Recently I asked my friend, Collin Hansen, to comment on trends he is observing among those considering ministry, in any of its forms. Here’s what he wrote for AmICalled.com. To read more on this subject, check out a new article from Collin about our conversation over on The Gospel Coalition’s blog.
Not long ago I was asking a friend what students at his seminary want to do when they graduate. This school aims to train “pastors who can preach.” So his answered stunned me.
He said, “They want your job, Collin.”
I love my job, don’t get me wrong. I love debating article ideas, developing writers, planning conferences, leading workshops, moderating video discussions, brainstorming book topics, hosting podcasts, and many other dimensions of my job. This is the fruit of my labor that the public sees.
But I wonder whether any of these students knows about the other work that consumes most of my time. Most days I’m leading meetings, managing staff spread all over the world, proofreading articles, tracking blogs, worrying about internal conflicts, fending off angry comments, and digging through emails. It’s not glamorous. In this regard it’s like pretty much any other job, except maybe that this work exposes me to more public anger from anonymous sources.
I wonder how many students ended up in seminary for similar reasons after being exposed to the public ministries of their pastor. They only saw the preaching and weddings and visitations. If seminary is doing its job, it’s disabused them of glamorous notions of pastoral ministry. Maybe that’s why they end up looking with envy on my work.
I have no reason to complain about my job. And from surveys I’ve seen, pastors tend to be pretty happy in theirs, at least when compared with other jobs. But be it pastors, theologians, writers, or any role that serves the church, it’s a necessary step in maturity to confront the mundane, private side of everyday work. Anyone who lasts in ministry eventually arrives at this realization – what people hear or read from us is only a small slice of our calling.
There is no escape from God’s plan for fostering humility through private, unheralded acts of service.
To work toward godly contentment in ministry, I urge you to look for the green grass under your own feet, on your own side of the fence. God may take you in unexpected directions. He did with me. I was the opposite of these seminary students. I didn’t want this job, because I wanted to be a pastor. Yet for now, at least, this is what he has for me. Much better, then, to serve faithfully so long as I’m called to this task than to imagine there must be some other job where I’d only ever minister in my “sweet spot.”
Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists, and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.