Those of you who know me have probably heard me agonize over my prospects of becoming a “professional Christian” at some time or another. With his famous “don’t muzzle the Ox” line, Paul makes it clear that it isn’t *wrong* to receive financial remuneration for ministry, so that isn’t it. But there’s always been something unnerving for me about treating the role of pastor the same way as a management career. Somewhere the parallels between the MBA and the MDiv just go away.
Our church right now is going through what seems to be the standard process of looking for a new pastor. The old pastor announces that he’s retiring (like ours) or leaving the church for whatever reason, and then the church begins to oil the machinery for searching out and appointing a new person to be in charge. I know this is the common procedure, but it’s jarring whenever I think about it. Especially when I think about myself as the prospective “new person in charge.” I can’t imagine sending out resumes asking to be overseer of a church I’ve never before attended. Why is it that it’s only the pastor who joins a church by application? Who else ever actually applies for membership and is politely declined in favor of another candidate? It’s *odd.*
And so I’m predisposed to make tents.
And yet I’m not predisposed to divide my attentions. I am passionately concerned with the welfare of my local church, and any income-oriented activity I may choose invariably becomes subverted by how I can use it to meet the needs of the church.
It’s especially poignant for me, since I can’t seem to find a denomination. All the groups I’m interested in agree unanimously that I would need to join one of their churches and be a member for a while before I can up and recommend myself to run things – a reasonable requirement, but a little bit late for me. I can’t leave my non-denominational home where God has clearly sent me on the grounds of what would essentially be a career move.
So I’ve been walfling around the word “bivocational” for a few months now. And since “bivocational” means “two callings”, it begs the question of “calling.” What on earth is it? I know something of what it means to be called, based on my experience of being “[called](http://www.neumatikos.org/?p=458)” to seminary. That was an *experience* which left no room for doubts (thought it had plenty in the way of trepidation), not unlike many people’s experience of being “saved.” But beyond seminary, my confidence in my calling peters out.
The other vocation which has been rearing its ugly head (to my shock and horror) has been education. Growing up, I hated school. Just ask my mother. Most people who hate school, I think, hate it because they think they hate learning. I love learning. I’ve always loved learning. I’m a thinky kind of guy. I hated *school*. I hated confinement. I hated being controlled by people who obviously didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I hated the institutionalism, and my hatred kept me out of the army and very nearly made me a full libertarian.
When I was in undergrad, I majored in English. My motivation was simple: People will pat you on the head and call you a good boy, while you sit around and read novels for three years. I didn’t really have any career-oriented objectives. When people asked me what I was going to do with that, my standard answer was “absolutely nothing.” If they pressed further, they would usually ask, “are you going to teach?” My answer was always a resounding “no!” Good heavens! If I had hated my experience so much, why on earth would I ever go back for the express purpose of becoming the enemy?
But now that I’ve grown older, and the tenderness of the wound has receeded, I start to thinking: I’ve studied all my life how to be a good husband and father. I remember being probably as young as 11 or 12 and thinking to myself, what is the proper *method* of being a husband? If I were raising me, what would *I* do? I’ve always been proud of how my parents did it, and as I’ve had more experience with what the sort of “default” options are, the more I’m apalled.
Kids these days don’t know anything! The public school system functions primarily as a day-care service in disguise, designed to draw out the education experience and keep young agile minds out of the workforce. If adult me had been in control of baby me’s education, I would have had my first degree by the time I was 14! (I can hear my mom scoffing in the wings.)
At any rate, the thought of raising my own kids quickly convinces me that I can educate them far better than any school system I’ve ever seen, which should make me a passionate homeschool dad. But it doesn’t. At some point, career and charity both kick in and I start thinking about how I’m going to educate my kids so well if I’m working a day job, and if I’m such a good educator how Christian is it of me to provide such goodness to my own kids while leaving other people’s children in the cold? Then some form of megalomania creeps on me, and I begin fantasizing about running a Christian school, the likes of which has not been seen.
And there I am, with two vocations. The one more practical, the other spiritual. But one came with tears and a silent crash of thunder, the other like the blooming of a dream.
I know the basic contours of the coursus honorum to ministry, however much I may or may not like them. How does one prepare to become principle of a Christian school? I emailed a former headmaster of mine (I mentioned it [here](http://www.neumatikos.org/?p=765)), and he gave me an email for my region’s director for the [Association of Christian Schools International](http://www.acsi.org/). We had a phone conversation, and he provided me with a lot of great information to research and mull over. But somewhere in there, he asked me to tell him about myself, and I basically fed him the same story I’ve been feeding you, condensed. Then he asked me, “What about calling?”
What about calling? How am I supposed to know? I have ideas, passions, dreams… For what do I need calling? Or, more accurately, how am I supposed to differentiate “calling” from the kind of zeal I’ve already described? Do I need a prophetic word, a spiritual experience of some kind? That’s how I could be confident about where I’m at so far. Or should I define it differently: Is calling the thing I want to do and find joy in dispite all the disadvantages? How and how long does one persevere before they can safely say that calling has faded to mere hobby?
Nevertheless, I am… exploring. (When I was at ORU, they defined their undecided majors as “exploratory.” I had a friend who thought that “exploratory” must be a very interesting field of study, perhaps in the realm of geography.) According to my contact at ACSI, most principles (or headmasters) are first promoted from actual teaching positions, so I ought to look there first. There are several very good Christian schools represented even at our church. There is also a degree in education administration that is something of a kind with the MDiv and the MBA. Principles of schools that are accredited by the ACSI usually have to have these, or be working on it.
Much to consider and much to pray about. We’ll see what comes of it.
(*Apologies for the long post…*)
9 thoughts on “On Calling”
Kyle- your trackback link doesnt work. I clicked it, but it did not give me the trackback URL. If you could email me the trackback, I’m thinking of launching a post off this topic =)
The link is http://www.neumatikos.org/index.php/on-calling/trackback/
But you should be able to just right click and select “copy shortcut” or “copy link location.” WordPress tends to “correct” inappropruate URIs, so I guess it decided that your browser didn’t mean to display the trackback as an actual page.
I remember Phil Stern telling Jim that when you find you have to keep doing it after it stops being fun — that’s calling.
I think calling is passion — calling is creation — it’s what you were born to do. God’s not going to create you one way and then decide to use you in some completely other way …..and he made you different. You might leave off sending out your resume and settle down into determining what you think makes a good school and go blaze a path.
Yes well. In the mean time –
Roof over head,
food in belly,
and loan sharks at bay…
I think Christian education is a ministry. When Eddie heard “the call” I believe he initially thought his call was pastoring a church, but then as we traveled road of life “the call” became working at BGEA and in church in media ministry both of which drew off of skills and passions that already existed in his personality. Eddie never dreamed he would ever use his education major or his passion for computers professionally, and wa-la! He’s now IS trainer for the association which pulls off of both skill sets. I think your mom is correct in telling you to go with the flow of your education now. God only shows us one step at a time. Believe me, for 14 years I wondered why in the world God put me in and left me in medical transcription. I knew had a passion for ministry. Well, God had me on a 14-year training/waiting period in order to transfer those skills over into ministry. It was a big “ah-ha” moment for me when I realized how God intricately worked the circumstances of my life into a tapestry to glorify him. The older you get the more you will realize that we all don’t fit into the molds that others try to make us fit in. God is a custom craftsman!!
That he is.
I think that it would be absolutly hilarious if you became a teacher. Not that it would be a bad thing, understand, just really funny. Good luck on the serch for a calling