I remember feeling called to ministry. Everyone said I had giftings for it, they all seemed to recognize a calling of some sort or other. I really wanted to be in ministry full-time, and I was affirmed in most of the ministry I had engaged in. I was pretty heavily involved, about as deep as I could get without leaving my day-job behind. This was something I struggled with, and fairly intensely at times. I felt that I was not going to fully accomplish my calling because I was being held back by working in a job and not being “released” into full-time ministry by the church I was in. Still, I could do a lot in my off-hours, and filled them with various types of ministry.
I remember weighing the cost of ministry, and seeing how much of the price paid was paid by the family and not just the minister. This did seem perfectly normal at the time, just the way things worked. The spouse needed to have a calling as well, and it was expected that part of a spousal calling to ministry was in “paying the price” for the other person to be fully engaged in ministry. As I say, it seemed perfectly normal at the time.
Time passed, and I became more frustrated with being relegated to “lay-ministry” (not a term of which I approve or agree). Eventually this feeling of being “called” started to die, which seemed like a bad thing. At the time. As time wore on, the feeling of wanting to be in ministry passed so completely that I began to become determined never to be in “full-time” ministry. People who knew me seemed to think this was a terrible shame, but I was finally happy with the whole scenario, starting to feel a bit relieved, like I’d been spared something.
More time passed, and I began to consider the whole “full-time ministry” thing, to question in some way its whole validity. I’d seen what it does to those in ministry and their families, and I began to wonder if there weren’t a number of ways in which pastors and leaders are set up to fail, that we put them into a situation that really is untenable. I thought about my own years as a church leader, and began to feel like repenting for all of them.
The things that seemed perfectly normal at the time, aren’t. Or perhaps they are, but they shouldn’t be. I still feel like the shift in my mindset is like an awakening, a shaking off of the fog. I do feel I’ve been spared, not having the longing of my heart filled in those days… I am so much better off today because of this fact.
All this is preamble before commending to you someone else’s excellent and more deeply qualified thoughts on the matter… so as it turns out, several bloggers have been linking to Michael Spencer (Internet Monk’s) post, “With Regrets, All My Love,” in which he issues a very real, very raw apology to his family… and good on him for this one, too — it takes a lot of courage, humility, and genuineness to write what he’s written. I can only describe it as damning testimony to the havoc wreaked in the life and home of those engaged in “normal” ministry. I’m sure it all seems perfectly normal at the time. It isn’t.