I have a few thoughts on whether or not to take on forms of vocational ministry, rather than maintaining a paying vocation that is not religious in nature while serving in a local church. Unfortunately for me, no one is asking me what I think. Fortunately for me, blogging has nothing to do with whether or not anyone is listening.
SEMINARY. Think really long and hard before you commit the time and money. I loved Princeton T.S. and Fuller T.S., but I don’t recommend a seminary education without reservation. Unlike the fundamentalists of my Bible belt youth who told me that it might cause me to lose my faith, I would say that it is more likely to make you lose your relevance. Seminary by and large teaches you a vast wealth of theological curiosities which may or may not have to do with what you do with most of your time. Worse yet, it may prepare you to march into the pulpit and talk about a bunch of things that aren’t interesting to anyone except seminary professors (who, by the way, are not in your congregation).
THE PROPHETIC VOICE. A few people go into ministry because they have a prophetic critique of the church and want to change things. Then they go into the church planning to stick it to the man, and realize that they are the man (did you know that stands for “management?” because seriously, I used that phrase for years before I realized). You then find yourself in a state of cognitive dissonance, trying to kick over the ladder you’re standing on.
THE DARK SIDE. What no one tells you in seminary or otherwise about ministry is that a significant percentage of your work is trying to take the complaints of the either spoiled or dysfunctional (distinct from the truly authentic and well-phrased complaints which are actually helpful) and use them as a vehicle for discipleship. It’s kind of like using a cat’s claws to scratch it’s back. A rabid cat.
THE BRIGHT SIDE. The bright side is that those hours of pining away at a cubicle wondering if your life has any purpose will go away. You have days where you don’t feel like you’ve done a lot, but you always have the sense that you are contributing to something bigger than yourself. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of full-time, professional ministry.
THE CALL. Frankly, if He tells you to do it, there’s a big fish not far behind, so you might as well go. And this is the final word on the subject.