We clergy use strong language when we talk about our jobs. Other people talk about becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, and motorcycle mechanics. We talk about being called to ministry. Today, I feel called to be an associate pastor, but that was not always the case. My call has been a journey rather than a destination.
I first felt called to ministry as a high school student. I had an “Aha!” moment at summer camp, where it was pretty plain ministry was the role God had chosen for me. At the time, maybe because it was all I knew or maybe because it was God’s plan all along, I assumed this meant being the pastor of a congregation. I went to college and seminary, and was then given the responsibility to pastor two churches. Finally, after 7 years of hard work, I was where God wanted me to be. But then, I struggled. Clearly this was not the role for me. I guess I had misunderstood my call.
God then opened the door to be a youth pastor, a role I came to love. From there I spent several years in a music ministry, then leading contemporary worship. Later I moved a couple of thousand miles away where I became an associate. I took on some new roles in administration, leadership, and pastoral care. Later, I started writing – blogs, devotions, and eventually started this ministry to associate pastors. I have loved it all, but this is not how I saw it playing out as a sixteen-year-old at summer camp.
Had I missed the mark all those years? Did God have a call for me I kept misunderstanding? I don’t think so. Call is about joyfully using our gifts and abilities to the glory of God. It is living our passion for serving Jesus by serving others. Call is living for God where we are in the here and now. I have been doing those things all along.
Don’t misunderstand. It would have been much easier to have been called to be a lead pastor and stayed there. But these many roles have been my means of living my call. I couldn’t always say this, but today I am grateful for my circuitous journey in ministry. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had through the years in my variety of roles, to serve Christ, congregations, and fellow clergy, and I look forward to what God still has in store.
Maybe you are frustrated. Maybe you look back and wonder if you misunderstood your call. Or maybe you are looking ahead, frustrated you are being held back from your true calling in this season of being “stuck” as an associate. My advice is to enjoy the ride. If you truly believe in call, you know God has plans for you. Some of those may fit your plans, but many may not. Wherever you are, fulfill your call by serving him fully.