Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm NOT a Sell Out.

Sometimes when one leaves vocational ministry for a "secular" job they often say they feel like they are selling out.  Selling out the ministry, selling out their particular church or organization, selling out their congregation, or selling out the Lord Himself.

I even felt a little bit like a sell out when deciding to leave MACU.  Surely the Lord wants me to be wrapped up in a ministry situation rather than choosing to serve in the world--right?!?!  If I choose to leave, then I'm turning my back on this ministry and these people I was called to serve, I'm saying, "NO!" to Jesus, I'm not strong enough to stay in the ministry like other folks, etc.

Wrong.  So, so wrong.  

No, my ministry is happening today, right now, right here.  My ministry is my life and what I do with it.  When I'm talking to the lady at the store.  When I'm speaking with my neighbors about the apple and pear trees in my yard.  When I'm driving.  When I'm with my kids.  When I'm at the beach or the pool.

My life is my ministry--not my job, my title, nor my church membership.  What I do everyday will speak more volumes about my beliefs than where I choose to work or worship.  How I interact with the world, how I treat His people, how I make decisions will pronounce my intentions and my heart.

When I chose to attend a college, I chose the school that could best offer me the education and tools I needed for a life involving music.  I knew that it was one of the things that brought me joy and I wanted to do something with it.  I chose a secular college.  I also managed to keep my faith intact--I was heavily involved in a campus ministry and regularly attended church.  I volunteered at a church camp every summer, taught a children's Sunday School class, and had people in my life that would keep me accountable.  

I wasn't perfect, but I tried to be the best I could be.  

While working at that camp one summer, I met some people who attended a religious college.  Most of them were very nice, but when a few of them found out I attended ECU, they turned their nose on me because I didn't go to their school.  It seemed I wasn't as holy as they were because I didn't choose to follow Jesus to a Bible college.  It was almost like I was tainted because I had Secular Institution Cooties on me.

I remember getting offended, angry, and then doubting myself.  Why didn't I choose to go to that school or another religious institution?  Did I not love Jesus as much as they did?  I remember one of my friends (who was on the staff with me) talking about how much joy that institution had brought to his life, how deep his relationships were with the people he went to school with, and how he encouraged the campers to choose Bible college over a secular institution.


It's so funny that a few years later I would end up working at that college.  

I went in to work at MACU hoping not to meet more of those dreadful individuals.  I went in hoping to show them that even people from ECU can be Christians, too!  I went in hoping to show them there is a good life on the outside of the doors of the church or college.  I went in scared that I would be challenged to ensure that my beliefs and faith were good enough, that I knew enough musically, and that I could teach the future church leaders even though I didn't have a MDiv.  

I found there were very good and normal people on the inside of those walls.  There were people like me just trying to make the best of things.  I found the majority of them were wonderful people who are, or one day will be, great and inspiring leaders.  I also found that the professors all had specific skills that help mold and shape the students.  None of them had it all, but together we brought our tools and individual skills to work with the students.  My husband reminded me of 1 Cor. 3:6 when Paul says, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."  We couldn't teach the students everything all by ourselves. We relied on God to fill in the gaps when our human shortcomings were evident.

Granted, lunch conversations were sometimes very different at a Bible college (Is The Message really a good tool? Or is it merely a watered down version of the Bible?) as compared to the conversations at the good ol' Croatan (So and So's having a party and it's BYOB).

But, when I was presented with a decision about going back to the public schools, I also found myself judging myself with the same eyes I felt judged by almost a decade ago at camp.  I felt the questions within me, the disappointment, the shaking of my head.  The fact that the biblical institution trains the future Christian leaders to be in the world--but sometimes they leave to take on the world before we think they are ready.  

But, let me be very, very clear.  

Just because you attend or work at a biblical college or institution (or a church or ministry) doesn't mean you've got The Special Jesus Sprinkles.  

Yes, if you're doing full time pulpit ministry, it's better to have some religious classes (and life experience) under your belt.  But, we all know people who lead small groups at our churches that never stepped foot in a Bible college and can teach circles around some of the trained individuals.  We all know volunteers at the community shelter who are more effective in their ministry.

You might work in the secular world for your entire career.  You might be placed at a ministry.  You might choose to leave. You might be asked to leave the ministry because of choices you made.

The bottom line is that you're in your vocation or institution for a reason.  Maybe you are within the walls of a church, maybe you aren't.  If you're a Christian, then it doesn't really matter.  We are all called to do different things (Ephesians 4:11-13), but our goal remains the same: we work for the building up of the church for the Lord's service.

And the church doesn't exist within the walls of a building.  

Ephesians 4:16 reminds us From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  We all have been given specific tools and skills to serve.  If we were all Star-Bellied Sneetches, then we would only be effective in one place.  We have all been equipped differently so we can be more effective in more places and situations.  

So, instead of worrying about being a sell out or if you're skilled or good enough for ministry, recognize that you will live out your ministry in your everyday life. 

Wherever you are. 

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