. I've taken a number of hits from critics as I have lived out this idea, but I think it has been wonderful for my ministry and for my peace of mind.

Love in Christ,


Outoftheshaker! said...

Hey Step,
Thanks for your transparency. I can’t say enough how much you help me when I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. I have only been in my town for 4 months after being in the capital city for 4 months waiting to get here ….after……..spending a year a language school. Now, I did come from the 5 to 5 job and no that is not a typo. Actually I was a bricklayer for 12 years then a year of a type of in/out office work before starting with the IMB. So I have been really battling with the type of ministry I’m doing. Thanks for your encouraging blog. I to long for the days of laying brick for 8 to 10 hours a day but I’m confident that God has brought me here to do what he wills for my life. (I just wish I could see the future a bit.) Adios and God Bless your time.

cafeaddict said...

there is no question that living life as a missionary (and i am talking about the official job title) is one of the hardest things i have ever done. just the shift in mentality that was necessary to do it was monumental in my life. however, i am so thankful for it. i think one of the biggest reasons god brought me here was to break down the wall of spiritual versus secular in my life. when i got on the missionfield, i discovered that my neat little categories no longer applied. all of a sudden, my work time flowed into my ministry time and my family time flowed into my work time etc etc. i couldn't find anything that would prevent all the different categories of my life from running together. it all became one big pile of goo.

although that is at times difficult and stressful, i wouldn't want it any other way. i can't help but think that god has been trying to "holistify" my life for a long time. all of life is spiritual and everything flows from and through and to that-my job, my family, and my ministry.

so i do sometimes long for the old categories? of course. they were comfortable, easy to evaluate, and defineable. but what in life is like that? living life holistically is harder, more complicated, confusing and sometimes frustrating because we give up control and realize that we are here not for ourselves but for Him who sent us. and that for me has been the hardest thing to learn....