It was November 10, 1988 when I sensed God’s call on my life to pursue “full-time ministry” at the ripe age of 18. That was 24 years ago. During the last 24 years I’ve done some FOOLISH things, made some FOOLISH decisions and even been played a FOOL. This is not a blog post full of resentment, regret, or my list of could have, would have, should have ; instead, it is my intention to help someone else avoid the FOOL Time Ministry. If your sincerely pursuing full-time ministry, whatever that looks like for you, here are 5 things to consider in making that pursuit FOOL PROOF.
Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
1. Know Your Value- You are valuable. Valuable to God and valuable to the church, ministry, organization or business that desires to have you on their team. If you don’t know how much your worth someone else will determine that for you. It’s painful to admit, but this has taken me 24 years to learn. I have often heard it said in my quest of full-time ministry that “sacrifice, counting the costs, and laying down your life” were prerequisites for such a pursuit. I agree that these things are and I have done so. These mandates are biblical yet I also need to be responsible in holding the ministry organization accountable for doing the same. I must understand the value I bring to the organization and the organization must understand and honor the value that I bring. The responsibility of sacrifice is not mine to bear alone.
2. Stay Where God Plants You- I am always amazed to hear about someone who has been with a company for their entire career. My pastor is a prime example. At the age of 26, he became the youth pastor of our church. Today, he has been the lead pastor for almost 20 years. Before my current position, I was a four year guy. After the fourth year of my tenure I would become restless and “sense” God calling me elsewhere. A friend of mine, Pastor Bret Allen once told me, when you face the temptation to go (flee, run, escape), it could be a sign that God is actually calling you and I to grow our roots deeper. If I uproot every time things get difficult, my circumstances become uncomfortable, or my church goes through a crisis, I miss the opportunity to sink my roots deeper and blossom where God has planted me. The grass on the other side of the fence needs the same lawn care as the grass I’m currently standing on. I believe that fruitfulness (joy, satisfaction, rewards) in ministry is found in the 5th year. I’m currently working on my 7th year at New Life.
3. Allow God to Provide for Your Ministry- Seems like a no brainer, after all what God orders He pays for, where He leads He feeds, where He guides He provides. Amy and I didn’t even have a credit card the first four years of our marriage but because I (Amy is innocent) didn’t trust God to provide for our ministry I thought I would help God out and He could pay me back later. My first swipe of a credit card paid for missions trip to Romania. Since I justified that expense for the sake of the call, that justification led me to spending on average $250-$500 a month to support our monthly youth outreach as youth pastors. At that time, I made about $2,000 a month. I’m sure the church leadership had no idea what I was doing, but needless to say I was foolish in thinking I could pay for the vision God gave me.
4. Listen to Your Spouse - The best example of this I can give to you is how Pastor Steven Furtick jokingly but sincerely refers to his wife Holly. He calls her the “Holly Spirit.” In other words at a young age he has learned the importance to listening to what God is speaking through Holly. I recently watched a service where Pastor Steven actually credited His wife for prompting their move to North Carolina to plant a church called Elevation Church, which is now one of America’s fastest growing churches and they have now experienced over 19,000 professions of faith and over 4,800 baptisms since their launch. Proverbs 31:26 describes the importance of what our wives (spouses) say, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.“
There have been some critical transitions and decisions in our life when I was praying and asking God to speak to me, yet God was speaking through Amy the entire time. It wasn’t always vocalized, but I failed to recognize how God was speaking through her. When your spouse is quiet on a subject, God could be speaking loud and clear. If you’re in “intense discussion” about a particular decision that needs to be made, slow down and be quick to listen (James 1:19) you may be missing God’s timing.
5. Plan for Your Future- Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. The indication of that statistic is that you and I will be doing something else other than ministry if we don’t plan for our future. I will be forced to re-fire instead of retire. I’m not throwing a pity party here, but the reality is I’ve seen my retirement savings depleted twice because of the economy. I could include this in my first point of FOOL PROOF advice about knowing your value, but the bottom line is no one will be more concerned about your future than you. Do your homework or get a financial mentor that can help you with budgeting, saving, and financial planning. Don’t be ignorant in thinking that your going to catch up when things get better. I did and I’m facing a harsh reality.
Proverbs 13:11 tell us that “dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
Don’t be a fool in when pursuing full-time ministry.
Are there some foolish things you’ve done that others could learn from?