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God’s call and my perceived needs

For those of you who are engaged in church or parachurch ministry, here’s an important excerpt from the October 2011 issue of the “Pastors E-newsletter” published by Ken Clendinning, director of Ministry Support and Development for the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT:

How do you understand God’s call in your life to ministry? For many of us responding to God’s call brings great personal rewards but potentially it can also come with great costs.

There is a danger, I believe, in rationalizing God’s role in any call when maybe it may be more about meeting our perceived needs. This can manifest itself in various ways. For example, in desperation to find a fresh ministry position we may rush into what may be a toxic situation to later find ourselves in a really tough place. On the other hand, we may place an overabundance of conditions upon God in being only available in certain geographical locations, if certain conditions are present, or if particular ‘entitlements’ are available, etc.

While understanding that there is a breadth of practical considerations, including family needs, I wonder at times how much we are attentive to what God may be saying to us. How attentive are we to listening to God’s Spirit?  At times God may call us to serve in places that will be real challenges not just places where we feel most comfortable. We also need to be cautious that we don’t see any ministry position as just a ‘stepping stone’ as part of some kind of professional ambition.

I recently read another related article by Matt Bloom, Associate Professor of Management at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, entitled ‘Flourishing in Ministry’. He argues that ministry is and should be rewarding in that he believes God wants all of us, particularly pastors, to experience meaning in our work. Those who appear to him to be flourishing in ministry are those who are able to draw a line between the sense of really giving their best while also being able to say, ‘I don’t have all the answers, and I’ll rest easy knowing that god will fill in the rest.’

In his studies, Bloom found that meaningful work is usually closely aligned with a person’s core values. One of the challenges for many of us is to learn how we can live out our core values in a ministry context that can at times appear hostile. Despite the many challenges of pastoral ministry, pastors are right to expect meaning and even joy in their work, Bloom says.

He says that, whatever the job, it’s about the integration of a person’s sense of self – our gifts, graces, personal values and personality – and how this is reflected in our work that may be the most important determinants of meaning in our ministry. He sees that pastors who find meaning in their ministry have the highest capacity for innovation as they find profound importance in what they do.

I encourage you to read the full interview with Matt Bloom on www.faithandleadership.com/multimedia/matt-bloom-flourishing-ministry.

This post is published with the permission of the author.

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Rod Benson

Theologian, researcher, teacher, writer, foodie, husband, dad. Works at Moore Theological College.

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