I received an email from a friend passing on an old article written by Eugene Peterson. This first appeared almost fifteen years ago in Leadership Journal, but its insight and advice is great for a day just like today. Peterson writes…
Being a pastor who satisfies a congregation is one of the easiest jobs on the face of the earth—if we are satisfied with satisfying congregations. The hours are good, the pay is adequate, the prestige considerable. Why don’t we find it easy? Why aren’t we content with it?Because we set out to do something quite different. We set out to risk our lives in a venture of faith. We committed ourselves to a life of holiness. At some point we realized the immensity of God and of the great invisibles that socket into our arms and legs, into bread and wine, into our brains and our tools, into mountains and rivers, giving them meaning, destiny, value, joy, beauty, salvation. We responded to a call to convey these realities in Word and sacrament. We offered ourselves to give leadership that connects and coordinates what the people in this community of faith are doing in their work and play with what God is doing in mercy and grace.
In the process, we learned the difference between a profession, a craft, and a job.
A job is what we do to complete an assignment. Its primary requirement is that we give satisfaction to whomever makes the assignment and pays our wage. We learn what is expected, and we do it. There is nothing wrong with doing jobs. To some extent, we all have them; somebody has to wash the dishes and take out the garbage.
But professions and crafts are different. In these, we have an obligation beyond pleasing somebody. We are pursuing or shaping the very nature of reality, convinced that when we carry out our commitments, we benefit people at a far deeper level than if we simply did what they asked of us.
Do you look at your work as a ‘job’ or a ‘profession’? How did you feel when you arrived at the office this morning? Excited and ready to start the day, or already tired?
In a interview in Vision Magazine, Bob Coy, the senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale tells of when he was about ready to quit his church plant after two years because not much seemed to be happening. Bob said he called one of the people that was overseeing him and said, “Here’s what’s happening: I have only 40 or 50 people attending, it’s been two years here, I am not appreciated or respected for what I have accomplished, and I’m thinking about going back to Las Vegas.” The person on the other end of the phone asked him, “Well, do you not want to be there?” Bob’s reply was, “Well, ministry is becoming a burden.” The response back in his ear was, “If it’s a burden, then you need to leave. Representing the work God has given you as a burden is not the Lord; His burden is light. I think you ought to leave. There are some college students here that would love and care for those people.” Bob said that this was not really what he was expecting to hear, and it caused him to get a little ‘fiesty’ in heart. Bob said he thought to himself, “No young college student is going to come here and care for these people. These are my sheep and I’m gonna love them.”
Bob Coy continues, “It was a strange thing, because what happened was God was testing me to find out where my heart was at. Was I just looking for a big thing? Was I just looking for the success of a ministry or did I really care about sheep? The beauty of that was that I came back to church the following week, I think, a different man, and I cared more about discipleship, more about love, and cared about taking these people and really investing in their lives.” Bob was able to change his mindset from having a ‘job’ to having a ‘profession’.
Where are you at today? Have you had a similar experience (moving from a ‘job’ to a ‘profession’)?